I have been asking the Lord to help me with having a more loving heart. The principle is pretty straight forward. God’s love has been poured into my heart (Romans 5:5). But I have to learn to respond in kind to this love. It is not a matter of my trying to “crank up” some more love. It is a matter of receiving the love that has already been poured into my heart. While the love is there, my desire to be a loving man, will be tested. I had such an experience lately with my wife.
You need to know that my wife, Judy of 48 years, is one of the finest Christians I know. That is high praise, but also the reality from my experience with her. Well, recently I was harsh with my wife in a minor exchange we had. I am not proud of this occurring pattern of being harsh. When I get harsh it hurts my wife and I can tell it in her eyes. As a work in progress, I don’t want it to be that way. What is significant is that I can confess this to all who read this blog. But more importantly is the greater awareness I have of how it hurts my wife.
What brought me to a deeper sense of regret was the fact that with others I can hide my true feelings and act kindly, creating the impression that I am this” loving, caring” guy. This is pure hypocrisy. I was able acknowledge this double standard to my wife. I am seeing how easy it is show a “loving face” in public, but then to disregard and be insensitive in my attitude and behavior with my wife. As I write blog, I am sure that I am stepping on “the spiritual toes” of more than one guy. So what is the point of my telling you my story in this blog.
Plain and simple, it is inexcusable for us as husbands to not be vigilant and on guard in our attitude and behavior with our wives. Scripture makes it clear, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” (Eph 5:25). Your wife deserves the best you have to give. If the love of Christ has been poured into your heart, then the first person to receive your love is your wife. Remember she is “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Gen 2:23). The measure of my spirituality and yours is found in the way we treat those who are closest to us. If you struggle with what I am sharing with you, ask God to show you how you ought to love your wife. Paul exhorts husbands, “to love their wives as their own bodies” (Eph 5:28). I know I am seeing how unloving it is when I express myself harshly towards my wife. If it hurts her, it should also hurt me. If not, I am not very loving.
Here is a new word for you, men. I came across it in some recent reading. “Mancession” refers especially to younger men, who acknowledge their disengagement from culture. They articulate a confusion and even ambivalence about what it means to be a man. Men are asking, ” How do you talk about being a man in our culture without seeming to be anti-female.” In many case men simply “drop out.” They decide not to engage the feminist agenda. When their maleness is questioned they become silent. But silence can produce an inner discontent that becomes hard to keep in check. As one observer put it, ‘If anything defines American maleness in the 21st century it is silent rage.” Wes Yoder says of men, “We’re ashamed of the stuff we hide and are insecure about who we are.”
What do you think, men? Does “mancession” reflect a trend among men in our culture. Does it reflect the culture of your workplace or even your church? There has been a subtle “feminizing” of the culture that has been intimating men for so time, causing them to question their role and in some cases their God given identity as a man. John Eldridge puts it well when he observes, “Men are wounded and feel they have no place to go. So they go and hide. Woman know this, and lament that they have no access to their man’s heart. Men know it too, but they often do not know where to pick up the trail.”
Let me ask you if you know how to “pick up the trail,” that is, to live out of your God given identity. Remember culture will keep you in the wilderness, searching in vain for what Robert Bly calls “golden key,” that unlocks the door to masculinity. Without his true identity, a man will be empty, insecure and a pretender. There are no “inner juices” to be a man, only a shadow of a man. The key to finding our identity in our modern day wasteland is hearing the “quiet, still voice” of your heavenly Father saying “You are my beloved.” Jesus heard this affirmation at the beginning of his ministry. Near the end he could say, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love (John 15:9).
There is a program that I am involved in, made up of mostly women who are on a spiritual search. Every couple of years I share a masculine view of spirituality. What I say to these women, I say to you men reading this blog. “A man is a man is a man.” Maleness is part of the created order. You cannot social engineer away this reality. Masculinity and femininity are a gift from God. So men, don’t let the extreme feminist agenda intimidate you into silence. The key in my humble opinion is for a man to come in his confusion and brokenness before his heavenly Father. Their in quietness and rest, he learns that he has “a Father who delights in him.” Don’t allow the voice of the culture, drown out the voice of your heavenly Father.
