A MAN'S MAN
We live in a chaotic culture quickly changing the traditional definitions of roles and genders. The one that we give little attention to is the true definition of a man. What makes a man a man? What expectations should he feel obligated to fulfill? Is there a foundational description every man should seek to follow? Are there any good models of what that should look like
Is it Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Gates, or Dalai Lama? We are so inundated with the images of Hollywood and cultural media in general that we are truly confused at the end of the day; so confused that Bruce Jenner's transformation to "Caitlyn" is thought of as the next obvious step in an already "definition-less" culture of "anything goes".
Now I'm the first to admit the culture I grew up in did not always get it right. The good ol' days of yesteryear were not consistently pretty behind the scenes. In my childhood, I thought my world was rather perfect. But as I got older I discovered that addictions, abuse, and adultery were significant problems in men that I admired on both sides of my family.
But if you will allow me, I would like to use my own father as an example of both one who first embodied a traditional definition of manhood, and one who transformed over the years into more of what I think God is really looking for in a man.
Daddy went to heaven fourteen years ago this week. It is difficult for me not to think of him as anything but a man's man. He was of strong character, faithful, disciplined, and worked no less than three jobs at a time. He served in the Navy, worked as a career fireman on an Army base, became the town building inspector, and handcrafted picture frames for thousands of people. He disciplined his two boys immediately following the first line of disobedience. (I have vivid memories to prove it!) And he would not let us quit or settle for mediocrity in anything we did. He was a man's man in anyone's book at the time.
I would like to focus on the changes I saw my father go through over the years as he discovered for himself a better definition of manhood in His search for God's best in his life. His transformation from cultural manhood to a more Godly kind of man is an example of what I think God is after in our striving to be "real men."
Wesley didn't start out very spiritual. He certainly couldn’t show any emotion or passion for God. That would not be considered very "manly." He was a hard man, rough, and at times harsh. He had a basic faith in God, but probably believed more in his own pragmatic determination and dedication than in God's grace and favor for true success in life.
Over the years, however, he slowly but surely went through incredible change. By the end of his life, without losing the positive characteristics of his culture's manliness, Wesley was far more gentle, loving, and even sweet. His love for God was more open and passionate. His faith expanded to believe for the impossible. He was a tender man, expressing love - even shedding tears - more often than before.
There are three things from my perspective that served to change my dad's life. I believe these things would be good for all men to consider.
1). He eventually listened to the other gender in his marriage. It went against the grain of his culture, but he slowly learned that God had given them to each other to learn to do life better together.
Listen, my mother had a lot to do with her husband’s growth. She was constantly challenging him to chase after God's fullness and best. If it was in the Bible then she wanted it to happen in her life - and his!
I don't think we would have had nightly devotions in our home, attended church every Sunday, or discovered the wonder of the scriptures if it hadn't been for "Wesley's wife." He was hardheaded and stubborn. But I have to hand it to him; he humbled himself and listened to his wife. It's God's way, you know.
2). Daddy sought to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It was the summer after my freshman year in college. For Christmas that year, I’d given him the complete set of cassette tapes (yes, I'm that old) of Oral Roberts teaching an entire college semester class called "Holy Spirit in the Now"! For months daddy drove back and forth to work, an hour away, listening to those tapes. One day when mother and I were home, we greeted him as he walked in the door from his long drive. What we saw on daddy's face was totally unlike him, yet so genuine we could not deny it. His cheeks were flushed and his eyes were glazed over with the same tears that streamed down his face. His countenance contained a joy and a peace I had never seen in my father. Cradled in his arms were the thirteen tapes of anointed teaching that had made it into his heart. They’d become the tool of God to force the issue Jesus predicted in John 7:38, "He that believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." Daddy had been filled with the Holy Spirit. That day alone was a landmark day in my father's understanding of true manhood. God, Almighty, Supreme and Sovereign, had surprised him with a love and passion for his life that overtook his soul and rearranged his heart.
3). The one other thing that fine-tuned my dad's transition from cultural manhood to Godly manhood was the influence of his church life. Daddy became a more understanding father by leading the boys’ ministry, the Royal Ambassadors. He learned spiritual leadership through his years of being a deacon. And most of all, daddy embraced the many different personalities and types of people in the church. His patience for people to change increased and his growing respect for the dignity of every person deepened, as he consistently built relationships and worked through conflicts of local church people dynamics.
In the end, it was the man lying in the casket I respected the most. Over 400 people were at his wake. Every person there praised him for his faithfulness, integrity, and honor. And what I will never forget is what I heard from so many young men in the community, as they stepped up to pay their respects to our family. Some were builders, others city employees, local firemen, or just those who grew up in the same church. "Your daddy was like a father to me," or, "Wesley was one of the greatest men to ever live in this community."
What is the definition of a man's man? Well, I have my earthly father and my Heavenly Father to thank for the answer to that one. "I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting." 1 Timothy 2:8.