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.

The Value of a Champion

One year ago tomorrow, I jogged down a hospital hallway to catch up with two attendants pushing a gurney with my father on it on the way back to heart surgery. They stopped as I called out and when I reached them, my dad had already closed his eyes as was beginning to go to sleep. He opened his eyes and I said, “I love you, dad; I’ll see you in a few hours,” while placing my right hand on his upper left chest.

He reached his right hand across his body and put it on top of my hand, saying, “I love you, son,” with a slight grin. That was the last time we talked and, as far as I know, those were the last words he ever spoke. The surgery went poorly, he never woke up and my dad entered heaven three days later.

Anniversaries cause you to reflect and as I reflect at the one year anniversary of my father’s passing, I realize the greatest loss I have suffered as a result of his death. I lost a champion.

My dad wasn’t one to give tons of advice and hardly ever pushed his opinion into my circumstances. He was supportive and available and was unconditional in his love. He let me figure things out and responded if called upon. In figuring it out, there was nobody in this world that celebrated the wins for me and with me more than my dad has.

Over the past year, what I have missed the most is the ability to share the victories with him. Phone calls or visits to talk of how something was working out well were always met with equal joy and satisfaction from him. The times I miss him can be diverse in their origin but some of the most palpable times of grief are when I want to share a win.

My friend, Omar, reminded me not too long ago that while we often talk about the Bible’s call to “mourn with those who mourn,” the rest of that verse is to “rejoice with those who rejoice.” (Romans 12:15) It’s just as important to have relationships that celebrate with us as it is to have those that will allow for the healthy processing of our grief.

I’m so thankful to have a loving bride that celebrates with me and kids as well as other family. I just miss my first champion.

Writing in the Dirt

When practicing law, I routinely defended people who had broken the law.  In those days, people – mostly Christian people – often asked how I could morally support my decision to be an advocate for the immoral.  The answer was easy.  Jesus is our advocate, even though we did “it” in some form or fashion.  The case is airtight against us, but He doesn’t turn from us.  The chance to be an advocate for guilty people was the chance to stand beside them, just as Jesus stands beside us.

In the case of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus’ method of defense was peculiar.  As her accusers loudly proclaimed the woman’s guilt, Jesus silently stooped down and wrote in the dirt with His finger.  The Pharisees would not relent; they continued to batter Jesus with the question of what they should do to the woman in light of the Law.  After a short time, Jesus stood and invited anyone without sin to begin the prescribed punishment of stoning by throwing the first rock.  Then, He stooped down and continued writing in the dirt.

No one could throw the first stone.  One by one, the crowd dispersed until only Jesus and the woman remained.  Interestingly, verse 9 of John 8 says it was the older men who left first.  The older men left first because they had sinned the most, if for no other reason than they had lived the longest so they had the most practice.

Writing in the dirt was the primary tactic Jesus used in defense of the woman.  As odd as it seems, Jesus’ act of using His finger to write on the earth was a foreshadowing of the exchange He was here to make.  God had written in the earth with His finger previously, and here He was doing it again.

The first time God’s finger wrote on the earth was when He wrote the Ten Commandments on stone tablets, some of the very writings the Pharisees hoped to use to condemn the woman.  God wrote the Law twice, as Moses broke the first set of tablets.  Now, here He is, in the form of Jesus, again writing in the earth, again twice.  What He wrote was “grace upon grace” (John 1:16), just as He had written the Law, and then wrote it again.  Perfect satisfaction; it is finished.

The first time God wrote in the earth, He wrote the Law; the second time, He wrote grace.  Jesus came to satisfy the Law for us, since we can’t just as the old men of John 8:9 couldn’t.  Our perspectives of God and people (starting with ourselves) are evident in what we “write” with our words and attitudes.  We are either writing law or grace, and we can only write what we first receive.  Realizing that we are not unlike the woman Jesus refused to condemn allows us to receive grace just as it allowed me to defend those who did “it,” too.

From “Abundant and Free,” available at Amazon by clicking here.

 

 

The Never Ending Salute

Seven months later, we ebb and flow in the adjustment to my father’s absence. Following weeks of apparent resolution to the deep, tangible grief, there is a relapse of pain that can be momentary or persistent. Triggers can range from pictures to places to experiences to nothing at all.

I’ve said recently, “I think Dad underestimated the impact of his departure.” It’s because he did. He didn’t understand the power of his presence. He was deferential and humble, especially with family as he served us without any apparent expectations of a quid pro quo return. His investment was into the legacy that his humility wouldn’t allow him to entertain credit for.

His life had changed the last 15 years or so. I didn’t see him cry until he was in his 60’s. You could guarantee his tears in the past decade every time he went to talk about us with any spotlight at all, including something as private as a prayer before a family dinner. My father was transformed.

