boy!” What a good thing has happened – a boy has been born and that is
just what God planned. After such a good start will he become the man that
God intended him to be?
The Six Stages of Man
Six stages describe the growth of each man or woman.
Each has its own demands and builds upon the earlier stages. Perhaps it
will take one’s whole life to understand the importance that the first
stages have for the last ones. What seems complex at first becomes a
single, deep and complex rhythm of variations of the same theme – how to
receive and then to give life.
– Grows a body
– The baby develops a joyful individual identity through
– The boy learns to take care of himself
– The man develops his “group identity” and takes care
of two or more people at the same time
– The father gives life without needing to receive in return.
– The elder directs the growth of his community’s
We will say little in this book about the unborn
stage of growth. What we must notice, however, is that growing up is not
automatic. Physical growth does not mean that maturity will follow.
Regrettably, many men are still infants or children developmentally when
they should be fathers or elders.
It is also unwise
to rush development ahead of time. The stages in this book are the ideal.
They cannot be achieved ahead of time but they can take much longer when a
man does not complete his work or if his family and community fail to
provide the help he requires at each stage. Each stage achieved at the
optimal time will look like this:
– birth through three
– four through twelve
– thirteen through birth of first child
– first child until youngest child becomes adult
– youngest child reaches thirteen until death
I have chosen these stages because they match
common words used in many cultures and languages. More importantly, these
are also the terms used in scripture when describing the different stages
of maturity. There are cultural, scriptural and physical reasons to choose
the ages for each stage.
While containing much value, growing up does nothing
to increase our value as human beings. Infants are as valuable as fathers
– as the parents of every newborn baby knows. Many men are ashamed of
their immaturity and feel they will lose their value if they admit they
are still infants and children inside. With the courage to admit where we
are in our development comes the first solid starting point in life. This
book is a guide for those growing up on schedule and for those who are
Becoming an Infant
It may sound strange to speak of becoming an infant,
but like all stages of growth we are not very accomplished when we first
begin. The infant’s task is to learn to receive what he needs and
express what he feels in a way that fits him. Little boys are not born
knowing what they want or feel – it must be learned.
Boys and men need to know that the foundation of life
is to be able to receive what we have not earned without shame. The need
to receive is with us all of our lives. We will need this skill in every
later stage – as children, men, fathers and elders. We express our needs
and receive without condemnation or shame.
Just as each stage of life has its job, each job has
its purpose. The purpose of the first stage of development is to learn
about grace. This is how we learn about our intrinsic value. The twelve
years of boyhood are the time to learn how to receive grace. Grace is
gifts given freely, not dependent on performance.
All of us have value, because we are created in
God’s image. We have value because God has said that we do. It is not
because of anything we have done.
A moment of self-examination will cause many people
to discover that they feel their value comes from what they can do. If
they couldn’t earn a living they would question their value. Boys who
never learn how to receive grace become men who turn to achievements, fame
and fortune in order to find value.
Our culture is not going to tell us who we really
are. God tells us we have great value for just being made in his image, so
it is only if we look at ourselves from His point of view that we realize
we are valuable, even if we can’t do anything.
The need to receive is with us all of our lives. We
will need this skill in every later stage of our lives—the stage of
becoming a man, of becoming a father and of becoming an elder.
There is no way to talk about a boy and his needs or
feelings without discussing his relationship to the two most important
figures in his life, his mother and father. The next two chapters will
discuss a boy and his mother and a boy and his father, whether the boy’s
parents were physically present to him or not.