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).