The unfinished man



By Betty Slade

A young woman loves the cowboy in her man, but that “cowboy” is not always marriage material.

My grandson placed a book in my hands, “Fathered by God” by John Eldredge, written in 2009. He had read it and wanted to discuss the cowboy and lover stages.

Since our family saw him through the cowboy stage, and wondered what in the world happened to this sweet boy, I wanted to understand why and what we could have done to prevent some of his actions.

This book led to several discussions while our family was on vacation. One evening, after our grandson gave a review on this book, it opened dialogue among the men of the family and a new concept for them.

Not to point a finger at what parents did or did not do right, we tried to understand why young men struggle today. No one is exempt. It’s part of growing up.

Taking the opportunity while we were together, I discussed the book with two of my three grandsons, 25 and 26, which was an eye-opener for all of us.

Eldredge points out there are a lot of unfinished men. Men’s development will go through six stages: boyhood, cowboy, warrior, lover, king and sage. He writes if boys do not experience these stages, they are missing several important elements of development and will fail in marriage or life itself.

In boyhood, a little boy knocks down his LEGOs, the mother says, “Don’t do that, play nice.” A father says, “It’s OK. Knock down the LEGOs.” The dad knows a boy needs to experience his masculinity. He needs adventure — play tough, fish, hunt, play sports and be a warrior.

It is hard if a woman tries to raise a boy alone. She can’t draw out his masculinity. When a father checks out of a boy’s life at a young age — the father could be a work-alcoholic and leaves the family, or divorces and becomes an absentee father. The boy suffers and needs a masculine figure in his life.

Eldredge writes, “Every man or boy will ask, ‘Do I have what it takes?’ Play sports, fight a war, get married, or become a parent?” It’s an innate question asked by every young man.

 Three of our grandsons have either gone through, are going through the cowboy stage. This is a rough place for a parent and they will ask what they did wrong.

The warrior stage will overlap the cowboy stage and the young man will start to have convictions and be willing to fight for what they believe. He will still ask, “Do I have what it takes?”

Then he comes to the lover’s stage. Not necessarily wired for this, but it’s the time a young man sees beauty in nature, a sunset or animals in the wild. God stirs in him a deeper comprehension of beauty. He becomes aware of beauty in a woman. He wants to pursue her and defend her.

Unfinished men, stirred by a woman’s beauty, might fail to understand love, and miss the lover’s stage. Eldredge explains how many men turn to sex for affirmation. To him, his attraction for beauty might be a selfish love of personal gratification. This leads to potential disaster in a marriage. He fails to recognize the girl’s greatest need is love.

A good marriage is when a man loves his wife and values her. She feels loved. It’s a matter of his surrender. If he misses the lover stage, he won’t have what it takes to love her.

My 60-year-old nephew is married and still in search of something. He said to me, “My cowboy stage has helped me survive and I’m not ready to turn loose.” He has boats, cars, expensive fishing equipment and everything he could ever want. Men envy him for his many grownup boy toys. He didn’t have a good childhood, not the best of mothers and an absentee father. That cowboy stage might be good for him, but doesn’t always provide a happy marriage for her.

I asked the question, “When the marriage is hanging on by a thread, can an unfinished man make his wife understand how much he loves her? She might feel appreciated like a good washing machine, but doesn’t feel loved. The woman is angry and hurt because her deepest need is not met.”

My grandson said, “I read the chapters on king and sage, but I didn’t get anything out of them.” 

I told him, “It’s understandable. One day when you have a son or when you affirm others, you’ll have a deeper understanding. You are already meeting with young boys and helping them learn how to wrestle, box and win. You are giving your time and words of affirmation to them. Before your eyes, they are growing up and learning they have what it takes.”

“I remember the year you won the Colorado State Wrestling Championship. I admired Coach J. and Coach Mike Martinez and the hard-working men who trained with you and followed you to state. I didn’t thank all of them then, but I wanted to tell them how much I appreciated them now. They believed in you and invested their time and knowledge in you. That’s what the king stage looks like.

The day will come when you won’t need to be on the mat or in the ring, you will have wisdom to see how young boys are designed and will know how to help them develop into their full potential as men. You will unselfishly cheer them on without any thought for yourself. This is what the sage looks like.

Final brushstroke: God can and will redeem a man at any age, and he will use you and others like you to be there for them. By discovering the Father’s heart and his love, a young boy will develop into the man God has designed him to be.

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