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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Book Review: "We Became Men: The Journey into Manhood"

We Became Men: The Journey into Manhood
Shawn Brower
P & R Publishing Company
PO Box 817
Phillipsburg, NJ 08865-0817
Copyright: 2012
ISBN: 978-1-59638-386-9; $14.99
Reviewed for Deus Misereatur by: Rev. Dr. Michael Philliber

Taking the Trek– 4 ½ of 5 stars

There I was, wondering what to pick up for my sons. I was looking for material at the Christian bookstore I could hand to my teenage boys, but was uncertain of the content and ignorant of the authors. I headed home, puzzled about what to do next or where to look. On my arrival at the house I picked up the mail and saw that Shawn Brower had recently written a 240 page paperback for teen boys, “We Became Men: The Journey into Manhood.” My interest was piqued and into the book I dove! Brower comes at his subject with the solid experience-base from being a long-time teen soccer coach, headmaster and teacher of Christian schools, a father of three boys, and himself having once been a teenage boy growing into manhood.
“We Became Men” falls into four sections, covering 16 chapters, which revolve around a backpacking trek analogy. Each chapter is filled with illustrative stories from the author’s own adventures as well as those of several other men throughout the years. And to rouse thoughtful dialogue, every chapter concludes with discussion questions, and a challenge.
The trek starts out at “Base Camp.” In the two chapters included in this section Brower addresses the attitudes of security, comfortability and adventure. The author questions the young man’s habits of settling into the safety of the familiar and routine by asking “How are these things preparing you for what is to come” (24)? He then stirs the reader to lift up his expectations, to look beyond being satisfied with the easy and complacent, and to see his personal story as a soul-shaping, man-making adventure.
Next, “The Journey Begins.” Here the young man begins the trek, but with the right people and the right perspectives in place. In selecting a mentor (“Trail Guide”), it is imperative that he be a godly man, “for to be truly manly, one must be godly” (52). But also this trek is to be embarked on with a “Band of Brothers,” a deeply loyal group of friends who have similar values and moral gravitation, so that you can encourage and be encouraged, and helped to stay on the right trail and not wander off. Brower also notes that at the Trail Head, a thoughtful recognition must be intentionally grappled with: is there an imbalance between consumption and contribution in a young man’s life. This was an extremely perceptive analysis, approached with graciousness and valuable insight.
Now that the adventure has been begun, there are some “Essential Trail Conversations.” Here Brower brings out important topics that teen boys need to tackle and get settled. Most of the issues the author raises are heart-matters, displaying how the Gospel of Jesus Christ shapes, remedies and informs that young man’s life and life-choices. The eight chapters in this section work through performance, idolatry, complacency, forgiveness, entertainment, sinful desires, and girls. Brower handles these subjects sober-mindedly, but not stiffly or woodenly. I found some of the discussions in this section useful in a recent conversation I had with one of my sons, and was very appreciative for Brower’s counsel.
The concluding portion is “Moving Toward the Summit.” The author talks about leadership, and how each young man leads in one way or the other. The struggle becomes what kind of leader will he chose to be. Brower ends the book with a short set of final thoughts that leave the trek into manhood open-ended and the reader thinking ahead to the rest of the journey.
“We Became Men: The Journey into Manhood” is a good place to start those father-son conversations. It is written in a way that young men can comprehend, and in a format that will keep their attention. But it will also stoke the thinking of older men, fathers, and even grandfathers. As of the writing of this review, I have already ordered a copy for my sons and will be reading and discussing this with them. Brower has given us a very usable resource, and I highly recommend the book.
{permission to re-post or publish this review is granted as long as you give credit where credit is due-MWP}

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