Archives For manhood

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Where do I begin in telling the story that culminated in Colorado this past weekend? There are so many scenes in a life, but which are the defining moments? The ones that tell the story of who we are?

For me, it was the wounding moments; such as:

(Though I don’t recall it) standing outside on beautiful northwestern Pennsylvania day, sun shining bright in the grey sky. It’s humid–as it always is so near to Lake Erie–but despite the stickiness, a father and son are outside playing catch. The boy has the flaming red hair of his father; indeed, there’s no mistaking that he’s his father’s son. The little boy is two, maybe three, his face screwed tightly in concentration. He wants to catch the ball.
He misses. Again.

The father, a young man maybe twenty-seven, or twenty-eight, needs his son to catch the ball. It is an ache within him. He had been an athlete, all his glories upon the field. All of that changed with an injury. He is blessed beyond measure just to be upright, walking, playing here with his son.

The boy again fails to catch the ball.

The father grows ever more frustrated, ever more impatient.

“What’s wrong with you,” he asks? “Catch the ball!” He throws it again; the boy almost… No, it slips through his grasp.

His little lip quivers. He wants to please his father, but can’t quite do it. Each time, it’s just outside of his grasp, just beyond his ability to do what is asked.

But he doesn’t give up.

The father retrieves the ball, throws it harder. Again, his little son fails. He was born prematurely, and maybe his coordination lags as a result? But the boy stays, lip quivering, tears beginning to leak from his eyes.

“What’s wrong with you? Stop crying! Or I’ll give you reason to cry. Catch the damn ball, Chad!”

His father throws the ball again, and again, harder and harder at Chad’s abdomen.

Despite his best efforts, Chad never does catch the damn ball that day. His father stalks off in frustration.

All the while, his mother watches from a window, doing nothing.

————-

How does the boy become a man know this is true? Because, years later his mother told him. And it is consistent with with his experiences with his father.

>I am the wimpphoto © 2007 Meghan | more info (via: Wylio)

“Marvin Milquetoast”

Today, my wife and I had some difficulties with an auto dealership regarding required repairs covered by a recall. I overheard her on the phone, and she was awesome! She stuck to her guns, got her point across, used her amazing powers of persuasion. Me, not so much. I’m the guy who thinks of the witty comeback hours later. I fold under pressure. Oh, I can talk a good game with her–told her I wasn’t going to put up those jack wagons, was ready to go all “Mr. Furious” on them, that it was on, but then she nailed me dead to rights:
“You say that, but you never follow through.” I assured her that I meant it, that this time would be different.
“What do you mean? That you’re ready to unleash on the kids and me again? Is that it?” I knew she was right. Fact is, many times when my life has felt out of control, when I should’ve stood up for them, for myself, for a cause I believe in, I fold, and unleash my failure on those closest to me: my family. Brothers and sisters this ought not to be! Why, in those times, am I kind to strangers, and downright mean and ill-tempered toward those I love the most? There are reasons for it—and I’m not making excuses, I take full responsibility—that I think have their roots in my childhood.
I can’t recall a time when I saw, or heard, my parents fighting; then, one day, my dad was gone. I know he had a painful upbringing, and drank a lot to mask the pain. That, and apparently he fooled around a lot, too. Maybe he couldn’t handle the responsibilities of adult life, maybe my mom was too strong a woman for him, maybe… Truth is: I don’t know. To this day I don’t know the man well enough. I do know this: that whatever it is that makes a man a man, he didn’t pass on—he didn’t have it to give. That’s not a slam, just the truth. Thus it’s no surprise that I was attracted to a strong woman myself. Don’t get me wrong: she’s a great, godly, wise woman, but very strong-willed. And that’s how I was raised: under the auspices of a strong-willed woman. In fact, for most of my working career (until ten years ago) all of my supervisors were female. And, with one notable exception, I excelled under their supervision. Big surprise, right? (Don’t get me wrong: this is not a slam against strong, talented, capable women—I believe all people, whether male or female, should use their God-given talents to the fullest, whether in the church, at home, or in the business world).
As wonderful as those women were in their execution, in the their leadership, there was something they couldn’t give me: manhood. Because, as women, they didn’t have it to give. This may all sound very “John Eldredge,” but it’s true: they—not my bosses, not my mother, not my wife—couldn’t answer the question at the core of my heart: do I have what it takes to be a man in this world? What does it mean to be a man in this world? I know this: I’m not the man my wife expected. In her estimation, I let things go that I shouldn’t, and worry other rabbits that should be left alone. Because I am unsure, tentative, hesitant to engage, not knowing where, or when, to engage. And this is perceived as weakness. And there is little this world hates more than a weak-willed, or seemingly weak-willed, man. If it is possible to err with regard to Jesus’ command to be “gentle as doves, but wise as serpents,” guess where I err? Who is known as a “nice guy?” Me, that’s who. I’ve learned, however, that there is a vast difference between being nice and being good. How would you classify Jesus himself—as nice, or good? Thought so. Why can’t I be good like he was (which is so much more than nice)? Why, next to the Wikipedia entry on Marvin Milquetoast, will you find my picture? Why am I so much more like my dad than I even allow myself to see? God help me be like you, instead of so randomly me(an).

>A Coward Like Me

randomlychad  —  October 22, 2010 — Leave a comment

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A Coward Like Me
      I’m a coward. Let me get that off my chest right now. I am a fearful man. Like most folks, I want you to think well of me. And I’m afraid of what you’ll think if you see the real me. Which is one of the reasons that this blog exists—to push myself past the fear, to encourage those who, like me, are afraid to be real. Despite this, I’m still a coward. Let me explain.
      For most of my Christian walk, I thought it was my duty to preserve the peace at all costs. I did my level-headed best at this, and most times failed miserably—leaving hurt, angry parties all around me. As an example–for the better portion of the last twenty years–I let my dad be rude to my wife in myriad ways. I say “let” because I allowed it to continue (I don’t blame him). Instead of standing up for her, I acted out of the conviction, the sacred duty, that I must keep the peace. My precious bride, mother of my children, I failed her so miserably. And that is just one example.
      All this came to a head on Father’s Day of 2009. My dad called to wish me a happy Father’s Day. He called on my wife’s line.
“Hello?”
“Is Chad there?”
“Who’s calling, please?”
“Chad’s dad.”
“Oh, hi. This is Lisa.”
“I know. Let me speak to Chad.”
She handed me the phone, tears welling in her eyes… And I choked. I had an opportunity to handle things then, and didn’t. As I reflected on it, it grew inside me… And I emailed him. Told him he wasn’t welcome to call until he took an etiquette class and at least be polite on the phone. But even in this, I took the coward’s way out: I used email. At the time, I told my wife that I was too angry to call, but I was probably too afraid. There was a tension inside me—contorting, twisting—that squelched my courage. I felt like a little boy. And what little boy can confront a grown man?
      I did this again recently with a friendship that wasn’t growing as I hoped it would. While I think it right and proper that I did the pruning, I again used email to do it. Again, I shrank back from the discomfort of confrontation. If I had it to do over again, I would invite this friend to sit down with me so we could hash it out together (the outcome may well have been the same). But I don’t. And that is my encouragement to you: don’t shrink back from the uncomfortable situations in your life—press through them. For it is in them that we grow. Don’t be a coward like me.