When my little Benjamin is a man, how will I know it?
Will he be a man when he is 6 feet tall?
When he stops sucking his thumb and dragging his blanket?
When he can hit a homerun in baseball?
When he gets married?
When he becomes a believer in Christ?
When he learns how to support a family?
How will I know? Better yet, how will he know when he has passed from being a child to a man?
In Honduran culture, a young girl passes into adulthood at her fifteenth birthday, whether she is ready or not. We made the trip to Honduras to be with Luz Maria for this moment of passage.
But for a young man, the line is more obscure. I have been haunted by this, somewhat--most especially because of the impact it may have on our sweet girl. This has been on my husband's mind even more so than mine. In the days we were in Honduras, he developed a very fatherly love for Luz Maria--a love that is jealous for her integrity, the "rip-your-arms-out-of-their-sockets-if-you-touch-her" kind of love.
We learned something quickly. In Honduras, a man is not measured by his integrity, his maturity, by a test of skill, or by his ability to provide for his family. Manhood happens when a young boy has sex with a young woman for the first time. Horrified, we learned that many fathers take their young sons to brothels to lose their virginity. The fathers wait outside until the deed is done, wait to welcome their son into manhood. It is not uncommon in the least for 16 and 17 year old men to have several young children.
This custom is perpetuated further by the mothers and grandmothers of the community, who offer their daughters to men of any age and even encourage their daughters to become pregnant. This is not so that the daughter will get married and leave the nest, per say; this is to produce grandchildren. In our minds, grandchildren mean more mouths for the poor families to feed; in their minds, grandchildren mean security in their old age. We heard the story of a young man who left his impregnated girlfriend. The young girl's mother was exultant. She said "He got what he wanted, and we got what we wanted." Often, older men will have teen "wives" in numerous villages, committed to none. It is a sad problem. In fact. most families in these rural parts of Honduras are not the result of marriage, because couples never actually get "married." There is little or no commitment involved, little or no security.
I am worried for the young ladies in the rural villages of Honduras. I am worried because the measure of a man must be more than virility. These young men must be taught to be good husbands, good fathers, and ultimately, good, godly, men. They need to learn Biblical romance and devotion. It is more than a social matter; it is a spiritual matter. What they believe about marriage will ultimately have an impact on what they believe about Christ's devotion to His church...His bride.
In Christ, we see a groom who sacrifices all for His bride. He desires her absolute purity and holiness. It is a relationship of commitment, devotion, and love.
Sadly, most of the families that we encountered in Honduras had seen nothing but abandonment, betrayal, and abuse.
What can be done? God wants to raise up a generation of young men who are after His heart...a generation of young men who model their lives on the Lord's standards for life and love. And He wants the same for His young women...a generation who prepare themselves as His bride, clothed in purity.
These young people need encouragement and TRUTH poured into their lives. They need strong teaching and strong role models. Even now in Villa Verde, the youth group at Monte de Sion Christian Church has regular meetings that encourage the young people to live counter-culturally. People are needed to come along beside them as encouragers and role models for these young people. I know that in my letters to Luz, I am going to talk to her about the tough issues. I am going to talk to her about purity, about setting standards for marriage. I am going to tell her that I want to be there on her wedding day--that I believe it can happen for her, that God has great things in store. I am going to encourage her to be strong when temptation is near, encourage her to focus her heart on the lover of her soul.
This is Jesus Antonio, whom I met in Honduras. Jesus Antonio is 12 years old and from a broken home--a very poor home. He has no father in the picture. In a few years, he will be making decisions about his manhood. He will decide who he should model his life after. Right now, he has no sponsor. He has no one to encourage him, no one outside of his community who cares what decisions he makes or what his future will be like. You can change all of that for Jesus Antonio today. It is my heart to see a man step up to be a mentor for Jesus Antonio...someone who will walk beside him and teach him to be a man after God's heart. Because a man after God's heart will seek a woman after God's heart, and together, the two of them will be a model of love and devotion for a whole community and generation to follow. One couple could change the momentum for the youth in Villa Verde--one couple with the courage to live and love for Christ.