Real men engage.
I want to take some time to talk specifically to men; primarily husbands and fathers. So ladies, if your man is not into blogs or reading as a means to encourage them…pass this along to them. Maybe not in a “you NEED to hear this way” but just a simple “I think you’ll be encouraged by this, what are your thoughts?”
I fear that many of us have become a product of our culture or a side actor in the narrative of society. We tend to build our lives around what is acceptable and even necessary to live in our world and if we’re honest we often feel as though we’ve sold ourselves to “the system” (work, eat, sleep, repeat). Don’t get me wrong, I know life is hard and the pace often outruns the opportunity to slow down and savor it. This is true. I get it. I know guys who feel there is no other option but to stay the course in a monotonous career that in the beginning promised hope for the future but as time passed it was revealed as a thief seeking to steal the bulk of their lives. Sound familiar to anyone?
Maybe you feel stuck in a season of cynicism stemming from marital strife. Perhaps the kids are in a season of development that causes them to go crazy and you to think someone replaced your children one day while you were at work. Then there’s the spiritual turmoil of believing God is distant in this phase of life because you can’t “get it together” (I particularly resonate with this). Worse yet, maybe all these things are happening at the same time; days come and go with no real change and you wonder if this will be the stuff of your life forever.
Before we land the first punch I want to say that I know these feelings. I have not just seen them from a distance but have been close enough to experience them all (and most at the same time). I have shed tears of anger and sorrow, experienced sleepless nights, had screaming matches with the ceiling (sometimes called prayer), felt that God was distant – better yet that he put me in time out and left the room. I have experienced loss and the breaking of my pride, personal failure and confusion about the purpose of life. The list goes on. I have accused God of being the enemy and then run from him…all while going through the above mentioned chaos of life. If anyone knows what this feels like – I do. I wanted you to hear me say that. I’m right here with you.
Now to the point. Wanna know what these seasons of life create in most men? Escape artists. The kind of guy who mentally breaks out of what he considers to be a personal prison. The problem is, like real escaped convicts, the law of responsibly intensifies and pursues us like mad men when we disengage from reality and tuck tail. Little boys dream of growing up to be someone. Being renowned, known and seen as someone whose voice is worth listening, whose life is worth emulating and whose pursuits are second to none. We believe we’ll be the best at whatever we do in life. Then our bodies grow up while our minds stay engaged in the fantasy that we’re not the average joe. Life, on the other hand, tells us otherwise and we roll with the punches at first. But as time passes we lose hope. Life is “different” than it should be. We’ve been duped. So we turn to escapism. Escaping from responsibility to hobbies, obsession over craft brewing, tobacco, golf, college football, work, addiction, food, porn, lust, anger – whatever keeps us connected to the boyish hope that one day we’ll arrive and be seen as the somebody we’ve always known was deep down inside. Men tend to escape to this mental safe place when they break free from responsibility; searching for it with great intensity. Why?
I believe our lives are much more influenced by the pervasive ideas of affluence in American culture than we care to admit. The first line I wrote was that men have a tendency to become a product of what culture values at the moment. This means we often drink the cultural kool-aid and believe that we’re a nobody until “fill in the blank”. Taking this a step further reveals that our hope is tied up in a story we’re trying to tell. WE are trying to tell.
How’s your story going? What kind of author are you? Do you engage in the reality of your life? Your life of leading your wife in areas of strength and weakness, vulnerability and growth in holiness. Your life of instilling integrity into the hearts of your children knowing that Jesus will sit us all down one day to have a chat about how we cared for the gifts he gave us. Your life of stewarding resources, time and energy in a way that points to redemption. This is not rhetorical – do you engage? Or do you react to your life with intense escapism?
The problem with our story is that there is no room for someone to lead us. Here’s the truth men: we make terrible self-leaders. We wreck it every time. Truly. Our story, the one where we’re captain and have a ship with our name on it, always ends breaking apart on the rocks in a storm of our own fabrication. The scary thing is most of our ships have passengers. Wives, children, peers and others we influence. I can attest from personal experience that self-piloted voyages not only effect others negatively, but fuel the fires of escapism. Did you hear that? My attempts to lead myself only led to deeper levels of depravity and turmoil. Because I am not the captain. My story is not the one that matters. You are not the captain either. Culture’s voice is not the voice of purpose (even if it’s the loudest one).
We need a new narrative. One that’s already written. Where the battles are already won and our identity is not up to the knuckleheads of society to define. Come back next week for Part 2 where we’ll discuss the story that redeems all stories and actually fuels the fires of real men engaging in reality with an intensity that pales in comparison to that of running to a mental safe place.
We’ll talk soon.
The Man Foster