November 18, 2015 • Life for Leaders
For you had little before I came, and it has increased abundantly; and the LORD has blessed you wherever I turned. But now when shall I provide for my own household also?”
In 1986, psychologist Daniel Levinson published a groundbreaking book entitled The Seasons of a Man’s Life. On the basis of extensive interviews, Levinson showed that human development does not end when a man becomes an adult. In fact, Levinson argued, men go through a number of distinct stages as they get older, stages in which they face certain developmental tasks that are essential for their continued emotional growth. (In 1994, Levinson published a companion volume, The Seasons of a Woman’s Life.)
According to Levinson, in one of the stages through which a man passes, he seeks greater independence, autonomy, and authority. Whereas he might have been happy in the past to serve under the directive leadership of another, a man in his late thirties yearns for greater responsibility and opportunity. He wants to speak with his own voice. In this stage of life, a man might move away from the influence of an older mentor as he “breaks out” to be himself in a new way. He might look for a new job that gives him greater freedom. Levinson identifies this season of a man’s life with the acronym BOOM: Becoming One’s Own Man.
Whether Levinson’s stages best describe adult male development is not something I’m trained to discern, though I expect things are probably less tidy than Levinson’s model proposes. Nevertheless, I believe Levinson’s insight gives us an interesting perspective on the story of Jacob in Genesis.
It’s a little hard to figure out Jacob’s age in Genesis 30 and how that age correlates with our ages today. Yet we know that he was coming to the end of the season of life in which he would be fathering children. Jacob did something that men in his time of life would be expected to do, according to Levinson. He went to Laban, his boss (and father-in-law), and asked for permission to return to his own home and country. When Laban resisted, Jacob responded: “For you had little before I came, and it has increased abundantly; and the LORD has blessed you wherever I turned. But now when shall I provide for my own household also?” (Gen 30:30). Jacob’s family is living well as part of Laban’s household. But now Jacob wants to have his own household. He wants a life separate from Laban’s. In Levinson’s phrase, Jacob wants to “become his own man.”
You may wonder why I’m writing about this in a daily devotion. My answer is that I think Scripture can give us a wide range of insights. Of course, we learn much about God. Yet we can also learn much about ourselves and those with whom we share life and work. If we know that many men tend to go through a BOOM season of life, then we may be better equipped to deal with this season in ourselves, our colleagues, our supervisees, our spouses, and our friends. We will be ready to ask, “What is God doing in this particular season of your life?”
Of course, this is a crucial question, not just for BOOMing men, but for all of us. Thus, the story of Jacob is relevant to your life, no matter whether you are a man or a woman, and no matter what stage of life you’re going through. In tomorrow’s devotional I’ll share with you about my own experience of BOOM. For now, I invite you to consider the following questions.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
When you see Jacob seeking to break away from Laban and provide for his own household, how do you react? Can you relate to Jacob’s desire? Can you relate to Laban’s hesitation?
Can you think of a time (or times) in your life when you felt a strong desire to “become your own man” or to “become your own woman”? What did you do with these feelings? What difference did God make in this season of life?
No matter what season of life you are in right now, how is God at work in your life? How is God shaping you to become more like Christ?
Gracious God, again I thank you for the realism of the biblical narrative. What we see in Genesis 30 makes sense; it fits our experience as well as some theories of human development.
No matter what season of life I’m in right now, help me to see clearly what’s going on with me. Even more so, help me to see what you are doing in my life, both to use me for your purposes and to mold me to become more like Christ. May I cooperate fully in the good work you are doing in me right now.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.