Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Influence of Babies on Single Men

Bob with my daughter, Virginia Hope
The Influence of Babies on Single Men
By Douglas W. Phillips
Some of the manliest and most visionary single men I know spend time in the company of babies. And they love it. They love to hold them, play with them, and rejoice in the hope which is new life.

They do this because they have rejected the culture of radical individualism that teaches men to view their lives in isolation of families and Christian community. They do this because they are around other men — now husbands and fathers — who speak of covenant, generational faithfulness, and the duty of men to raise up a godly seed.

They acknowledge that their own mission as men will likely someday be directly tied to their role as fathers. As single men, they prepare for fatherhood, and they begin to pray for the babies that the Lord may choose to send to them. They recognize that children are a rich blessing to be greatly desired by any man who is, well — a man!

To this new breed of men, babies are a reminder that we are all heirs to the past and ancestors to the future. They remind them of their priorities in Christ. The presence of babies in the life of single men is an encouragement to pursue a Psalm 127 vision that someday their own families will be mighty in the land. Babies are a reminder that our spiritual fathers, like Abraham, were men who longed for the hope of children. They remind them that the greatest example of manhood in all of history rebuked other men who would not “suffer the little children to come” (Mark 10:14).

The result is that single men who are around babies and family culture become highly motivated to “get their act together.” They experience positive, holy peer-pressure to set aside childish things and to be about the business of men. This means that they must prepare their fields without (Proverbs 24:27) so they can start families of their own and have babies. Malachi 2:14 reminds us that “real men” acknowledge that the pursuit of a godly seed is not merely an afterthought. It is one of the key reasons delineated by the Creator for marriage. For all of these reasons, the presence of babies in the life of single men not only tenderizes their hearts to the preciousness of children, but it motivates them to be men of God.

In contrast, individualistic cultures prioritize lifestyles that have the tendency of inoculating young men against healthy, manly feelings toward babies and children. Not all of the expressions of individualism are inherently wrong, but the net effect has been devastating for our view of babies and manhood. For example, the modern trend of never-ending formal education tends to give men a “dormitory” vision of life, and to push marriages back later and later. The Bible encourages husbands to rejoice in the wife of their youth, which is why Christian culture self-consciously prepares men for marriage and family leadership sooner, rather than later in life.

Individualistic cultures breed materialism, the great foe of manly maturity. Materialism is poison to the single man. Success is defined by the acquisition of things, rather than obedience and the pursuit of spiritual objectives. Marriage and babies are largely viewed as an encumbrance to personal freedom. In addition, materialism trains men to demand immediate gratification. This leads to sexual impropriety, indebtedness, and even impatience and anger. In contrast, cultures that force men to deal with babies and children tend to encourage the manly disciplines of self-sacrifice, patience, and kindness.

Individualistic cultures are family-fragmenting by nature. The consequence is that the hearts of our single men become invested in destructive peer culture, rather than a balanced, multi-generational Christian community.

The simple truth is this: The longer men are away from babies, the more selfish they tend to become.
Single men need to be engaged in manly pursuits. They need the company of sturdy men and the influence of older, wiser men around them. But they also need to be around babies.

Frankly, men are designed to battle, but they need to know what it is they are fighting for. They fight for the King and for His Kingdom. This fight includes the defense of women and the little ones our wives have brought into the world (Nehemiah 4:14). But how will our men know the preciousness of the treasure they seek to guard if their love for babies is never cultivated?

We need men who learn early in their lives to treasure children. Men who love children tend to be the most visionary, stable, and self-sacrificing. We need a new generation of visionary young men. Visionary young men aspire to live lives of significance that transcend the here and now. This is why we need to place babies in the hands of our young men and then talk to them about the true dreams and aspirations of the righteous man (Psalm 112, 127, 128).

1 comment:

The Cravat Commission said...

Thanks for posting that, Sophie.
It is very true.
It has occurred to me that living at home, and not in a dorm, has helped me stay in touch with the real world, and reminds me that my education will only last a few more years... I have more of a "pilgrim" mindset about my undergraduate work than a lot of my peers, whose attitude is somewhat high-school-esque.

There are also a lot of babies at my house...