I was traveling with my family a long time ago when we received an unexpected treat – watching a sheep dog in action. Having a picnic at a scenic spot in Ireland, we watched as a truck pulled up to a field full of sheep. With a whistle, the farmer set his dog off to the races.
The pooch streaked like a furry bolt of black and white lightening to the top of the hill and started to corral the sheep down to the farmer. It was impressive to behold.
Afterwards, we talked with the farmer and asked if that was the main purpose of the dog. ‘No, Roger here, he’s mostly a guard dog for them. Keeps’em safe, he does.’
Sheep Dogs in our Midst
We need sheep dogs in our own lives - people who protect or guide when needed. There is a powerful scene about this in American Sniper. Chris Kyle’s father is laying out the three type of men we can choose to become:
I’ll be the first to say that being a protector does not have to be laced with aggression though that can be helpful in certain situations. Mostly, it’s about knowing what is right and having the courage to act.
The stories coming out of Parkland are tragically sad and tragically heroic. Scott Beigel, a teacher who I had twice met, died protecting his students. A coach and administrator did the same. Young Carlos Rodriguez was shot multiple times while trying to get friends into a classroom.
These men – old and young – knew what to do and had the courage to act, even if it was to open a door or stand in the way. You don’t need big muscles or to be a jock or know jiu jitsu. You need the courage to act.
Build Good Men
Have you noticed that boys are either building something or tearing something down? There seems to be a constant drive for one or the other. Blocks, Legos and pillow forts when young become Minecraft, Fortnite and real forts in adolescence. This play allows boys and young men to practice two of the three P’s of manhood: providing and protecting.
It also allows them to try out something else men (and some women) have become great at doing: playing the wolf, the destroyer. The boys who live as wolves must feed on the weakness and pain of others in order to feel good themselves.
Most of the time, they have great sadness in their lives themselves. No doubt, they need to know God’s love as much as anyone else.
Boys need to be directed on what is right… for a long time. Through a combination of experiences inside and outside the home, our boys must develop sense of purpose, of how they fit into the world and can contribute. They need to learn how to protect and how to be productive.
A Famous Sheep Dog
Young David was a shepherd and errand boy. He was the least of his family – the last son and the smallest. Yet, when the call came for someone to help, he did not waver. He didn’t put on airs or armor that did not fit. He rested on his unwavering faith in God and the lessons he had learned in protecting his family’s flock. And, it was enough.
Young David became King David who was the protector of his people for decades. Yes, he had his wolf moments – only one was perfect – but he never stopped leading and protecting.
Are we raising young men who share David’s faith in a living and provident God? Do they know what it means to sacrifice? Suffer hardship without flagging? How to humbly place themselves in another’s shoes or practice self-control when fighting the wolf-like urges most experience?
These are all things we must have our boys practice if they are to be someone who stands up for what is right, even when it’s scary. There is no better place to practice than at home with you.
One more thing….
Two things that struck me in the video above (besides the overacting…): First was that the conversation was held at the dinner table.
This is an important point and habit that is, sadly, falling away. There is no better time for families to connect, communicate, learn, and laugh together than around the dinner table. It’s something I did growing up and something we practice as much as we can with our boys.
The devices are off and attention is placed solely on the food and family and in front of you. If you aren’t eating this way, you won’t be sorry for starting.
Secondly, we had a similar conversation with our own boys when they were younger. We had received word about one boy who had been picking on someone else at school. We directed our older boys to make it stop should they see it happening.
No, I did not take off my belt and, no, there were no steely eyed nods of acceptance. Instead, both boys nervously responded ‘but we’ll get in trouble for fighting.’ The teachers, yes, would be upset but, we explained, if they failed to protect the victim, they’d have a whole lot more to worry about at home.
Let’s raise boys who know when to be protectors and who are prepared to do what it takes.