It's been on my mind these days, what it means to be a man. Logically, I've gone back into the depths of my mind, recalling moments with my father... some good, some not. I've meditated on some sermons I've heard, some passages in books I've read. Being a man, a true man, as one is intended to be, is one of the ultimate challenges for half the world's population. The other half has their own battle, but none on that currently.
I enjoy teachings from Larry Crabb quite a bit. I can see his authenticity, his humble honesty, and I trust his word. I've been thinking about what he said in chapel a few weeks ago. You see, he spoke on true masculinity/femininity in preparation of some visitors we were to receive the following week. Soul Force, an organization dedicated to fighting for equality for the homosexual, Christian community, are having an Equality Ride to dozens of Universities with policies that do not advocate the homosexual lifestyle. All that to say, Crabb spoke about how homosexuals and heterosexuals alike struggle with being the men and women God intended them to be (the main point being Homosexuality presents an alternative to some to not have to face and struggle through their true expression of masculinity or femininity).
I could go on and on about the Homosexuality issue, but I won't. We all are afraid to be who we are. The young man who likes the girl but never pursues, or does but backs off when it seems too vulnerable... he lacks a strength essential to being a full man. The father, who being afraid of failure or rejection, avoids interactions with a son, starts a dangerous cycle of raising future generations crippled by timidity. The woman, defensive from past pains and disappointments whether from a neglectful/abusive father or a self-centered, hedonistic guy, isn't fully a woman when she closes off her heart from receiving the love and support of a man. Others avoid the challenge by looking to pornography, where an image on a computer screen or magazine cannot reject you and there is no committment to another person. The man who has an affair with a prostitute, because for that short period of time he feels like she desires him and is able to please her (ignoring the fact that she is paid to act that way).
I have gotten to the age where I'm imagining starting a family soon. The thought has crossed my mind several times whether or not I'm competent enough to raise a son or daughter (or both). Looking back at my relationship with my parents, their is a legitimate fear that I can't; I wish they handled things differently than they did, and I as their son, should have acted differently too. Anyways, the fact is parenthood, marriage, relationships are ridiculous. It calls one to open up and expose your heart, because that's what love is. Yes, there is a place for boundaries, but at the same time, boundaries can become fortresses with one's heart closed off inside, preventing any connection with those one is supposed to love. Isn't that all too frequent an occurance. Emotional distance.
I was at a prayer team retreat a while back, last year I think, and I was being prayed over. My deepest concern for me then was that I was stuck being timid. After the prayer, I had a vision of sorts. It was just a thought, nothing extremely detailed, but it was of me and my son. You see, it was profound because I had never before imagined having a son. I feared it. I felt completely inadequate raising a son. A girl I could imagine. I didn't have a problem imagining to pour love and affection on a daughter. But a son... that wasn't modeled to me very well. The vision was of me having a great time playing with him, and we were close. It was a great thought.
What do I think it means to be a man? Perhaps the question should be "What qualities do I want to exhibit as a man?"
I want to be vulnerable. Our culture avoids being vulnerable and transparent. I want my friends, co-workers and family to know when I am good and bad. I want to have the humility to accept their support as I show my weakness. I want to model that to my future kids so that they will grow up the same way. I want to be persistent. I want to be the first to encourage my future wife of her importance in my life, the first to ask my kids how their day had gone, what they had learned, how I can support them. I want to never avoid. I want to see a problem and resolve it. I want to love deeply, share intimately, and live boldly.
I have found more strength in God than in anyone or anything. I look back over the last few years in my faith journey, and I feel I'm becoming the man of God I'm called to be. My desires to be a man, those qualities, are absolutely attainable. On my own power, they will never come to be. But with my heart focused on Christ, his example, and by seeking to become like Him, I cannot fail. In Christ there is Life, the Abundant Life. A life where families are strong and centered, where relationships are deep and meaningful, where lives are changed and people see they too can experience joy and peace, Heaven on Earth as you will for the Kingdom of God is here. Victory over evil and death, pain and isolation, is readily available for those who submit their lives to God. I'm learning to do that and am seeing the fruit of that labor. I'm no master, but in time and with grace, I will slowly grow in greater likeness with Christ and the world I know will change. Lives will change.