I’ve Been Angry (and I’m Probably Not the Only One)

I realized recently that I have been angry for quite some time. Not typically explosive, but at least simmering. A constant management of emotion that was dissatisfied, disgusted, disillusioned or other descriptors for pissed off. The realization was a gift as I am now able to own it so that I can exchange it.

My dad died about 14 months ago and there has been ongoing hurt. Hurt defiantly fuels anger. Missing my dad and hurting over his death has been a contributing factor to my slow boil.

There are other hurts and disappointments on a day-to-day basis. Julie and I love each other but we aren’t perfect. Marriage can bring various ups and downs. We have kids that can cause us worry (fear) and hurt as we attempt to raise them perfectly without the capacity for perfection.

I’ve seen, after many years in for-profit endeavors, that non-profit or faith-based efforts bring a different level of emotion than secular attempts at making a living. Not too many people had opinions about my performance or decisions as an attorney or business owner; quite a few have something to say about my choices in the faith-based leadership attempts. Opinions can sting and sometimes outright hurt. It’s likely that fueled some of the anger.

The effort to “do the right thing” got away from me a bit. I started trying to fix everything all the time. In the middle of it all, I didn’t want to hurt anyone so I started to provide soft landings for people; worrying about their emotions to the detriment of mine. Carrying too much. Fear and frustration can fuel anger and my efforts to be able to answer, fix, manage and maintain everything caught up with me.

Here is the challenge: how do I (or any of us) operate in our gifts, skills and abilities in and for the Kingdom of God while maintaining a posture of dependence? I want to be capable, reliable and other descriptors of qualities that are positive attributes of God’s design. At the same time, I want to stay completely reliant on Him and His grace to allow for His outcomes without forcing the issue(s) in my own efforts.

I don’t know how to do that. I know how to work hard and I know how to give up. Working without striving requires His grace and I’m asking. I’m asking for the peace that comes in His multiplication to replace the anger that comes in my intensity. I don’t know what’s next but I know that He is faithful and He is good. I also know that I haven’t been angry since I realized I was.

Truth Produces Security and Security Fosters Humility

One thing common to us all is insecurities. They pop up all the time in various forms and are often revealed as we are introduced to new social or professional situations. As we look to determine our place in the new setting, the fears of rejection, inadequacy, failure, etc. surface. Two things that are evident when insecurity is stirred: 1) it is an opportunity to grow, and 2) the answer is beyond the confines of its origin.

The opportunity to grow is by way of redemption. The revelation of the insecurity is a gift as we then have an opportunity to exchange it for security. Every time a new or familiar insecurity surfaces, we are able to exchange it for our identity in Christ. That insecurity is doubt related to your place and your place is in Him. It is the fear of an orphan, yet in Christ you are a child of the Father.

When the fear of insecurity bubbles up, the need is love. The Father’s love casts out fear so to connect to the Father, ask Holy Spirit to remind you that you are a child of His (since you’ve apparently forgotten). “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (Romans 8:15-16)

The confidence you and I are in need in order to operate and relate from our identity is is found in the Word of God. Our human limitations can be offset by the eternal truth of the Word. We go to the Bible for the Truth and stand there. Standing there without compromise provides the security of a fixed point. It takes our inadequacies out of the equation and depends on the righteousness and faithfulness of Christ.

The Word is a fixed and secure place to stand. Security produces humility (vs. insecurity fostering pride). When standing in our identity on His truth, we will be free from any need to compare or compete and we will enjoy the peace that is beyond us. There will be no need to argue or self-promote as we stand in the security of identity and truth.

Humble children of God saved by a Righteous King present invitations to eternal relationship that are appealing. Insecure orphans in religion thinking they have to prove themselves right and others wrong simply and pridefully push others further away.

The Foundation of Faith

It’s easy to forget the most important thing and move on to other things. The foundation of the context of our understanding can be taken for granted as focus shifts from design to decoration. How many times have you stopped to admire or even appreciate the concrete foundation of your home? More than likely, it is the paint, flooring, appliances and window dressing that are the focus.

The foundation of our faith is grace. Nothing in the New Covenant works for you as you work it out without an ongoing appreciation for the foundation of the grace of Jesus.

The breath you breath; literally, figuratively, physically and spiritually is only available by grace. Grace got you saved as the death and resurrection of Jesus provided your new birth and provides the resurrection of your soul. It’s His grace that saved you and now it’s His grace that transforms you.

Without a constant focus on the foundation of grace, you and I are going to think it’s about us. Our works, disciplines, ministries, knowledge, attendance, giving or some other decorative additions. Those things are nice and they can be upgrades to the previous structure, but they are secondary to and dependent on grace.

Without the ongoing and urgent embrace of grace, the Righteousness of Christ afforded to us is overlooked for our self-righteousness. We get excited about how good we are at the expense of realizing how Holy is He that lives within us.

You’ll be able to tell when you forget about the foundation if and when you find yourself full of opinions related to the decorative presentations of others. When your approval of them depends on the aesthetics of their extras (good or bad), you don’t see the Righteousness of Christ available to them as the same foundation you have required. The way you see others reflects the way you see yourself.

