The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. Ecclesiastes 12:13
Today we are having a coming of age celebration for our oldest son. We are calling it a Bar Mitzvah in the truest sense of what that implies, both historically and Biblically. It’s been sort of distorted these days, being almost synonymous with “big fancy party.” We are having a dinner in our home, with a guest list built by our son–close family members, friends and mentors. We will reflect on his 13 years, challenge him to walk in true manhood–integrity, mercy, faith, humility, servant-hood. Guests will each speak a blessing over him, give him prophetic gifts, and affirm the man he is becoming.
Both Kristina and I have had a Bat-Mitzvah for our daughters nearly two years ago. At that time several people asked why we were doing this, seeing as we are not Jewish. The answer is pretty simple: We are “coming in the opposite spirit.”
The world we live in rejoices in foolishness. It tells people to enjoy their childhood and then extends that childhood indefinitely. We are just being kids in high school, exploring in college, finding ourselves in our twenties, searching in our thirties. When is the end of childhood?
These days children can stay on their parents health insurance well into their 20’s. The median age of marriage for men has moved from 22.8 in the 50’s to 29 in 2013. [source, source] I remember being in a church service several years ago and during the announcements the speaker said, “Everyone under the age of 30, stand up.” I did, along with a bunch of others. Then the speaker invited us to a host of activities with the college and young adult ministry–things that included parties and paintball and camping trips and dances. As he was speaking I looked around and then slowly lowered myself back into my chair. This was clearly not my demographic. I was a married mother of five, not a single woman ready to let my hair down and party. And my heart broke a little. Why were those of my generation still considered children that needed to be entertained? Why were we not full accepted into the church and serving equally in ministry with multiple generations?
How many young people grow up and no one has ever declared them that they are men and women before God?! No one has ever affirmed them and launched them into their destinies and callings. Instead, so many young people wallow in doubt and second guess their place as a child full of promise. And these young people grow up into adults who still feel as if they are sitting at God’s kiddie table at Thanksgiving.
In the world there isn’t a consistent voice saying, “Fear God and keep His commandments!” We want to say that to our children–loud and without apology. We want to be intentional about the role we as parents have in their lives at every step. We cannot parent them the same at 15 as we did when they were 5. Our roles have changed.
We are people who mark the times and seasons. Rather than extend childhood, we want to affirm manhood and womanhood–with all of its responsibilities, blessings, and light.
‘Blessed be the name of God from age to age,
for wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons,
deposes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and light dwells with him. (Daniel 2:20-22)
My husband and I were talking about that moment when you know you are an adult. For most people it is when they break-away, push back against authority, strike out on their own, or in some way cast off the restriction or teaching of their parents/teacher/boss/pastor. But what if….
Instead of having to break away and take the reigns, the reigns of your life were handed to you with all the blessings and truth you needed to use them well.
Instead of casting off restraint, you were set free by those in authority who cheer you on and coach you to fly.
Instead of pushing back against authority, the authority in your life intentionally stepped back and put themselves in a place of counsel and placed you in a place of commandment under God.
What if parents who have the grace and power to do it, called a son into manhood and a daughter into womanhood, affirmed them in their God-given identities and helped them to steward their lives well.
So today we are doing that. We are telling our son: we love you, we believe in you, we believe in the God in whose hands we are placing you. Now take that first big step into manhood. You are responsible before Him now and always. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.