Some time ago, I read an article by Matt Fuller entitled “Reclaiming Masculinity.”  I took some notes as he expressed in the article that men should “take responsibility to lead, be ambitious for God’s kingdom, use your strength to protect the church, serve others, invest in friends and raise healthy ‘sons’.”  As I read Fuller’s challenge anew, I found myself being inspired to finish strong, but also feeling regret for missing the mark way too often over 60 years of trying to follow the Lord. 

So, I went over Fuller’s checklist to see how I have developed as a man.  After 58 years of marriage, I tried to be honest as I looked in the rearview mirror:

1) Men and women really are different – but not THAT different.  I had no idea what I was getting into when I got married.  I failed miserably, not appreciating the strengths and abilities of my wife.  I have learned a lot about being married to a “woman.” God has given me a great treasure in Judy; “she is far more precious than jewels” (Prov. 31:10).

2) Take responsibility.  Being a firstborn son, I carried the world on my shoulders. So, early on I was more concerned about “saving the world” than being present for my wife and children.  My spiritual life begins at home. 

3) Be ambitious for God.  As a pastor, I have always been “all in” for God’s kingdom.  I knew I was called to this ministry.  But I prioritized this too much, and didn’t place my wife and family first.   

4) Display thoughtful chivalry.  It took me years to really practice chivalry and truly honor my wife.  She is my “lily among thorns” (Song of Songs 2:1).  Opening doors, giving eye contact, seeking her input, and speaking well of her in public – these I had to learn.  I’m still learning to “cherish” Judy and practice chivalry. 

5) Use your strength to protect.  I assumed the role as head and protector quite naturally; I was the one who “drove the train.”  But in the process I was not sensitive to the needs of my wife and children.  I had to learn to humble myself, put their needs before mine, and ask for forgiveness when my ego got in the way of my family’s needs.

6) Invest in friendships.  Being a heart guy, I have always been relational by nature.  But when it came to developing closer relationships with other men, I had little to go on.  In my later years, I have come to value closer male friendships that make me more accountable.  I am very thankful to have Dan and Bruce in my life.

7) Raise healthy ‘sons’.  I raised two sons and have mentored other young men. They are very different  from me and from each other.  I should have listened more intently, asked better questions, and given them more of my time.   

My wife did much better in her role as my wife.  She put up with my preaching for 40 years.  And she did it wonderfully.  She is a “total, natural woman” – integrated and authentic.  She has aged much better than I, while I’ve been more like a yo-yo: up and down. 

Despite all this, I’m grateful for God’s grace in my life.  And I take heart in Paul’s struggle with his “thorn in the flesh.”  For the Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.”  I, like many of us,  can respond like Paul, “Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (II Cor. 12:9).