“How am I doing?” I can almost feel myself giving this kind of response to my mother. Having a “people pleasing” personality and a mother who was rather domineering,” how I was doing,” was very important to me, as I wanted to please my mother. I never knew how to please my father, because he was mostly emotional absent in my formative years. “How am I doing?” has been a kind of mantra in my life in an unhealthy way. I have come a long ways in being God’s man rather than being overly influenced by others. But I still am working on my desire to please when it come to my heavenly Father. I have to watch that it is not performance, rather than a relationship.
We can easily think of God like a parent who want to see us on our best behavior. So we can tend to go to God in pray when we have nothing to hide, feeling pretty good about our journey. Richard Rolheiser has observed, “Because we don’t understand what prayer is, we treat God as an authority figure or a visiting dignitary – as someone to whom we don’t tell the real truth. We don’t tell God what is really going on in our lives. We tell God what we think God wants to hear…What’s important is that we pray what’s inside us and not what we think God would like to see inside of us.” Wow!! This sure has been my story for longer than I care to acknowledge.
Remember men, God is your loving heavenly Father, who love you as you are not as you think you should be. Along with the Psalmist we should, therefore, rejoice in God intimate awareness of who we are, and not hide from intimacy with him. “You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too – your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful – I can’t take it all in.” (Ps 139:3-6 – The Message).
If prayer, which is the expression of our personal relationship to God, is to be meaningful we need to accept that every feeling and every thought we have is valid. We can stay away from prayer just when we need it the most. So be honest and real. Listen to Jesus’ words, “This world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply.” (Matt 6: 7-8 – The Message) So men, don’t get caught up in those performance traps or spiritual improvement projects. Just come to your heavenly Father as you are – in desperate need of his grace and mercy.
Here are some more thoughts from Camille Paglia. This is from an interview with Bari Weiss of The Wall Street Journal. Her insight about men being “intimidated” are right on. “This PC gender politics thing – the way gender is being taught in the universities – in a very anti-male way, it’s all about neutralization of maleness.” The result is that men are “intimidated” and “can’t say anything….They understand the agenda.” They “never tell the truth to women” about sex and they keep “raunchy” thoughts and sexual fantasies to themselves and their laptops. “Masculinity is just becoming something that is imitated from the movies. There’s nothing left. There’s no room for anything manly right now.” But wait a minute – there is one place in her opinion.
Paglia claims the only place where you can hear what men really feel is on Sports Radio. She is an avid listener. The energy and enthusiasm “inspires” her as a writer. She dares to say, “If we had to go to war,” the callers “are the men that would save the nation.” Now here is a woman who gets it. I listen to Sports Talk Radio when Judy and I are on our long trip. It’s the only time. The issues are a matter of life and death. Passions run high. Vital victories and loses are cheered and mourned. Opinions, strategies, motives and character are all passionately discussed.
But you know what I long for; the same kind of passion with a group of guys who desire to see the kingdom of Jesus extended in our culture. I really miss that kind of passionate discussion. As an older warrior, I desire the company of other warriors, especially younger warriors, to share strategy on being “subversive” for the Lord. Is there judgment on our culture? How am I supposed to react to what is going on? I have some strong opinions that have been formed in my walk with God. But I need other warriors to help me see more clearly. There is no doubt that we are in a real battle. But where is the passion?
Men, if you don’t feel some passion about what is going on in our culture, you have fallen asleep spiritually. Jesus warns us to kept alert. “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Matt 25:13) Don’t let the culture lull you to sleep spiritually. Find another warrior or a group of humble, loving warriors determined to stand for Jesus, and join the fight. Let them ignite you with some passion. Listen to Paul’s warn and take it to heart. “You know as well as I that the day of the Master’s coming can’t be posted on our calendars. He won’t call ahead and make an appointment any more than a burglar would. About the time everybody’s walking around complacently, congratulating each other – ‘We’ve sure got it made! Now we can take it easy!’ – suddenly everything will fall apart. It’s going to come as suddenly and inescapably as birth pangs to a pregnant woman.” (I Thess. 5:2-3 – The Message)