Faith Identity

Rituals in the Making

Somewhere along the way, a boy wants to know that his life matters. Think back to when you were a kid. Catching that pop fly in little league baseball. Snagging that bass from the rocks offshore, Hiking up Long’s Peak when you were 14. You have your own rites of passage. Some momentous, some quiet and seemingly uneventful, but deeply instrumental in your manhood journey.

In a past article ( I mentioned when I was ten and for the first time realized there was an entire world of grown-up talk surrounding me. By the time I was twelve, that rite of passage was headed my way whether I liked it or not. Truth is, for your manhood journey to take shape, there will be times, events, seasons of growing up that must be faced. They change you. They have this way of transitioning you from a boy to the man God wants you to become. 

Painful Rite of Passage

When I was 13, my cousins let me drive their Bridgestone 100 motorcycle. It looked so easy! Me, the city kid with the chance to ride a motorcycle on their farm!  A few rides on the back with my cousin and it was time for me to take the wheel! Down the farm lane, up the ditch to the top of the hill. Look for traffic, then down the country road back to the lane. Easy! Right? One problem, I got the clutch procedure mixed up and I lost control at the top of the hill, running into a barbed-wire fence and breaking my collar bone. Ouch! I still have a bump on my collar bone to this day. 

You’re probably wondering how that experience was a rite of passage? Aren’t rites to be high-five, joy-filled, party-city celebrations?  Sure, many of our manhood rites of passage are worth shouting about! Your learners permit. Turning 16. Your first car. Graduating high school. Turning 18 and legally an adult. University or the workforce. Your first date. First kiss. Getting married. Your first kid. At the same time, there are some painful, tough moments we each go through that shape us more than we realize. Rites of passage in a class of their own.

Lessons Learned

We each have our war wounds. Scars we either like showing off or ones we’d rather hide. The bigger question is when life brings weighty, even unexpected events that rock your world, how do you handle them deep in the core of your being? 

2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2-4 ESV

The Progression Is Important

Trials of any kind: That includes a huge bucket of troubles that impact your mind, body, and soul. Name yours. Sports injury. Parents divorced. Dropped out of college. Dumped by your girlfriend. Arrested. Financial problems. Identity questions. Faith doubts. 

Testing of Your Faith: Whoever said faith was this easy-going, kick-back, hammocking life? Truth is that God uses trials of any kind to draw us into a closer relationship with Him and to refine us. He promises to never leave or forsake us. 

Steadfastness: Honestly, that’s an old word of which the weight doesn’t seem to grip most of us anymore. Think constancy. Stick with it-ness. In it for the long-haul.  When your faith is tested, God uses it to produce a level of endurance in you that is essential to your emerging manhood. It’s the guy who avoids this stage that often wonders why his life seems to be lagging behind.

Full Effect: Wanting to get the most out of life, out of the trials you face, should be the goal of every guy who wants to see his manhood soar. Out of my 13-year-old messed up idea of what it meant to become a man, I didn’t tell my aunt and uncle about my broken collar bone. They knew I hit the fence with the motorcycle, but being 13 and trying to be the “man”, I downplayed the pain. Sleeping that night was horrible. No air-conditioning made that summer night brutal. “What’s wrong with you?”, you are probably reacting as you read this!  Yeah, in hindsight, I’m saying the same thing to 13-year-old me! Nonetheless, I must admit, that incident was one of those lessons learned rites of passages I journeyed through alone and will never forget.

Band of Brothers

If there is anything I’ve learned along the way, it’s the importance of having a band of brothers who have your back. You know, those few men you can go to anytime, anywhere with anything. When you find yourself in a bind, backed into a corner because of your own stupid choices. Or, when you get the door slammed in your face and a kick in the crotch that doubles your over. Or, for that matter, when you score a win in life. Your first big promotion at work. Accolades from a professor over your presentation. A second date with that cute girl you met at church. Those are just as much rites of passage as the milestone events we traditionally celebrate.

Firepit Passage

The story is told of a group of guys all from the same church, who were there for each other through the various issues life threw at them. One of them was going through a tough time, frustrated with life. One of his guys called him up and said: “Over to my place, now! No options!” A few of them sat outside around the fire pit that night, had a couple of beers and prayed. (Don’t get hung up on the beer-thing.) Their conversation included rebuke over some stupid choices their friend made that got him into this predicament. It also included faith-building exhortation, championing him on to make the most out of things. When they prayed, they all laid hands on him. Their bonds as brothers in Christ were cemented that night.  To this day, those men, now with families of their own, look back to that firepit night and celebrate the way God used it to make a turning point in all of their manhood journeys.

Nothing Wasted

Having gone through my warrior years essentially mentor-less, there are a few take-aways that have shifted my thinking on rites of passage every guy needs.

  1. See tough times as legitimate rites of passage. Even if the trials are a result of your stupid choices, give them to God. He never wastes a moment of your life. 
  2. Seek out and actively have a band of brothers. You don’t need a lot of them, a few quality dudes who you can call on anytime, anywhere about anything. Guys with whom you can all rally around the Cross of Christ in your journey.
  3. Be vulnerable with your mentor. With any rite of passage, whether the party-filled celebrations or the gut-wrenching ones every guy faces, it’s essential you be totally transparent with your mentor. Get over your pride and lay your cards on the table. If your mentor loves you, he will be one of your greatest fans. 

Warrior On!

Feature Photo by Luke Lallement

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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