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At a men’s conference I attended in February, I learned how essential it is that boys understand not only that they are loved, but that they are beloved.
A loved child is fed, clothed and even talked to in a reaffirming way. But, a beloved son knows he is treasured, valuable and special. A beloved son knows he is unconditionally loved, deeply wanted and genuinely treasured.
I have a new grandson. Walker Elijah arrived five weeks early on Feb. 1. In fact, he arrived a few hours before his baby shower was about to start.
I came to Texas several weeks ago to meet him and support my daughter and her husband. As I watch Walker being cared for, I was reminded of what Christian author John Eldredge was teaching to almost 200 men at that retreat center in Colorado.
Walker will grow up knowing he was beloved.
As a preemie, he spent the first three weeks of his life in intensive care. That had to be very hard for Walker as he transitioned from a warm, comfortable womb into a cold, bright hospital bed with monitors attached to his body and a feeding tube stuffed into his nose.
He spent a lot of time alone, except when mom and dad were allowed to see him, hold him and feed him.
However, once he was released from the hospital, Walker got a lot more love and attention. I came to visit, as did one of his aunts.
From then on, it was a rare moment that he wasn’t in someone’s arms or within reach of another person. As soon as he made a noise, someone was there with a comforting hand on his back. Even though he doesn’t speak a word of English, he must hear hundreds of times each day how much he is loved and appreciated.
However, now that his mom and dad have been sleep-deprived for weeks because every squeak and squawk jars them from their slumber, they are trying to get him to sleep in his own room, and the transition hasn’t been well received by the little man.
Shortly after being placed in his bed, he’ll start fussing and continue at increased volume until someone comes into his room to either hold him or put a reassuring hand on his back. This can continue for hours.
Witnessing this situation unfold caused me to think about boys who aren’t fortunate enough to receive that level of love and attention.
Their needs aren’t fully addressed, let alone met. They are never satisfied. They remain unsettled. And that feeling remains with them the rest of their life, often subconsciously. That’s significant.
According to Eldredge, boys and men grow through specific stages. It starts with the Beloved Son, then moves into the Cowboy and Warrior stages. The Lover stage follows next, followed by King and Sage.
There may be some overlap between the stages, but it all begins with the Beloved Son and that forms the foundation upon which a man’s entire life is built. It makes sense when you think about it.
A boy who never believed he was a Beloved Son often grows up angry and insecure. We see that a lot with boys growing up without fathers.
A boy who was never allowed to be a Cowboy and go on adventures of his own or to explore his little kingdom, generally seeks those adventures later in life – often when a man ditches his family to begin a new life with another woman.
A man who grows up without an appropriate battle to fight, never fully understands his purpose. Without embracing the Warrior stage, he either fights useless battles with everyone else or avoids responsibility entirely.
Without a beauty to fight for, he never makes his way through the Lover stage. This man thinks he’ll find fulfillment through pornography or other sexual relationships that only leave him feeling empty.
When he is not treated like a king or shirks his responsibility as a king, he flames out and never fully realizes his potential to enter his destiny. Most men never enter this stage.
If a man never enjoys adventure through the Cowboy stage, finds a battle to fight in the Warrior stage, fights for a beauty in the Lover stage, or successfully runs his kingdom as a King, he can never be a Sage who trains others.
Every man’s journey starts as a Beloved Son, and I know little Walker Elijah will have the foundation he needs to build a successful life.