I remember the day I ordered an engraved pocket knife for my son. He had just turned 10 years old and had wanted his own pocketknife for quite some time. My greatest concern was him losing the knife. Did he have the maturity to keep up with it? So, I gave him a golden feather (a 3 inch long charm off of a necklace) and challenged him to ‘keep up with it’ for one month. He was to treat it as a pocketknife and be able to present it to me whenever I asked him for it. After a month of not losing it and always knowing where it was when I popped checked him, he proved he was ready and he got his knife.
That same son is 17 as of the writing of this blog post. He’s doing all the things that a boy naturally does to begin breaking away from the folds of mama’s apron. Resisting my help and shunning my protection. The struggle is real. I’ll dive into my side of that experience another day. So, here I am a single mom of a boy that is doing his best to claim his space in this world as a man and I’m looking for a golden feather to give him.
“It’s not a question–it’s the question, the one every boy and man is longing to ask. Do I have what it takes? Am I powerful? Until a man knows he’s a man who will forever be trying to prove he is one, while at the same time shrink from anything that might reveal he is not.”-John Eldridge, “Wild at Heart”
This Golden Feather has to be different though. It’s not for him to prove to me that he is ready. This time, he has to prove to himself that he’s ready. Ready to enter into manhood and leave behind the things of his childhood. Even his father can’t force this mind shift, but he can have an incredibly impactful influence on it. Ultimately, he must prove to himself and choose for himself what manhood is and that he is ready for it.
What is a Rite of Passage?
In simple terms a rite of passage is a ceremony marking the end of one stage and the beginning of a new stage in a person’s life. It’s a demarcation that is seared into the mind and heart of a person to recognize a new identity with new authority. If you dig into the history and customs of rites of passages, you’ll find some mild ceremonies like bar mitzvahs to the intense tribal rituals. I’ll spare you the gruesome details here.
However, the extreme rituals to the mild ceremonies, although they have their place in tradition and culture, just didn’t have the effect that I was visualizing for my sons. By most accounts, there are three states to a rite of passage: separation, transition and reincorporation.
Separation is the time of removing the boy from all the comforts of their normal life, allowing them time for reflection and consideration of the transition to come. It is a phase of acknowledging who they are and the changes that must take place for the man they are to become.
Transition is not one moment in time, but a stage and process to work through. It’s accepting that childhood is coming to an end and consciously choosing to leave those things behind. It’s a shift in mindset and self awareness, a rebirth of sorts.
Reincorporation is the stage where the newly birthed man is officially acknowledge as such and invited back into the family and community. This is just as much for him as it is for everyone around him to recognize that the boy no longer exists and has been replaced with this man. Mom must stop cutting up his meat and dad must have expectations of him that are of a higher calling. This is a time of ceremony and celebration where men that care for him should take the time to speak truth, life and expectation over him. They are calling him to rise and walk in the newness of his identity and authority.
The Golden Feather Challenge
With much prayer and consideration, the Golden Feather Challenge is here. This is a challenge for him to rise beyond the adolescent mindset; help him to recognize in himself the characteristics that are required to overcome the resistance he will face in this world; that would cause him to see his strengths as well as his weaknesses; would encourage him to put himself second and others first; and call the man in him to come out!
The Golden Feather Challenge carries authority that gives it the the power to imprint virtue and strength. It’s filled with voices of the giants that have gone before him, those that have been tested and have overcome. George Washington, Martin Luther King, Jr., Plato and the like. Yes, he needs to be able to ride on the shoulders of those giants into a life of manhood. And since manhood can have so many different colors and textures, it offers room for him to define for himself the kind of man he will choose to be.
The Golden Feather Challenge is step one, but after he has determined for himself that he is ready to enter into manhood, he will still require an invitation by a leader of that realm. He will ride in on the shoulders of the giants from the past, but must be accepted and approved by the giants of the present. Who are the men in his life that will affirm his transition? Where are the deep voiced individuals that will seal the deal with their stamp of approval? Who will hold him accountable in the challenging days to come?
When he has completed The Golden Feather Challenge and has chosen for himself to enter into manhood, the men in his life will hold a ceremony. Father, Grandfather, Uncles, and others will surround him, acknowledge his commitment, acknowledge the end of his childhood and welcome him into manhood. They will speak over him life, love, wisdom and visions for his future. They will advise him of pitfalls and warn him of temptations to come. They will also promise to hold him accountable to the man he, himself, has committed to be.
This is the Quest for Manhood facilitated by the GOLDEN FEATHER CHALLENGE.