Increasingly over the past several years, my dad had some health challenges. Sometimes they would limit his ability to do things but mostly they would cause him to feel bad. I didn’t realize the extent of it until after his death as my mother has shared some of the details. He never put it on display or drew attention to himself, and at times he walked further or smiled more than his body would have made easy for him.

The gradual yet evident demise of his capacity wore on his soul, too. He didn’t want to be a burden or burdened; he lived with purpose and with passion. He was mentally sharp and his ideas were weighted with wisdom and vision. That wisdom and vision combined with his selflessness to serve had always put him in motion but as his motion was increasingly limited the frustration would set in.

The value, however, of his place in the room was likely not something he ever completely embraced. As such, he was not overly impressed with the possibility of death. He wasn’t reckless by any means, but he was not afraid either. If he had known with greater certainty, I suspect, that he was a mountain of comfort and confidence in our lives then he might have been a little more hesitant to embrace the glory of eternity.

At his memorial service, the picture above was taken during the playing of taps. He received my first salute when I became a Second Lieutenant and I offered him his final salute (and possibly the final salute I offer) as a gesture which had meant something to both he and I. The gesture, however, is a temporary effort to convey eternal gratitude, honor and love.

Small Choices of Rebellion Lead to Big Consequences of Arrogance

I was on the way to an appointment last week and I wasn’t really running late, but I was running “just in time.” When you are wired like I’m wired, just in time feels late so I was pressed to get there as quickly as possible and I had missed a turn. I needed to make a U-turn and was sitting at a red light, only to see a no U-turn sign. I began to survey the landscape for cameras and/or police. There were none, so I decided the U-turn wasn’t going to hurt anybody.

As I waited for the light to turn, I realized a prompting from the Holy Spirit. “You are about to intentionally choose to rebel.” That was it; nothing more about the light or what consequences I would deal with and there was no fear or shame. Just that gentle nudge that showed me my heart. I turned left and proceeded to the next intersection where I could make a legal U-turn.

Nobody would ever know the difference except for the fact that I’m writing about it now. Well, I would and God would and others would as rebellion became more comfortable to me so the next rebellious thing would be that much easier. Oh, and I might forfeit things that God has otherwise qualified me for which I don’t even know about yet.

“For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.” – 1 Samuel 15:23

Rebellion is as the sin of divination, or witchcraft. Witchcraft is our attempt to harness the power of God. We turn the truth of His word and power of His Spirit into a technique that we can master. We try to control the outcomes of supernatural things.

By contrast, we are invited into His love for people when we are submitted the manner in which He loves. Submission and humility are the posture to observe and sometimes even participate in the supernatural love of God. Doing things our way, even for the purpose of church or ministry and even for what we believe are good intentions, is rebellion and witchcraft.

It’s the little things that open the door to the big things. Nobody may notice the U-turn but when we intentionally reject submission in the small things, we will be ready to grow in that seed of rebellion. There may not be cameras and there may not be cops, but there are always consequences.

Anxiety Presents an Opportunity for Greater Glory

Every time we accept invitations into new opportunities, we step into a new version of discomfort. We go from a known to an unknown because we believe that it will be better in the new place even if there is a cost to getting there. There are times that we experience discomfort in new circumstances that we didn’t choose but that were forced on us. In either case, the opportunity in the discomfort is the same.

When we get to this new place of unknown challenges and uncertain outcomes, we often (if not always) can recognize insecurities within us if we will pay attention. In that place where we are no longer comfortable, we are likely to feel a sense of threat. Often we will be anxious surrounding our protection, provision or promotion/place. If we aren’t careful, we may very well be offended or suspicious of people in this new environment as we view them through our lens of anxiety as we guess at their motives or overreact to their interactions.

In these new places where we are tempted to envy, judge, compete, be offended, etc. because we are afraid as we experience lack of control, we are presented an eternal opportunity. The insecurities that are driving the anxiety and mental gymnastics were there prior to their exposure via this new set of circumstances. They are simply ripe at this particular time for redemption.

Where God shows us the ugliness of us in the middle of our discomfort or suffering, we get to choose. We can agree with fear or come home to His love. We can foster the temporal anxiety or run home to the comfort and certainty of eternity. His love dwells within us by the grace of Jesus (if we want it to and receive the sacrifice of Jesus for the restoration of relationship with the Father) so the peace that relieves the anxiety is in Him within us.

It’s at this point that we are granted repentance. We are given the gift of getting to exchange the insecurity of an orphan which wasn’t yet redeemed and trading it in for the security of a legitimate child of God. When we feel the ugly stuff, we can own our part of the emotions instead of blaming people and circumstances for our discomfort and exchange our crud for God’s glory. He will be put on display from within us when we choose to submit the temporal fear for His eternal love.