“Roger, liftoff, and the clock is started.”
– Alan B. Shepard Jr., Astronaut
“It was my fear that made me learn everything I could about my airplane and my emergency equipment, and kept me flying respectful of my machine and always alert in the cockpit.”
– Chuck Yeager, General
The engines roar so loudly you can feel your whole body shake as the fighter jet accelerates down the short runway on the aircraft carrier in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. You can smell the burning fuel. Standing on the deck of the carrier, you can’t even see the fighter pilot inside because his plane is racing by at such an incredible speed. You can, though, sense the power of the great plane and the intensity of the takeoff. Just seconds before, the jet was calmly stationed at the end of the carrier, along with a few other ones. But now, just seconds later, amidst burning fuel and an awesome display of speed, it’s at the end of the runway and quickly airborne, racing up into the blue sky.
But where is the plane going?
Like the fighter jet, you are also about to accelerate down a short runway and take off on a great adventure with many possible missions and destinations. During your childhood, your life has probably been pretty steady and stable for the last few years. Sure, there have been ups and downs and you’ve changed and grown as a boy, but boyhood is usually marked by very slow and gradual development compared to the upcoming season in your life. But soon, instead of just hanging out at the end of the runway with the other fighter jets, instead of slowly taxiing back and forth on the runway, your life is about to accelerate in a very intense and rapid period called adolescence. And at the end of adolescence, you will take off into the sky for an even greater adventure: manhood.
Any fighter pilot will probably tell you that good preparation before the flight is essential to a successful mission. He has spent thousands of hours learning to fly. He has considered problems he could encounter and maneuvers he could use in those dangerous situations. He has tested and serviced the plane. He has filled it up with fuel. He has studied the specific flight plan, considered the weather, and learned the goal and details of the mission. The takeoff is but a few seconds; the mission is but a few hours; but the preparation is years in the making.
You are a man in the making. Before you race down that runway and head up into the sky, it’s important and wise to make sure you are well prepared and equipped for the flight. You’d better make sure you know how to fly the plane and that it has fuel in it. You’d better know what you’re going to do when you come under enemy attack. And, most importantly, you’d better know what the mission is and where you’re going. It’s easy to get lost in the vast sky without a plan.
Manhood is the same way. You’ll be there before you know it, and if you haven’t done your preparations in advance, you can make a lot of unnecessary mistakes as you’re racing down the runway of adolescence. Not only will you make more mistakes without good preparation now, but you can cause yourself—and others—a lot of harm and heartache as well. You can crash on the runway or take off in the wrong direction, and you might never grow into the sort of man God designed you to be. We don’t want you to crash or fly to the wrong destination or get lost in the sky.
This book is designed to give you a mission and flight plan:
- We’ll tell you what your purpose is as a man. We’ll tell you what it means to be a man: what your destination is.
- We’ll tell you how to accelerate properly and safely down the short runway of adolescence you are about to begin.
- We’ll tell you about some problems you are likely to encounter and how you can defeat them before they make you crash or change your flight plan.
- We’ll encourage you to get some good co-pilots and flight instructors and technical staff, both your age and older men, who will support and help you on your journey.
So buckle up! The next few years of your life will be a great adventure. Changes like these are on the way:
- Your mind, body, emotions and relationships will be changing in ways that you can’t fully understand until you have experienced them.
- You will feel new and more intense passions and desires.
- You will think about girls, your friends and your parents differently than you do now, and you will relate to them in new ways.
- You will think about yourself differently.
- You will long for more independence and new challenges.
- You will dream new dreams and develop your own identity.
Every adventure also has its share of difficulties and dangers. Self-esteem often dips during your teenage years (though many boys try to hide that on the outside). While you will enjoy and appreciate the increasing freedoms, they will bring temptations that can be hard to resist, and the consequences for a poor decision can be costly. While your body will grow in size and strength, it can be an awkward process with aches and acne. Girls can make your heart race and your heart break. All in all, adolescence can be like riding a roller coaster with many ups and downs.
In this book, we’ll give you as complete and honest of a look at the journey ahead as we can. We want this to be authentic and cover the real issues and temptations that you will likely encounter in the upcoming months and years. We are addressing the topics that boys tell us are on their minds and that teenage boys say they are struggling with. While some of these topics can be embarrassing or difficult, we believe that it is better to know on the front end what you will probably face, and we want to help equip and prepare you for facing them.
But it’s not just the next few years that we care about. We want you to have a vision for the sort of man God wants you to be when you have passed through the adolescent years. That’s our ultimate goal. If you will set your eyes on the final goal—the sort of man you should become—then that will direct you in how you navigate the teenage years. Approaching challenges with the end result in mind is always the best way to begin. Great coaches begin the season talking about where they want the team to be at the end of the season. They talk about conference championships and bowl games and final rankings.
Coaches give their players a playbook to instruct them on how they want the game to be played. God has given you His playbook to help you navigate through the issues that you will be facing in the next few years. Boys are often surprised to hear that the Bible speaks on so many topics. Drinking, peer pressure, friendships, families, girls, even puberty and sex—the Bible gives us perspective and instruction in these matters. It speaks to the role and responsibilities of men. It tells you the sort of man, husband and father you should be one day. It tells all of us how to approach our work and worship and the girls and women in our lives. It talks about our self-worth, our successes, and the stuff we own, use and want to have. It covers difficulties and failures. It tells us about the forgiveness you can experience for all of our mistakes, including ones you may have already committed. We’ll cover all of these topics in this book.
But even more than covering these topics, the Bible describes God’s love for you. Rather than primarily advice and rules, the Bible, most importantly, is the true story of the good news of how much God loves us and how He is seeking to save us. It’s the good news of what He has done for us rather than what we can do for Him. It’s about what we can receive rather than what we must achieve.
We hope that by helping to develop your thinking about these teenage topics and understanding God’s love, grace and pursuit of us, you will grow in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man. Our desire is that one day you will become a better man, husband and father, and we hope that you will, long before then, deepen your faith and walk with the Lord Jesus Christ; we hope you at least begin to explore questions in your mind and heart about who this God of the Bible is and what He means when He says in Jeremiah 29:11 that He has plans to grow and prosper you.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
1. What are some of the issues that you think will be difficult for you in the next few years?
2. Does the idea of becoming a man scare you or make you nervous? Why or why not?
3. If you could have one question answered about the road ahead for you, what would it be?
4. Is your dad available to talk with you about adolescence and the journey to manhood? If he is not available, who could you talk to about this important topic?
5. What do you hope to accomplish by reading and studying this book?
6. What is the best piece of advice your dad, mom, adult leader, coach, or mentor has given you so far?
7. How would you define manhood?
8. Do you view the upcoming years of your life as an adventure or just a regular part of your life? Why or why not?
Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Flight Plan: Your Mission to Become a Man. Flight Plan uses the metaphor of a journey of flight to speak candidly to pre-teen and teen boys about friendships, peer pressure, drinking, drugs, girls and dating, puberty, sex, and school and family relationships. Like any sound flight plan, the book maps out the journey ahead giving practical advice for success and warnings for potential pitfalls any boy on his way to manhood is likely to encounter. The text strategically builds on seven biblically based virtues, “The True Friend,” “The Humble Hero,” “The Servant Leader,” “The Moral Motivator,” “The Bold Adventurer,” “The Noble Knight,” and “The Heart Patient.” Each chapter concludes with questions for reflection and discussion, making Flight Plan an ideal teaching tool for boys’ small groups, mentoring groups, Sunday school classes, fathers and sons, or simply individual study.