As my car rolled to a stop at the top of our driveway, I noticed something I had never seen before. It was more unusual than the rarest of birds. There in the corner of my backyard was my 11-year-old son, Noah, stacking firewood! I quickly gathered my things and entered the house to alert my wife, Lois, to the sighting. My astonishment grew when she informed me that she did not assign the task to our son. Noah was doing it, she said, to bless me. My heart warmed with joy at those words, for sloth was our son Noah’s greatest challenge.
I set down my satchel and made my way to encourage my son. I knew exactly what I wanted to say. We live in a society that takes every opportunity to minimize differences between boys and girls and blur the distinctions in God’s design for men and women. This leaves our children confused about who they are and what God has appointed them to do. So when we see our children walk in the good of God’s call for their lives, it is important to point it out and encourage them.
What a Man Does
Someone once told me, “When it comes to parenting, you get more of what you encourage.” I certainly wanted more of what I was seeing, and I wanted to affirm my son’s initiative and hard work as expressions of biblical manhood.
When I went up to my son and thanked him, he smiled. Joy filled his heart at my enthusiastic response, but I wanted him to know that his labors were also an expression of God’s purpose for all men. I wanted to make that the focus of my encouragement. “Noah, what you did today is not what a boy does — it is what a man does,” I said.
And then I explained. “God designed you to work. Boys sit in front of screens playing games [something my son loved to do]. But men were created by God and called by God to rule and subdue the earth, to labor to provide for their households, to work for the glory of God. God made men strong for this task, and when you decided to give up your time to stack this wood to bless me, you were doing the labor of a man. Noah, I am so glad God gave you to me as a son to help me. Well done, my son!”
Celebrating Male and Female
I chose my words to affirm his manhood and help Noah see that his joy in service reflected God’s created order and design. It’s not that women can’t stack firewood, but men are uniquely called to such labor to provide for our families, and God has gifted us with strength to do so. The unique role of a man was established in creation, cursed in the fall, and affirmed in the New Testament (Genesis 2:15; 3:17–19; 1 Timothy 5:8). I wanted my son to rejoice in God’s good and wise gift of manhood and help him recognize the joy that comes from walking in the good of God’s design.
My wife looks for the same opportunities to encourage our children, both boys and girls. Whenever our girls help with caring for their younger siblings, or gladly serve around the home, she says things like, “Well done, sweetheart. When you helped feed your little sister, you were doing what a woman does. I’m so glad God made you a girl, and you are going to make a great mom!”
It’s not that men can’t feed a baby or help with domestic tasks, but God gave women the calling to be helpers and mothers and to manage the home. As with men, the unique role of a woman was established in creation, cursed in the fall, and affirmed in the New Testament (Genesis 2:18; 3:16; Titus 2:4). We wanted our daughters to delight in their femaleness and celebrate God’s choice of their sex and grow in the desire to walk in the good of God’s design for their biblical calling.
Four Paths into God’s Design
Displaying the glory of men and women begins with celebrating such distinctions in the home with our children. So here are four ways to help you celebrate God’s gift of male and female in your home.
1. Affirm your child’s sex from a young age.
Affirming differences in sex is something we do with our youngest children instinctively. Saying things like, “You are a beautiful girl!” or “What a strong boy you are!” affirms our children’s sex from a young age. Look for regular and frequent opportunities to encourage your son or daughter in specific ways to let them know their sex is God’s good gift that can never change.
2. Avoid unhelpful stereotypes.
Our children’s gifts and talents may not align with societal norms. Not all boys are built to be football players or gifted to fix things. Some boys are poets and dancers. Not all girls love crafts. Some girls will be gifted to fix things and will love to compete athletically. We need to be careful not to demean or discourage our children’s gift exploration and recognize instead that such exploration is a normal and important part of their development.
Imagine what it was like for young David as his brothers went off to war with the Philistines while he remained behind, tending the sheep. His father did not invite him to the meeting with Samuel. Surely the youngest, and a singer-songwriter at that, could never be king! But God saw things differently. He told Samuel, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
3. Teach and model biblical roles in your home.
Since most of our daughters will become wives and mothers, and most of our sons will become husbands and fathers, it is important to prepare them for these callings. Celebrate the Scriptures that differentiate the callings of men and women, of husband and wife. Review Scriptures like Genesis 2:15–25, 1 Peter 3:1–7, and Ephesians 5:22–33. Moms, don’t be afraid to use the word submission to describe the way you joyfully follow your husband’s loving initiative and care. Dads, point out to your sons the ways you look to sacrifice your own interests for the benefit of your wife as an expression of the humility of Christ.
4. Encourage your spouse in their biblical calling before your children.
Our children may see dad going to work to provide for the family and mom busy at home, but they may not realize these activities are mentioned in the Bible. Moms, compliment the hard work of your husband to provide for your family. Dads, celebrate the help your wife provides, and affirm your love for her often in front of your children. Express your affection toward one another in front of your children.
Nothing affirms their confidence in God’s design for men, women, and marriage better than seeing mom and dad delighting in God’s good design. Nothing is more effective in building confidence in God’s plan than our children seeing their parents delight in one another.