Canaans Rest

Canaan’s Rest represents a quiet place “set apart” for the purpose of hearing God's voice, growing in intimacy with the Lord, and being renewed in soul and spirit.

Month: February 2016

Third Wave Masculinity

Kenny Luck  at “Every Man Ministries” sees a “third wave masculinity” rising in our nation. Traditional masculinity is out.  Reactive femininity is out.  “The ‘third wave’ of masculinity and femininity,” suggests Luck, “[is] not a reaction.  It’s a solution because it doesn’t seek to garner power and control or create distance to accomplish the important goals of life and living. It is a breath of fresh air.  It eliminates competition and creates cooperation.  It heals wounds and brings unity. It’s a different dimension that traditionalism and feminism cannot touch.”

The message of reactive femininity,  “be the man and be a better man than men themselves can be” has only cause confusion, frustration and disappointment in gender relationships. Culturally, the gender wars are going to be with us for the foreseeable future, with little prospects of reconciliation between the genders.   I have great empathy for a spiritually motivated man, who desires to be God’s man in our present day of gender confusion.  I personally identify with Luck’s sentiments regarding gender relationships.  Reactive femininity has gained a strong voice in our culture because women have rightly reacted to the injustices of traditional male roles and behavior.  Men have often reacted in defensive ways, not willing to examine their motives and behavior.

I  identify with a “third wave masculinity.”  I am motivated from my vantage place as an elder male, who has always had a heart for men, to articulate a third way, since I have lived through the first two waves and some of its ramifications.  In the  70’s and early  80’s, I was riding the wave of the “male headship” movement.  While I accepted  my role and responsibility as the head of my family, I admit to being more concerned about position then relationship.  Then in the late 80’s and 90’s there was a shift in the evangelical camp.  A more equalitarian approach replaced that of the  complementarian.  This brought about a balance.  Men since then have had to learn how to live more as a “tender warrior.”  The New Man is one who has inner strength but also has a tenderness of heart.  While being secure in their masculinity, men are learning to be “gender sensitive.”

Surprisingly, many men in the third wave, have a prophetic posture in their walk with God.  They sense a call on their lives. They are breaking new ground for the men who will follow.  They identify with “the spirit of Elijah,” embracing the call given to John the Baptist, “He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah.  He will prepare for the coming of the Lord.  He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly  (Luke 1:17 NLT).  These men know the importance of being fathered by their heavenly Father.  They have been nurtured and fed by the rich contemplative tradition of the church.

I call these men “AA  guys.” They are all out for Jesus, admitting their great need for God’s grace in their lives.  AA guys live with a sense of desperation.  Being helpless to change themselves, they are willing to deal with their pain and wounds to find healing.  They live their lives as “wounded healers.”  They are soulful men, who go deep.  They model transformation, knowing that change starts from within.   They are men who express their hunger for God and a desire to know His love.  They are not ashamed to be called “lovers of God.” They are forerunners of a new type of overcomer. St Bernard called them “knights for Christ.’

Soul Fatigue

Ron Rolheiser shares a story about soul fatigue in a recent blog.  “A number of men who made their living as porters were hired one day to carry a huge load of supplies for a group on safari.  Their loads were unusually heavy and the trek through the jungle was on a rough path.  Several days into the journey they stopped, unshouldered their loads, and refused to go on.  No plans, bribes, or threats, worked in terms of persuading them to go on.  Asked why they couldn’t continue, they answered: ‘We can’t go on; we have to wait for our souls to catch up with us.'”  They became aware of soul fatigue.

“Waiting for our souls to catch up” is an insightful way of describing the need to pay attention to our soul life; to be a soulful man.  Jesus tells us that in him we can  find rest for our souls (Matt 11).  Many men are unaware of the danger of soul fatigue, content to live on the surface.  While we may be aware of the need for physical rest, along with paying attention to the signs of  mental fatigue and emotional stress, little  attention is given to the neediness of our souls.   Psychologist Roy Baumeister describes the kind of fatigue that goes beyond mere physical tiredness as “ego depletion.”  People living in this depleted condition report more tiredness and negative emotions. Soul fatigue can do harm in our relationships with others.

Our souls need rest.  John Ortberg observes, “Our wills sometimes rejoice in striving; our bodies were made to know the exhilaration of tremendous challenge; our minds get stretched when they must focus even when tired.  But the soul craves  rest.  The soul knows only borrowed strength.  The soul was made to rest in God the way a tree rests in soil.”  The soul can not run on empty.  Eventually we will begin to experience the effects of running on an empty tank.  If the soul does not  get rest, it will become fatigued.