Mature Masculinity From a Surprising Source

The question of toxic masculinity has received plenty of  attention recently and I took an initial shot at examining the idea a couple of weeks ago here. Not too long after writing that, layers continued to be revealed as I dug deeper into what it was and what it wasn’t.

Along the way, I heard my friend Todd McIntyre teach on masculinity and where he took us blew me away. He went to one of the more unlikely sources I would have imagined. He went to 1 Corinthians 13; otherwise known as “the love chapter.” How in the world was the idea of love from a passage that is typically quoted at weddings going to illustrate or unpack a picture of healthy or true masculinity?

Verse 11, that’s how. Specifically, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”

Paul, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit was writing on love and plopped this verse right in the middle of lovey-dovey stuff. He taught on love and wrapped it up with maturity. Specifically, he wrapped it up with mature masculinity (although it is equally applicable by either gender) as he specified that he had become a “man.” A mature man loves in a way that is consistent with the first 10 verses of that chapter. In other words, a mature man:

  • Submits his gifts and abilities to others through love
  • Is patient
  • Is kind
  • Doesn’t boast and isn’t proud
  • Honors others
  • Is selfless
  • Doesn’t act in anger easily
  • Doesn’t keep track of rights and wrongs (is graceful)
  • Rejects evil and rejoices in truth
  • Always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres

That eternal description of mature manhood puts me in a place of repentance. I need to change my mind. I need to grow up. All too often, my thoughts, feelings and/or choices reflect immature love more than they do mature masculinity. All too often, I need the grace of Jesus that comes in the wake of my repentance to heal, deliver, restore and repair my broken, wounded and incomplete soul. Then I can reflect His manhood and not rely on my toxic and temporal efforts.

Is Masculinity Toxic?

Sometimes masculinity is toxic. Sometimes it is juvenile, confused, hurt and insecure and sometimes those things are covered with aggression, manipulation, dominance, control and other defensive and offensive tactics to cover the toxins. When relationships are formed around the acceptance of those unacceptable reactions to internal turmoil, the culture of that group is toxic. The working out of a mature man is a process that requires recognition of the immaturity present far beyond puberty.

I’ve been toxic at times and so has every man who I know. That doesn’t mean that the healthy expression of masculinity I am called to is the wrong target. The opposite of toxic masculinity is not femininity; its healthy masculinity. It’s not time to neuter men; it’s time to empower them. Empowerment, however, is not for the abuse of power but for the unleashing of purpose.

Men need to be affirmed in their identity as men to breed the security that overcomes the toxins that are inherent in both genders. Affirmation and empowerment produce security and security produces humility. Humility is a key indicator of healthy masculinity.

For men, our responsibility is to tend to the toxins by honestly admitting that they are present. They are present from life’s hurts, disappointments, mistakes and challenges. They are present from dads that were absent, neglectful or abusive as they wrestled with their own toxins. The toxic form of masculinity often gets passed from one generation to the next. Healthy masculinity declares to the heritage that produced toxicity, “no more.”

  • No more abuse.
  • No more anger.
  • No more isolation.
  • No more domination.
  • No more manipulation.
  • No more.
  • Not on my watch.

But there has to be a target as you can’t really be defined by what you aren’t. So where there was toxic masculinity the determination has to be emulation and duplication of a model of masculinity that provides a greater alternative.

That Model is the man of Jesus Christ. He was strong enough to be accused and not fight back. He was courageous enough to suffer and not duck out. He was secure enough to love and not pervert. He is the model for healthy masculinity and I’ve yet to meet a man who has it perfected like He did. I count myself among many, however, that are determined to keep trying.

Working From Truth vs. Working for truth

There is a growing belief that truth is flexible and that there are evidences of what is actually right based on circumstances, feelings, compassion and preferences. Many are forming a “belief” system based on their experiences and our culture is embracing the flexibility to ensure that nobody is left out, offended, marginalized or contentious. Truth, it seems, is increasingly an archaic concept.

The problem with that is me. And you. We are too messed up to figure it out; we need a fixed point which is reliable, has stood the test of time and demands more from us than the limits of us. Truth calls us to a higher perspective and changes us in transit by stretching our capacity for actual understanding instead of contextualizing everything to our liking.

“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” (Ephesians 4:17-18

The definition for “futility” indicates “what is devoid of truth” and even includes the idea of idolatry. That is, to try to figure the truth of everything out from our own perspective or even the perspective of others is lacking. That inside-out production of “belief” is, by definition, working from a faulty source which his absent the thing it requires (truth). Furthermore, it’s what we all have wanted all along; to be our own little gods. It’s exactly what happened at the fall of man, as Adam and Eve opted for control over wonder and sovereignty over dependence.

Pick a Source beyond yourself and choose One with an eternal scope. For me, it’s the Bible. Written by numerous authors, yet fitting together perfectly and standing the test of time for century upon century, I’m going “all in” with the written Word of God as a reliable Source to work from.

The pursuit of Truth will bring you to uncomfortable intersections; that’s good. Wrestle and ask the Author of the Word; relate with Him and allow for Him to change you where otherwise you might attempt to judge and/or define Him. The beauty of that as a path for pursuit is that He is incredibly faithful and He is good; He loves you more than you even love yourself. And as for the left out, offended, marginalized or contentious? He loves them, too, and His plan for them is better than your well intended attempts to rescue them.