“I want to play soccer!”
As a first-grader, those were the dumbest words ever to leave my mouth. Don’t worry; I would eventually top them in my teenage years. But at that particular moment, I had dreams of becoming a world-renowned soccer player… from America.
After discussing it, my parents forked out the money to sign me up, buy my jersey, and pick up some equipment. It had to have been the worst investment they ever made. I played for seven seasons…and I was terrible. I was always either bored, scared of the ball, or exhausted from the summer heat. (Seriously, who pays money to be outside in Texas anyway?)
To be honest, I was a scrawny kid. In fact, I still am. I purposely maintain facial hair just so I won’t look like a teenager. If I shave, people think Holly is my hot older sister when we are out in public. As a result, athletic activities have always been embarrassing for me. I still remember asking one of my coaches for help in elementary school and getting yelled at for needing assistance. Every missed goal, weak kick, or shove to the side impressed a difficult message in my heart.
“You’re not man enough and you will never measure up.”
In addition to being bad at sports, I love music and I have a passion for playing the violin. When it got to high school and college, I was the sensitive guy that girls loved to talk with about their troubled relationships before running back to their much better looking boyfriends.
Let’s face it – a music-loving, sensitive guy who can’t throw a football isn’t your typical picture of manhood. On the other hand, the body-building athlete who drives expensive cars and juggles multiple women isn’t God’s picture either.
So, what is a man?
When it comes to this question, the Bible is very clear about one thing. The attributes of a man aren’t tangible. They can’t be measured in muscle mass, net worth, or power. Most men who attempt to define themselves by these things are often compensating for deep-seeded insecurities. Instead, I’m often encouraged when I look at the men God has used throughout history.
After Saul’s failure to lead Israel well, he chose David – the runt of his family who was so insignificant that his own father wouldn’t even present him to Samuel.
When Jesus was born, it wasn’t kings or powerful military figures who celebrated and heralded his arrival. God invited shepherds into the party, men who were so low in social stature that their testimony was invalid before a Court of Law.
Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation, was so insecure that he dealt with crippling depression and chronic digestive issues. In fact, he was convinced that he would rot in hell, despite his strong convictions about God’s free grace.
These aren’t society’s images of manhood. Society aims for something else – masculinity. Masculinity is about physical attributes and measurable accomplishments but, as Scripture reminds us, God looks at the heart. Masculinity isn’t an achievement. It’s just about hardware and you were already born with that. But manhood is something that must be continually pursued. In other words, you can be 28 years old, a successful businessman, and able to bench 300lbs. but remain a 16 year old boy where it counts.
I love how John Eldridge explains it.
I believe we see this even in Paul’s encouragement to men as husbands and fathers. That calling to love our wives as Christ loved the Church doesn’t mean to squish the spiders for her or take the kids off her hands every Mother’s Day. Jesus displayed God’s love for the world by instigating forgiveness and sacrifice before we, the Church, even recognized our need for it. He demonstrated his love by dying for us when we were still unrepentant sinners.
Coming through in marriage entails a willingness to forgive, serve, and sacrifice for your wife even in the harshest of circumstances. It means getting over yourself to serve her and further the marriage you vowed to protect. There isn’t room for self-pity or concern for your own unrealized “needs” or desires.
If nothing else, it means never giving up on the commitment you made to her… ever. You want to be a man? Try loving someone who may not even want your love. That’s what Christ did for his Church.
I love that Paul specifically commands fathers not to “exasperate” or antagonize their children. Have you ever tried reasoning with an exhausted toddler who doesn’t seem to understand that you can’t feed him cookies for dinner? By the end of it, you’re ready to embed his spoon in the drywall. (I speak from experience.)
I have never found anything more critical in my life to get “right” than my role as a Dad. I’ve written it before and I’ll write it again – God describes himself as our Father. What kind of image of God do I demonstrate to my son as his father?
It’s an image that is created and sculpted in small, daily moments. It is refined as we cuddle together before bed. It is clarified in the moments when his tears soak my shoulder and I kiss his sick forehead. It is visible in my loving discipline, my careful attention, and my celebration in his successes.
Simply put, a father who ignores his responsibilities or delegates them to someone else has failed to demonstrate true manhood. He has failed to come through.
While both marriage and parenthood are carefully spelled out for men, those aren’t the only two areas where we are designed to come through. The men who have made the greatest impression on me are the ones who I’ve witnessed demonstrating unexpected grace and attention on others.
They’re men who see clients as individuals to serve, rather than sales leads.
They’re men who are willing to be inconvenienced by the problems of others.
They’re men who look for opportunities to serve, even when it’s humiliating.
They’re men who are willing to stand up for justice, even when it will cost them everything.
IT’S MORE THAN MANHOOD
Reading this, you may notice that any of these traits can easily apply to women. That’s because they do. God does not value a man who is willing to come through more than a woman who is willing to do the same. My point is not to make a distinction between manhood and womanhood. Rather, it’s to make a distinction between masculinity and manhood as described in Scripture. They are the same things that separate a girl from a woman.
In reality, we all have the desire to come through but it’s only in surrendering ourselves to Christ that we become the individuals we have always wanted to be. Masculinity defines itself by temporal characteristics rooted in a false sense of strength. Manhood is rooted in complete surrender to Christ that influences every relationship it touches.
Masculinity is a freebee. Manhood is costly. Which are you choosing?