Something about men has been on my mind for a while, and came to the forefront again in a recent conversation. As I sit down and consider where to start, it strikes me that this is very much in line with another thing. So without further word-dancing, I’ll get into the things.
There are certain standards for men in society, and in the Christian world this certainly holds true, but tack on additional pressures. I am a woman, so I don’t know what it feels like to carry the burden of those expectations, and I can’t name them all. This article isn’t my attempt to get into men’s minds and say what they’re feeling. It’s just my attempt to bring attention to a question that begs an answer.
Can they do it?
Can a man take care of his family, himself, give his all to his relationship with God? Can he be a man who studies his Bible, teaches his family, pays attention to the tread on his wife’s tires, teaches his kids how to ride a bike, plays catch, helps his son correct his swinging motion, teaches his daughter what to expect on a date, listens carefully to his wife, is patient with his wife, loves his wife in her imperfections, leads his wife, remembers all the bills, controls himself in matters of faithfulness, respects his mama, honors his dad, helps his aunt on the weekends, cuts the church grass, is a friend for a struggling nephew, takes the call of a friend in need, works overtime when necessary, and sleeps?
Can he do that? Can he do that alone? Is he allowed to be tired? Is he allowed to be sad? Is he allowed to feel weak? Is he allowed to ask for help? Is he allowed to be insufficient?
Folks, I don’t mean that we consider this when we stop and think about it for five hours and have heart-to-hearts or when we hear a sermon about fathers and suddenly feel thankful and overwhelmed. I’m not asking if a man is allowed to be sensitive on Father’s day. I am asking if, on a random November 15th, a man is allowed to fall on his knees in weariness of mind, heart, and body? Can he say that without the response being that he needs to “man up”? What does that mean exactly?
If it means “Take heart, for the Lord is your strength” then I am all for that. But does take heart mean that a broken spirit morphs suddenly into a face of cheerfulness and a clear mind?
What sticks out to me is rather clear. There is a big difference between asking a man to be brave and asking him to make it look easy.
My connection between this and another thing on my mind is the Christian walk itself. It is both full of hope and impossible. We cannot be exactly like Christ, but it is our life goal to wake up every morning and attempt to be so. It is also our full expectation that this is exactly the work that the Holy Spirit is doing in us, with every intention and promise to complete it. To complete it. We wake up in a fallen world and our goal is that God’s will on earth be done as it is in heaven. We do not succeed completely, but we try because He will absolutely succeed completely.
The issue is the flesh. We’re still in it. So I sigh and roll my eyes at myself, but I also rebuke myself for doing that, too. Because in God’s eyes I am perfect already – clothed in the righteousness of Himself, bought and paid for. Out of darkness and into light. What can man do to me? What can I do to me? He is for me. So my ongoing battle with sin is one of many in a war whose conclusion is already settled. So while I fight, I can be assured that, win or lose, I am not the guarantor of victory. My salvation is not dependent on me. I cannot offer enough obedience pay Him back. And He is gracious to remind me of the folly in that, to remind me why I obey. “If you love Me, keep my commandments.” He says. Not “If you want salvation…” The best thing I can offer is thanksgiving and a repentant heart. Well, God, I can do that. It is much easier to honor God as God than to try and be Him for yourself. Just don’t.
Anyway, we can “get saved” and then act as if the Christian life is full of ease and material blessings – a world without pain, temptation, depression, anxiety. Or we can grow in Christ by humbling ourselves more and more so that Christ is exalted more and more. We can decrease so that He may increase. And then, then! Then, we can boast in the Lord. And this is what is so fun for me. Because He lives, I am the daughter of a living King. Because He lives, I will be forever perfect. Because He lives, I am being sanctified. Because He lives, I have an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. You see the deal, here? It’s like that kid who is puffed up because his daddy can beat your daddy. That’s my God. He’s the one true God. My faith in Him, especially as it grows, takes the pressure off of me to have faith in myself. And His status elevates my status. His love means good for me. So yes, I boast in the Lord. He did things. And in His great and gracious love I will see a reward. Just by submitting myself to be His willing daughter. How incredible is that? Certainly it’s true: to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Back to men. I cannot imagine that it it’s easy. I can’t imagine that you are never tired, or that you never want to give up. And I want to remind you of great strong men like David, Job, and Paul who cried out to God in fear, depression, worry, pain, and tears. They despaired even of life itself. They referred to themselves as being weak. Sometimes their friends helped, and sometimes they didn’t. Same for wives. But I want to stress over and over that no one ought to be shocked when this world is too much for you. Of course it is! It is too much for me regularly. My hope and my strength is in Christ alone, and so is yours. Without Him we can do nothing.
So when you are wondering how on earth you can do it all today, I am with you. And I am not disappointed in your need for your God and your need for support in others. But I want to stress further that with God, and the people whom He has put and will put in your life, you can do what you need to do. You can make it. You can finish the race. He will give you enough to do that. You might not be able to be Superman, but this is not what you were made to be. You are no alien. You are a son of the Creator of the universe. You are His child and He never expects you to grow out of your need for His love and His helping hand. Daily. Shame on me or anyone else who ever asks you to be brave and sufficient in your own power. That’s nonsense.
Are you less than perfectly mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically sound? (All should nod yes). Talk to your God, your elders, pastors, friends, wives, cousins, siblings, etc. Carry all of that alone and you’ll buckle under the weight. Please don’t do that! And be this for the man across from you. Don’t only encourage with words of empowerment. Seek first to understand. (Grade A failure in that, here, so I don’t advise that without experience). The words “grown man” and “in need” ought not to be mutually exclusive, ever. This is an expected thing in a fallen world. Man is just as much in need of a Savior as woman. And His struggle on earth is just as taxing as hers. Let’s not ask him to carry that with stoicism.
Because that is a lie.
This one is for you, inspirer of this collection of words. You are to me everything that God is making you to be, already. I, for one, will not be disappointed in your walk down this hard path, and I will not lose hope on your destination. He who called you is faithful, He will surely do it.