There was a specific conversation my dad had with me when I became a teenager. He didn’t say much, just a sentence, actually. But that single sentence has shaped my actions and identity of purity more than anything else.
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. —Proverbs 22:6
While we were driving, he brought up the sex topic. We’d had a few conversations over the years, so I wasn’t completely in the dark. Though nothing could have prepared me for what he was about to say. In a cracked yet confident voice he said, “Shane, I didn’t wait for your mother. That has been one of my greatest regrets.”
A Unique Example
My folks have a wonderful marriage, they just celebrated 38 years! They lived out purity until they were married, but before my dad met my mom, he lived loose. What I received on the day he said those words to me was an example of masculinity that is still shaping my life today.
By definition, men are masculine. It isn’t so much if you’re being masculine, but how you’re being masculine. So how does masculinity work with parenting and purity?
Parenting and Purity
Children don’t need their parents to be perfect, they need their parents to be authoritatively-relational. As a man, you are designed to protect, but that does not mean you are designed to be distant.
Parents often posture themselves in two distinct ways. One, they try to be their kid’s best friend, but this often prevents children from learning lasting values from their parents. And on the other hand, parents will work hard to give values to their children by being authority figures. But this posture of authority can easily create a relational distance between children and their parents.
So, what’s the solution? It is possible to offer your children the value of relationship while also being a reliable authority. How?
The example my dad gave me was a masculinity of humility. My father was being authoritative and vulnerable at the same time. He cast an image of masculinity that invited me into his life. By showing me his weakness, he gave me the opportunity to live in his strength. I saw the intense dangers of sexual impurity by the heartbreak on my father’s face, the crack in his voice, and the sadness in his eyes. In that moment, he showed me the vision of manhood that he was pursuing and invited me into that journey with him.
To state it in a phrase, my father spoke into my life journey by allowing me into his life journey.
My dad got this picture of masculine humility from Jesus. While Jesus is described by others a lot in the Gospels, there is only one section where Jesus gives a self-description of His own character. In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says,
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (emphasis mine).
Being a disciple of Jesus begins with knowing what he is like, that he is gentle and humble.
Your kids don’t need to mess up physically in order to fail in their purity. Jesus makes it clear that actions are a reflection of the heart (Matt. 5:27-28). So how does Jesus change our hearts? By incarnating into the human journey and inviting us into His journey—just like my dad did with me. My heart turned toward purity when my dad showed me his heart.
Of course, your kids don’t need to know everything all the time. In the same way that we don’t know everything about Jesus, but we do know who He is, your kids don’t need to know everything, but they do need to know you.
The only way anyone is pure is by being real with their shortcomings. Through your own life, teach and show your kids how to confess weakness, as well as how to receive His grace, and they will grow up into purity. The way of Jesus is the way of relational-humility, and if you raise up your child(ren) in this way then when they are older, they will not depart from it. This is biblical fatherhood.
This is a guest post from Shane O'Neill. Shane is the Editorial Director for Proven Men Ministries, a non-profit sexual integrity organization that partners with churches to see individuals and families know Jesus’ freedom. Shane is currently working on a graduate degree in apologetics at Liberty University.
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