MEN WITHOUT CHESTS
This quote fillets my heart whenever I read it...for I know what it is to be such a man...and I know many men such as this.
In God's Larger Story, I'm currently in opposition to an uninitiated leader, a poorly trained king, a boy in a man's body leading others...a man without a chest. I can assume, like me, he was made by God to be - and reflect - so much more. But in what little I know about his fatherless story, I can only guess how he came to be in the position of power and privilege (responsibility) that he is now in. He's also the father of a young son - and I can only imagine as this boy grows into the model presented to him that he will eventually inherit his line in the legacy of men without chests.
So, why do I expect of other men virtue and enterprise?? Virtue can be described as "behavior showing high moral standards." Yes, that's a good thing to aspire to...but is that all being a man truly requires? Enterprise can mean "initiative and resourcefulness." Again, lofty goals for any man, whether single or a husband/father...but as definitive boxes to check for the measure of true value or worth in masculinity?
In his classic book on masculinity and Christianity, Wild at Heart, John Eldredge talks about the "false self," the literal fig leaf men have been hiding behind since the Garden of Eden got tanked and men began to hide...from God, themselves, Eve, life, their calling, glory, and everything/everyone in between.
"The real you," he tells the reader, "is on the side of God against the false self. Knowing this makes all the difference in the world. The man who wants to live valiantly will lose heart quickly if he believes that his heart is nothing but sin. Why fight? The battle feels lost before it even begins. No, your flesh is your false self - the poser, manifest in cowardice and self-preservation - and the only way to deal with it is to crucify it. Now follow me very closely here. We are never, ever told to crucify our heart. We are never told to kill the true man within us, never told to get rid of those deep desires for battle and adventure and beauty. We are told to shoot the traitor. How? Choose against him every time you see him raise his ugly head. Walk right into those situations you normally run from. Speak right to the issues you normally remain silent over. If you want to grow in true masculine strength, then you must stop sabotaging yours." (p. 147)
This past weekend, God was both gracious and fierce to show me how I have been sabotaging my own true masculine strength while focusing on the opposition to this other man in my current story - and He offered the choice for me to begin thinking about...moving towards...the opportunity to begin learning this other man's story. Not to fix him...not even to work towards rescuing him. Just to listen...just to learn.
Confessing here, my friends, that in my own arrogance I have "laughed at honor" because it has been laughed at in my own story. And even beyond all the training I've received in the Spirit and through live-fire exercises in walking with God, I still am taken aback to how my heart is shocked to "find traitors in our midst." If all I'm listening to are the lies of the Enemy, then anything of and for God will seem like treachery to me!!
Life...and church...and the world, flesh, and devil will surely wield a sharp blade to castrate my true strength and then bid me to "be fruitful." And, sadly, I know this from the pages of my own story - and seeing it on the pages of the heart in other men - the experience of trying to find life...and live from it...is impossible.
Today, I am grateful that God is rescuing my story...healing the wounds that are deep and mostly belong to the young boy in my story...and teaching me how to live from the true strength of my masculinity...and not from the place of being yet another man without a chest.
JOHN FONTAINE, Writer @ Large