My wife and I recently spent some time in Galveston, Texas on the heels of a business trip for me to nearby Houston. Our fantastic moms cared for our four boys while we were away, enabling us to enjoy things like uninterrupted conversation, reading good books and a Rocky Road ice cream cone for two (not six). Fantastic.
One thing you quickly spot in this area - oil exploration and refining facilities. Tankers and rigs are visible offshore and refineries sprawl along the coast. We toured a decommissioned oil rig (surprisingly interesting and not as un-romantic as it sounds). Human ingenuity amazes me. We take oil - which in its raw, crude form, isn't useful for much - and we refine it to get gasoline and thousands of other products.
In fact, the next time you kiss your wife, remember this: some portion of that lipstick she's wearing originated as dead animals buried far beneath the ocean floor. Mmm, tasty. And, if you run to your toothpaste and toothbrush for cleansing...guess what? Yep, those too. The variety of things derived from this natural resource is mind boggling.
The exploration and refining process got me thinking - it's quite similar to the process of turning a boy into a man. Sure, some of us are still in more "crude" form than others (eh-hem). But, we are all hopefully being refined into increasingly useful "products" that glorify God and bless others. With that as a backdrop, let's drill deeper into the analogy (yes, there are more coming).
Step 1: Being Found.
First, we have to find the crude oil. The exploration process is costly, fraught with risk and requires going where the crude oil is to find it. Similarly, while we were yet sinners, Christ came and died for the ungodly. He didn't wait for us to rise up to Him (as if), but he descended down and got us. His trip was risky indeed, it cost him his life. For us and our boys to be useful to others, we must first go from dead and lost to alive and found. Have your sons been made alive in Christ? Have you? (Romans 5:6-8, Philippians 2:5-8)
Step 2: Applying Heat.
To get valuable hydrocarbons out of crude oil, it's heated with steam under intense pressure (temps exceed 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit). As it is broken down, useful stuff is extracted and impurities are burned off. For us, our heat and pressure comes in the form of overcoming a troubled past, raising children, financial stress, work challenges or even our own marriage. We find ourselves in seemingly unbearable situations, but we are in the process of being refined for greater use later. God is our master refiner. He uses heat and pressure in our life to break us down until we rely completely on Him. Are you providing refining opportunities for your sons, carefully ensuring they don't get cooked in the process? (Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21)
Step 3: Distilling Components.
The heating process leverages the various boiling points of the elements to distill the crude oil into numerous sub-components. Like us men, we all have unique boiling points and we each respond differently to life's pressures and challenges. As loving fathers, we need to study our boys, and tailor our parenting to their unique personalities. If you have multiple children, you know this well - what works for one, backfires on another. It can take patience, trial and error to find the right formula to yield the best results. Jesus was tender with some of his disciples (Thomas: see, and believe), while more forceful with others (Peter: get behind me, Satan!). Do you know your son(s) unique DNA? Have you tailored experiences, challenges, goals and discussions to suit their specific makeup? (Proverbs 22:6, 1 Cor 12:4-31)
Step 4: Refining Further.
The distilled crude oil is further refined into various end products. Consider some of the terms for these processes: extraction, cracking, reforming and recovery. Sounds painful. The chemicals are being broken into smaller pieces, combined with others and even altered into new forms. This is done to yield many products, not just one. In the same way, we are bringing up boys with unique potential - they might become preachers, athletes, businessmen, doctors or missionaries. We need to aim them in a way that suits their giftedness and that aligns with how God wired them. Do you know how your boys are gifted? Have you helped them see how their gifts can be uniquely used for God's purpose? (Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 2:11-14, 1 Peter 4:10)
Now, here's where the analogy breaks down. At some point, the crude oil gets fully refined into something, and it's done being refined. There is an end-point for crude oil.
But, for us men - and our boys - as long as we are alive, we are never fully refined. It can be painstaking, but we must stay in the refining process until our life ends or Christ comes back. That's one reason we developed Manhood Journey. It is a way, within a father and son Bible study, that us men can continue our refining process.
Are you still being refined?