The other day, I was reflecting on the goodness of God during this season of my life, and I began to recognize a pattern of behavior that’s been present throughout my short time on this planet. And as I dug into it more, I realized that it’s a pattern that’s natural. It exists in the lives of half the human species.

When I was a boy, maturity wasn’t expected or demanded. I lived with a passion and a furor that any boy does. I played hard. I even dreamed hard.

By default, little boys want to be part of something grand. Some dream of making it as a professional athlete (I can’t tell you how many spectacular one-handed catches of self-thrown nerf footballs I made, diving into my mattress, err, the end zone). Some decide they’ll be a fireman or a police officer or a fighter pilot (anyone else enthralled by Top Gun as a kid?), as each contributes the hero factor to the world. Some hold their future literally higher than a pilot. Ever since I saw Space Camp, I was determined to be the first kid in space.

In any case, there’s a level of boldness that manifests in young boys. That boldness is eventually supposed to get tempered with maturity. For me to insist that I’m going to be a fighter pilot despite the fact that my uncorrected eyesight is too poor to even make it into the military (much less as a pilot) is immature. To insist that I’m going to be the first kid in space, at this point, is asinine. The point is that this boldness is part of who we are as males. God wired us this way. But the pattern should to rule the boldness, not have that boldness rule you.

It’s easy to recognize the boy-to-man difference, but this premise holds true through all phases of life. A healthy young man connects with young women as he seeks his wife with a degree of boldness that directly affects his effectiveness. A timid approach, at best, can have a chance of pity. A bold, confident (note I didn’t say douchey, as that’s different) approach is admirable and demonstrates a level of mental and emotional health, both of which are attractive qualities to a healthy woman. Maturity dictates that this young man who succeeds must now temper this boldness, keeping it within the confines of his new relationship.

A bold businessman can make a powerful impact on a company, but a mature father who prioritizes his family over his work can make a powerful impact on generations. A man can charge into a fire and save someone based on pure, bold adrenaline, but a man of God can fervently and effectively pray a hedge of protection around his family based on bold, mature righteousness.

The default pattern is boldness. It comes with being male. But being bold does not make you a man. In fact, a lot of times, being bold just makes you stupid (and in some cases makes you less of a man). What makes you a man is the introduction and embracing of the maturity required to gain control of that boldness. So often we associate “having cajones” or “being a man” with the boldness alone: death-defying stunts, moments of heroic bravery, and feats of pure strength. But I say that these things are just indicators of a Y chromosome. They’re just older versions of little boys wanting to be firemen. Did something bold? Congratulations; you’re male.

Progress, however, requires maturity rather than age or events.

Boy becoming adolescent? It’s not just age; it’s maturity.
Adolescent becoming young man? It’s not just independence; it’s maturity.
Young man becoming man? It’s not just a job; it’s maturity.
Man becoming husband? It’s not just finding a wife; it’s maturity.
Man becoming father? It’s not just having a child; it’s maturity.
Man becoming man of God? It’s not just going to church, saying a prayer, or reading a book (even the Bible); it’s maturity.

Ever met a “boy trapped in a man’s body”? Ever found a single mother whose boyfriend or husband ran out? Ever seen an adolescent throw a temper tantrum? The boldness is there, but there’s no maturity.

God, help me to grow in and embrace maturity. Help me to become the man of God You’ve called me to be.