So men, be  aware of soul fatigue.  Knowing your soul to be shy, do not allow your hurried life to neglect your soul.  Though hidden, the soul is the personal operating system of our lives ( Dallas Willard).  It is something like a program that runs a computer.  You will not notice it unless it messes up.  The  soul seeks to integrate our will, mind and body into a whole person.  An unhealthy, neglected soul is one that is disintegrating.  When Jesus said we could forfeit our souls (Matt 16:26) he was referring not to a destination but a diagnosis.  A ruined soul is a soul where the will, mind and body are disintegrating, causing fragmentation, and disconnect from God.  In losing our soul we no longer have a healthy center that organizes and guides our life.

Learn to slow down, listen and pay attention to your soul.  The Palmist reminds himself, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone” (Ps. 62:5).   While we may be busy outwardly, being hurried in our soul  indicating that we are preoccupied with ourselves.  We are not able to be present to the Lord. “‘Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). The word for “still” in Hebrew is “raphe.”  It can mean, “to sink away,” to relax,” to let drop” or “to let go.”  I have personally found that the idea of “sinking” helps me to be more centered in my soul.  I sink into my soul with my mind  by relaxing and letting go. I rest in the Lord by letting drop what preoccupies me.

Heaven “torn open”

Not long ago, Christianity Today published an article by covenant pastor, Jeff Long on Mark’s account of Jesus’ baptism in Mark 1.  He noted that the word schizomeneous is used twice in Mark. The word means “to tear or cleave open.”  The Greek root schizo implies a violent, forceful act. The first is at the baptism of Jesus, when he, “saw heaven being torn open.”   The other occurrence is at the time of the crucifixion, when “the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mark 15:38).

I appreciate Pastor Long’s insight: “Two tearings: the first so that Jesus’ mission to reconcile the world to God would be founded on the Father’s love; the second so that we have access to God and know his extravagant love for us.  In both instances, God disrupted reality to reveal his personal, loving nature.”  Long goes on to say, “I’m learning to live in the light of the truth that I have a Father who fights for me, who would tear open the heavens for me if necessary…”

The event of Jesus’ baptism reveals God as a Father who acts on our behalf, not only with loving kindness, but also with a forceful initiative.  God spoke in such a way that the heavens were torn open.  The people of God had been waiting for 400 years for  God to speak.  The decisive voice from heaven gave John confirmation, as he took up the mantle as the prophetic forerunner of Jesus, saying of himself. “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.'” (John 1:23).  The voice of the Father also gave Jesus assurance of his father’s love, becoming the very foundation of his ministry.  “The Son can’t independently do a thing, only what he sees the Father doing.  What the Father does, the Son does.  The Father loves the Son and includes him in everything he is doing” (John 5:19-20 – Message).

Men, our heavenly Father breaks through our clouded, distorted present reality to convey to us the assurance of his love.   He declares, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11).  Ultimately for each man, we need to still and quiet our souls so that we can hear for ourselves the certainty of his love for us.  Remember God is able to break through our present reality, which include  illusions we have come to believe regarding our unworthiness.  Words about God’s love can be heard repeatedly, but until we receive this truth in our souls, we live with nagging doubt.  Only God’s love can break through your false reality confirming our worthiness to be “the beloved of the Father.”  Men let yourself be loved by your Father.

The second tear happened when the curtain was torn in the temple, symbolizing our way back to the Father.   Men, please receive this truth.  Jesus died a violent, shameful death for you, so that you can now come directly and freely right into the presence of the Father.  Hear me – there is no condemnation in his presence.  “The truth is that no condemnation now hangs over the head of those who are ‘in’ Christ Jesus. For the new spiritual principle of life ‘in’ Christ Jesus lifts me out of the old vicious circle of sin and death” (Rom 8:1 – Phillips).  We can come with absolute confidence.  “So, friends, we can now – without hesitation – walk right up to God, into ‘the Holy Place.’  Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God.  The ‘certain’ into God’s presence is his body” (Heb 10:19-21 – Message).

Gender Sensitivity

At one of our last small group meeting we discussed male and female relationships within Christian community.  Our group has been meeting for over seven years.  We care for each other, know each other’s story fairly well, and are respectful as to where each of us is on the spiritual journey.  We all honor Jesus as Lord of our lives, believe in Scripture as the Word of God, and want God’s best in our lives.  Our discussion of gender roles and values, made it very apparent to me how sensitive and personal the discussion of gender has become among the followers of Jesus.  Here are some take-aways from our discussion.

