When I was in middle school, my mom took me to the doctor for my annual physical. After the doctor did his examination, he brought my mom into the room and gave his diagnosis.
“Well,” he said. “Your son is not turning into a girl.”
My mother’s face betrayed a look of shock.
“Is that even possible?” she asked.
The doctor threw back his head and laughed.
“No,” he assured her.
So far, the doctor has been correct. I am currently a sophomore in college, and I am not a girl (at least, not yet). I’m still a boy. However, sometimes I’m not sure if I’m a man.
What is a man?
Some people say that you’re a man when you turn 18.
This idea is simply inaccurate. Age does not equal maturity. There are responsible 18 year-old males and there are irresponsible 18 year-old males. Some college students, older than 18, have no respect for authority, themselves, or other people. They have no work ethic and no respect for the law.
Are they men? No.
Being a man involves more than celebrating your 18th birthday. It involves more than getting wasted and going to strip clubs.
Some people say that you’re a man when you move out of the house and start a family. Moving out the house and starting a family takes a considerable level of responsibility and financial independence. The Bible speaks of this stage in a man’s life: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)
From the Bible we can also get specific examples of manly men, like Daniel.
Daniel’s life was defined by his commitment to his convictions. He held steadfast to his values in the midst of adversity.
When Daniel was a youth, the Babylonians conquered his country, Israel. Daniel and his friends were taken captive to Babylon and given a Babylonian education. In Babylon, their diet consisted of wine and meat sacrificed to idols.
Eating food sacrificed to idols was contrary the Israelite religion. Daniel had to choose between obeying God or obeying his captors.
He and his friends chose not to eat the meat. Instead, Daniel asked for an alternate diet of vegetables and water. To ask for different food was a courageous and risky decision. The Book of Daniel says that Daniel and his friends were rewarded for their faithfulness to God, who “granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials” (Daniel 1:9).
The commander agreed to let Daniel and his friends try a diet of vegetables and water for ten days. This diet made Daniel and his friends healthier than everyone else. Daniel held to his convictions and God rewarded him for it.
There is much more to read about Daniel in the Bible, but this slice of his life provides us with a profound example of conviction, faithfulness, and manliness. Daniel held true to his values after being ripped away from his country by an invading army.
Daniel probably wasn’t 18 years old when he was taken captive. He definitely wasn’t married. However, he had moved out of the house, and he was definitely a man.
For those of us who need annual physicals to make sure that we’re not turning into girls (or for those of us who are still boys), Daniel is an example of manliness to follow.