Last Saturday, the work of about four years of preparation culminated in the "Rite of Passage" ceremony for my oldest son, Michael A Southerland III. He turned 13 on December 27, 2008. At the ceremony he received advice from his great-grandfather (via recorded video since "Pepaw" passed away in September), both of his grandfathers, his mother, his uncle, our provisional church elders, and of course, yours truly, his father.
I charged Michael with the responsibility of preparing to undertake the three roles that a man should fill while leading his family. Mirroring directly from the example of our Lord toward His Church, these roles are those of a prophet, priest, and king. Michael received a gift corresponding to each of the roles for which he was charged.
For the role of Prophet, I charged Michael with the following responsibilities:
- Speak Vision Into Your Family
- Hold Yourself to the Highest Standard of Ethics
- Bridle Your Tongue
- Never Stop Learning
- Know "What You Want to Be When You Grow Up"
- Use Civil Disobedience Appropriately
- Seek a Godly Wife
- Encourage Your Wife and Children
- Be Consistent With Discipline
- Direct Your Family's Ministry
- Realize the Blessing of Children
After charging him with these responsibilities and getting an affirmative answer from him, I presented him with a copy of Charges for a Southerland Son. This leatherbound book represents many, many hours of labor in writing down my charges and thoughts to him. I intend for him to keep it updated in subsequent editions in order to pass down the message to his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
For the role of Priest, I charged Michael with the following responsibilities:
- Intercede on Behalf of Your Family
- Be Cautious of Charismatic Gifts
- Teach the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith
- Teach the Five Points of Calvinism
- Teach the Five Solas of the Reformation
- Catechize Your Children
After charging him with these responsibilities and receiving an affirmative answer, I presented him with a leatherbound copy of the Geneva Bible in a family Bible edition. This is the Bible used by the Reformers and the Pilgrims. This particular Bible has room to record his family tree information.
For the role of King I charged Michael with the following responsibilities:
- Defend Your Family
- Be a Good Steward of Resources Entrusted to You
- Walk With Honor
- Be Sober Minded
- Be a Leader
- Make or Influence Public Policy
- Guard Your Time
- Guard Your Family's Purity
After charging him with these responsibilities and receiving an affirmative answer, I presented him with a Scottish Highland Claymore sword encased in a custom made leather scabbard adorned with our family crest and inlaid with our Southerland (Sutherland) tartan.
I have so many people to thank that helped bring this project to fruition. Some I have personal relationships with. Some I have met. Some I haven't. Some only through e-mail. First and foremost, I thank the Lord Jesus Christ. Without Him, this is all meaningless. Next, my bride and Michael's mother, Sheri. She has supported me throughout all this. The other list of credits include my brother Jason who originally planted this thought in my head; my parents for laying a Christian foundation for me on which to build; Doug Phillips and Geoff Botkin for their visionary messages on fathers leading their families; Phil Lancaster for his book, Family Man, Family Leader from which I pulled the whole concept of a man serving as Prophet, Priest, and King like our Lord; Scott Brown for his counsel on what traits should be found in a young man from the perspective of a father evaluating a suitor for his daughter; Russ Ellis, of Tritonworks, the artisan that gave me advice on where to order the sword and did an excellent job of crafting a custom made scabbard for it.
My goal is that this will not die in my generation. I plan to do these ceremonies for each of my sons (and similar, though not exact, celebrations for my daughters). They are to charge their sons as well. This should be kept up ad infinitum throughout the generations. Yet, I will be satisfied if it at least propagates through 200 years. That is the vision, sons. Now let's make it happen with God's help.