It was early Saturday morning December 11, 2010, and I had organised 5 other men to join me… to call my second son Isaac (14 years of age) out of the world of boys & women, and call him into a community of men, as I had done for his older brother 3 years earlier. This was to be just one of the numerous moments Isaac will experience during his 2-year long vision quest, which commenced on his 13th birthday, and will conclude on his 15th birthday with a final ceremony and celebration. It’s his rite-of-passage… the years set apart for him to transition out of the stage of boyhood, and initiated into young manhood.
I had planned a weekend away for us all… a weekend of adventure (abseiling… rappelling for those of my American friends reading… and fishing)… a weekend of masculinity bestowing masculinity… a weekend where my son would experience first-hand how real men have fun together… preparing him if you will… to easily identify any counterfeit adventure he might come across in the future, like teenage boys consuming alcohol, and experimenting with drug use.
And so the weekend officially began… all of us men calling out Isaac’s name from our front yard, whilst Isaac sat inside talking with his Mother. That conversation had also been planned by me. Did I mention that Isaac had no idea about any of this? Isaac and my wife Melissa… Isaac’s mother… came to the front door to find us men there waiting for them both. I stepped forward… about half way between the other men and Melissa & Isaac.
I reminded Melissa how nearly 14 years earlier, there was a postpartum… a separation that occurred at Isaac’s birth… a cutting of the cord, and how now was the time for a second postpartum to occur… Isaac leaving behind the stage of boyhood, to join a community of men. In the presence of Isaac and the other men (and a couple of younger brothers by this point in time… not to mention a number of onlooking neighbours), I honoured Melissa for her role as my wife and the mother of our children. And then I asked her to release Isaac into the care of this community of men I had assembled… all of who had played an important role in Isaac’s life previously. She released him with her blessing… and of course some tears.
And then it was Isaac’s turn. It was time for him to respond to our invitation of him joining this community of men. What would it cost him? Leaving boyhood behind! The process was a moving experience for Isaac too. He wiped away his tears, hugged his mother, and advanced toward me, and then I lead him toward the other men, where each one of us blessed & affirmed him… speaking deeply into his life. And then we all jumped into our car… a beaten up old Tarago, and we embarked upon the 4 hour drive North.
When we arrived, we had some lunch and suited up our harnesses for our abseiling adventure. And then down came the rain. It poured down without ceasing, flooded the area, and then after an hour, the abseiling was postponed until the following morning.
Overnight the heavy rain had reduced to just light showers. We all ate a hearty breakfast, and then the sky cleared. We suited up again, and this time, we were off. Isaac was nervous. Saying that he’s not fond of heights is an understatement. But he wanted to go over the edge and down the cliff nonetheless. And so he began. He pushed through his fears, and went over the edge… maybe 1 to 2 metres down the vertical rock-face, before telling our guides he wanted to climb back up to the top, and not continue downward.
Even though he had navigated through the scariest part of an abseiling experience (going over the edge), I knew as his father, I was needed at that moment, to speak against all of the waves of accusation that would come against him. And that’s exactly what was going on within him. He was ashamed that he had not completed the adventure. He wept openly, and referred to himself as a failure. That’s when I spoke truth into him… that he was not a failure… that despite his fear of heights, he went over the edge.
After I had helped him to calm down, I asked him if he’d like me to buy him a Coke. He said that he didn’t deserve it, and so in I went again… to play my part as his Dad… to rescue him, to guard his heart, to speak against the lies with truth. It was beautiful. What if I had not been there to interpret what he thought was failing? How many of us have had such an experience, and not had anyone there to interpret the moment?
Afterwards, I asked all of the men to gather around a table where I shared what had been going on inside of Isaac. I told them what I had said to him, and invited each of them to also share what they saw in Isaac. The words of encouragement flowed, and Isaac began to believe. His countenance shifted, and from then on, he held his head high.
If you have a son aged 13 and up… there’s no maximum age limit, and it’s never too late… then bring him along to a 5 Night Father-Son Adventure with us and other father-son pairs from around the world. Register your interest here.
I also encourage you to share a story of yours here… of a time when you began to believe a negative message about yourself. Did you have a Dad, a significant male other, or even better still, a community of men to help interpret the moment for you… to fight for your heart?
P.S. I believe there is great value in providing a Mother’s perspective on the concept of masculine initiation, and so, I invited my wife Melissa to share some of her own reflections from this specific weekend…
“What a significant moment….I came inside after releasing Isaac and couldn’t just go back to what I was doing before. Something BIG had just taken place in both our lives. Excitement for Isaac and pride in Darren were just 2 of the many emotions swirling in my heart. It is hard to let go as a mum. It is not without a desperate desire to hold on…..to say “not yet”. But to see Isaac’s response to his dad and the other men calling him out was most overwhelming. It was a defining point in time, when he needed me to release him to go forth and become all that he should be. It was beyond words. While hugging him goodbye I whispered to him “You are going to be an incredible man Isaac”. He has just started this journey into young manhood and it is wonderful to know that he is not doing it on his own.”
I’ll provide more for Mothers of sons… specifically those with sons who are being / have been initiated… next time… including some more reflections from Melissa on the process, and perhaps even more importantly… the fruit of it. Next time!