Masculinity is bestowed by masculinity. One learns how to be a man from another man.
Author John Eldredge’s Wild At Heart, which I’ve recently finished, produced this gem of a statement. I have to admit Wild At Heart took me by surprise. The first time I’d read it, I was offended on a variety of levels; the second go-through, however, found me agreeing with some of the concepts. At some points, I was actually moved to tears as I saw the parallels between my life and that described by Eldredge sorely in need of healing.
Eldredge writes that many men who struggle with their flawed image of masculinity do so because they are unable to deal with “the wound,” which is how Eldredge refers to the hurt in a man’s psyche caused, intentionally or unintentionally, by their fathers and/or father figures. In my case, I knew my father loved me, but I was in need of attention, which I did not quite receive. That may explain why my love language is “words of affirmation”; I long for my father’s approval and his presence in my life. (Obviously, that’s not going to be happen, because he’s gone.)
Even before reading Wild At Heart, I knew that only God would truly be able to help heal me of all the wounds and resentments that come with being raised by a father who couldn’t really give me the time and attention I (and my brother) desperately wanted. For the most part, I’m okay, but I live under the constant worry that my Nathan may turn out like me, a little soft, a little wet behind the ears, a little too sheltered, a little too nice.
Masculinity is about 1) having an adventure to life; 2) a battle to fight; and 3) a beauty to rescue. My life has gotten to the point where I have none of all three: my life is predictable and safe, and my wife, while undoubtedly beautiful, has done more than her fair share of rescuing me (I am convinced she’s saved me a lot more than I’ve saved her).
Eldredge writes that men need an “initiation,” that drawn-out process that allows us to see what it means to be a man, and to mirror that. Within our hearts, boys been programmed to be a little reckless, a little rough, a little danger-hungry. I’ve had those desires when I was younger, but somewhere along the way, I lost them. I’m 32 years old today, and I doubt “dangerous,” “masculine,” and “manly” would be in any one’s list of adjectives describing me.
Why am I so concerned about my masculinity? Well, for one, I’m getting more and more concerned with how I’m representing Christ; it’s not about conforming to set ideals about how one should conduct oneself as a Christian, but rather, ensuring that no one is led to sin (e.g., gossiping or wondering about one’s sexuality) because of my actions. Yes, I’m coming out and saying it: I’m very concerned about people thinking I’m gay, because it is not good for me as a Christian ambassador when people gossip – incorrectly – about me. It also has the potential to affect my wife and my family; I am very concerned about the future generations that are affected by this otherwise flawed sense of masculinity. I’ve stifled my son’s first six years of desire for adventure, and I am determined to right that wrong. (No matter what other people say, I believe that quantity time IS quality time.)
I’m working on my relationship with God daily, and working my salvation out day by day. Meanwhile, I’ll be frank: I want more guy friends. I’m not talking about a couple of brusko guys who can go play basketball or billiards with me or go running on Saturdays, or “men’s men” who’ll watch The Godfather with me. I’m talking about strong godly husbands who can speak into my marital relations; I’m talking about dads who prioritize their kids and have great parenting methods they can share; I’m talking about men who are not afraid to lift their hands in worship, but are not afraid to also speak up if they see something that needs correction.
Actually, you know what? We all need men like that. We all are looking for men like that. And with accountability and God in the center of our relationships, we can all become men like that. Who’s with me?