First the need for what I would call “gender sensitivity.”  While all six of us are sincere  followers of Jesus, is was obvious that we held different views regarding the role and responsibility  of male and female both within marriage and in the  church.  Issues that dealt with such subjects as “headship,” “submission,” and  “feminism” were seen from different perspectives.   The whole discussion around egalitarian vs. complementarian interpretations of scripture, produced decidedly different points of view.  We basically decided to “agree to disagree.”  I personally saw the need to practice “gender sensitivity.”  Today’s cultural climate is very different from the early 70’s when I was forming my views. The roles have become much more unsettled.

Secondly, the need for “gender security.”  This applies personally as well as in marriage.  I find that the more I am secure in my gender identity, the more open, caring and responsive I can be in the gender discussions.  In my marriage, I need to continue to have frank and honest dialogue with my wife regarding our unique role and responsility as man and woman who are  “one flesh.”   The more naturally  we relate to one another, the more effective our witness can be in a culture that is confused regarding relationships between husband and wives.

Thirdly, be open to hear the storys of  “gender mistreatment.”  The memory of our personal stories  often reflect unresolved anger and hidden hurt due to the dysfunction of mother and father in our family relationships. This contributes to distortions regarding  gender roles and responsibilities. For example, when I have spoken before groups made up of predominately women, I confess my misogynist past due in part to my father’s example. I have publicly asked for forgiveness for the way women have been treated in the past by men..

Fourthly, don’t impose your views on  others.  In the past I have been guilt of imposing my view of  healthy masculinity unto other men who are different from myself.  I have also reacted to strong women, because my mother was a dominating mother who unknowingly smothered her first born son emotionally.  As a pastor I have been guilty of judging the “marriage dynamic” of others, based on my experience of marriage.

Fifthly, respect how each is working out their roles.  This can be very difficult in a day with the ascendency of the feminine and the descent of the masculine in the gender wars.  Our task as men is to become secure in our masculine soul, learning God’s plan for the role he has given us in the culture and to be have a servant heart to all who we relate to  at home, church and in the culture.

Finally, remember that we owe a debt of love to all others. “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law” (Rom 13:8).

Good Movement

“Men are easily threatened……Something good in men is stopped and needs to get moving.  When good movement stops, bad movement (retreat or domination) reliably develops” (Larry  Crabb).  In all the reading I do to better inform my desire to help men, one of the consistent descriptions of the masculine is the desire to take the initiative.  For example, Stu Weber – “Masculinity means initiation.  To be masculine is to take initiative.  To provide direction, security, stability and order.” This implies  movement.  But it will be hard at times.  Life will not be easy.  God told Adam, “you’ll be working in pain all your life long…” (Gen 3:17 – Message).  Good movement, as it relates to “relational masculinity” (Crabb), will need help to keep moving toward the other, especially in relation to the feminine.

Bad movement, the kind that causes a man to hide in the safety of his  “man cave” or to become aggressively insensitive comes natural to a man.  It is part of the old nature, or the false self.  At the core, the false self will falter in relationships. Paul said of himself, “It happens so regularly that it’s predictable.  The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up…Parts of me covertly rebels, and just when I least expect it, they take charge” (Romans 7:21-3 – Message). In particular, I find myself tripping up and covertly rebelling often during the intimate interchanges with my wife.  I am not present in a loving, supportive way.  Good movement stops and bad movement takes over.

Good movement is initiated  through our new nature or true self.   Our true self  in Christ, gives us the desire and intentionality  to enter into relationship.  Being dependent on the Holy Spirit, equips us to move into those “murky” waters of uncertainty with the feminine.  “Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them – living and breathing God!  Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life” (Rom 8:7 – Message).  Rather then feeling cornered, our true self creates space for us to respond in a Christlike manner.

Underlying the presence of good movement is the assumption that “God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.”  In our natural responses as men, we are not able to maintain good movement.  The momentum is usually turned inward on our self as a result of our insecurity and defensiveness.  God tells us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (II Cor 12:9).  God’s grace gets us moving in a positive direction.

Here are two aspects of good movement that are vital in intimate relationships. First, rejecting passivity.  Bad  movement happens when a man is tempted to move away from relating, either through silence or dominance. The uncertainity  of not  responding properly to others can isolate a man.   At his core a man is usually fearful when he moves  away.  Good movement occurs when a man “leans into” relationships.  He lives with an open heart, expressed in vulnerability.

Secondly, accepting responsibility.  Bad movement occurs when a man avoid his God given responsibilities in relationships.  He is primarily looks out after himself with little regard for the emotional needs of his wife and children.  Being “emotionally present” is not a priority.  Good movement is apparent in a man’s life, when he establishes right priorities in life, by putting his wife and children ahead of all other matters in his life.  He will selflessly set aside his desires to give himself, first to God, then his wife and children.

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