What does it Mean to be a Man? (And Happy Father’s Day!)

Happy Fathers’ Day to all you Dads out there!!

I want to give all of you dads a gift in honor of you on this day that we come together as a band of brothers – but you gotta work with me a bit.

We all want to be appreciated, respected, and celebrated – especially on a day like today. But sometimes it seems so superficial and empty because the message we get the rest of the year is that we’re not good enough, we need to be fixed, and we aren’t relevant – even when we fight our hearts out to provide, protect, and lead.

We may blame others. But the truth is that inside our heads and hearts we’ve forgotten what it means to be a man. We’ve forgotten the meaning of strength. We’ve forgotten what it means to lead well. But, we’re still searching and longing for all this in a society that does its best to shame, domesticate, and tame us.

This all started in Genesis 3 with the Fall. It affects every man as we seek for meaning and purpose. The problem is that we seek for meaning and purpose in the wrong places. We seek for them in our work. We seek for them in our women. We seek for them in our health. Yet we forget that God cursed all three areas in the Garden of Eden because He knew that’s where we’d naturally look when He was absent from our lives. He knew that only the pain of brokenness would turn our hearts towards Him.

Because of sin we are relegated to provide with toil and sweat amidst the thorns (v 17-19a). Because of sin we try to protect while our women fight to strip us of our masculinity and authority (v 16b). And because of sin we struggle with deteriorating bodies riddled with pain and disease (v 19b). We feel defeated and unfulfilled, and many times give up.

For most, the first four decades of life seem manageable and even exciting and victorious – we’ve got the world by the tail! But as most of us hit the middle of our fifth decade (usually at 43-47), life seems to fall apart. We realize it’s not working. We’re not who we thought we would be. We realize that we’re not where we think we ought to be. Our relationships aren’t what we thought they should be. Our dreams decimated, we feel disrespected, unappreciated, irrelevant, controlled, looked at with contempt, and criticized.

In the past 5 years, I’ve met with, prayed with, counseled, and encouraged literally dozens of men in places just like this. In fact, I’ve been in exactly the same place, and if not careful, can slip right back. Many, if not most, of us have travelled to very dark places of deep depression and even suicidality. Unfortunately, I’ve known a dozen men over the past 5 years who’ve lost the battle and have taken their own lives – half of these in just the past 18 months. – and every single one of them, good Christian men.

The problem is that we’ve spent our lives looking at the wrong metrics for what it means to be a man. We’ve been reading the wrong instrument dials for what it means to be successful. We’ve been listening to the wrong voices telling us what is and what’s not true, right, and important.

Our world tells us that to be a man, we must be confrontational and violent like an MMA or WWF fighter, yet it counters that by saying to be acceptable we must be weak and domesticated like Ross on “Friends”. It tells us that we must be in control of everything and everyone around us like Donald Trump, yet we must be effeminate and whiny like the dad on “Chrisley”. It tells us that we must be physically strong and athletic like the Rock, and we must be sexually virile and have organs and sex lives like John Holmes (who incidentally died of AIDS), yet on the other hand, must never think about sex or we get sued. We must have material stuff and bank accounts like Mark Cuban, but not be as showy as Branson. – Otherwise we fall short. That’s the world’s metric, dial, measuring stick – but it doesn’t work. It’s broken. No wonder why we are so confused. We are listening to the wrong messages – which, incidentally conflict.

The tricky part is that God Himself engrained it within our hearts to be hunters, warriors, gladiators, protectors, providers, lovers, husbands, fathers, leaders, teachers, reflectors of Christ – who can love tenderly one minute, and be dangerous forces of nature the next. However, the world twists what that means into monstrous self-interested and egotistical images that are void of true masculinity – and most of us eventually find ourselves unsure of who we are and why we’re here. We find ourselves emasculated, frustrated, and desperately seeking our authentic identity, but unsure of how or where to find it.

How do we regain the knowledge and identity of who God made us to be? How do we rekindle Godly passions in life and relationship? How do we find our dangerous masculine hearts and once again come alive as men, leaders, lovers, warriors?

I believe there are 3 buckets that we’ve got to master. And it’s not easy. But it is worthwhile. The bar is high, but it’s essential. The effort is comprehensive – we’ve got to think big. Unless we rise to the challenge, we live and die much less than what we were meant and created to be; and our families and our world suffer as a consequence of our failure.

Like William Wallace said in the movie Braveheart – “Every man dies, but not every man truly lives”.

What are the 3 buckets?

1) Know Your God – We MUST deeply know our Creator in order to understand who He is and why He created us. We get to know Him through His Word, through conversing and listening to Him, and through spending time with others who know Him intimately. This takes a consistent daily discipline of the following:
a. Study Scripture,
b. Spend time in Meditation and Prayer,
c. Fellowship with others desperately seeking His face.

2) Know Yourself – Expand and develop your Heart, Mind, Soul in every area of life. Forget the lie that you can’t develop expertise in multiple areas and master yourself in these six areas:
a. Intellectual,
b. Emotional,
c. Relational,
d. Financial,
e. Physical,
f. Professional

3) Know Your World – Keep up with current affairs. Connect. Serve. Travel. Study. Read.
a. Understand the spiritual foundation that undergirds the entirety of life and learn to see and understand the differences in worldviews that dictate how people think and act.
b. Learn to see the needs of others and give of yourself sacrificially to help others improve their station.
c. Live dangerously and on the edge. Lead from the front. Engage. Encourage. Empower.

Essentially, then, masculinity is being fully present and deeply engaged with God, with yourself, and with others, and living maximally in who you were created to be and in what you were created to do – with courage, and strength, and honor.