Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mannin' Up II

What does it mean to "be a man" and how do you get there? Is there any truth to the idea that "real men love Jesus and hate church?" If men (together with women) are called to "rule," and if Jesus is the way God accomplishes things, what does "masculine" ruling look like... and what helps men to get there?


Brian Emmet said...

We're having a good conversation, but it kind of stalled--feeling like you have to read through 70+ posts to "catch up" with the conversation is a bit daunting, so let's get a fresh start on the topic here.

John M. said...

I've been trying to think of something to say on the Nannin' Up II thread, but so far I've come up dry.

But I did put up a post over on The Shack thread. I posted a quote from the book that has generated some accusatons of heresy or, at best, a distortion of traditional views, and asked for your thoughts.

Come on over if you're interested. It's not necessary to have read the book to enter the discussion and weigh in on this particular issue.

joe 6-pack said...

our spirited discussion about feminism must have caused everyone to clam up. By-the-way, I have just finished a 17 page paper on the female versions of JEC (Young Catholic Students) in the 1950s that I am going present at the Women's Studies Conference at the end of March. I seem to enjoy being Daniel in the Lion's Den ...

John the Musician said...

Well this is quite convenient for me as I feel I've just had a revelation about what it is to be a man, and was deciding how I would go about interjecting my thoughts without reading through the preceding 70 comments. =oP

I've just realized, that at the very least, in my life, and also possibly in many lives between the ages of 18-25, that the true struggle to becoming a man is to choose whether you're going to live in fantasy, with it's tantalizing and dangerous repercussions, or embrace reality with all it's flaws, hardships, and achievement. I've recently found that I am capable of doing wonderful things in my life to make it better, I've also found to my dismay that whenever I come upon a sweet bit of fantasy to escape from the day-to-day I'm like an addict that simply can't get enough, and drain the source completely dry. The escapes in themselves aren't bad in any way, we as humans need the escapes occasionally to refresh ourselves and prepare for the next stage, but when we're just looking for the next fix...well as you can imagine we don't get very far.

I'm not sure if this will relate to those of you who are older and more experienced at balancing pleasure with responsibility, but I know that for me, the looming necessity to choose daily between false pleasure and the true "living waters" that this life has to offer is a choice that I have been running from for years. I'm not sure whether or not I'll ever stop running from that dangerous question.

I place living waters in quotations, because I believe that life, much like any river worth it's salt, is not at all tame, and yet is apparently, for some reason, worth the risk. If we don't step up to the challenge and choose danger and glory, then we will most definitely be left watching the current fly by.

And yet why is that such a hard decision to make? Perhaps because unlike the word picture I've painted above, there isn't a single moment when you have to jump in or forever stay watching. Ever day we walk to the river, and make that choice, and I feel that the vast majority of men in the world walk away and tell themselves that they'll jump in tomorrow...including myself.

Forgive the length, but I felt it was important to express these ideas in writing so that I might come back to revisit them.

steve H said...

Excellent insights, John. And that escape to some sort of addictive fantasy is not a generational issue. Perhaps some of the means and the fantasies differ, but I doubt that there are many of us who have not to one degree or another had our escapes.

I'm reminded of the oft-quoted passage in 1 Corinthians 10:13.

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

We want to escape out of the issues we face rather than take God's escape root which enable us to endure or as other translations say "go through it."

John the Musician said...

Very true. I think that the longer I live the more I come to know my weaknesses and lack of willpower. Maybe all of our failures in escaping from life are really a blessing meant to show us our need for God's divine willpower in us.

The other thing that occurred to me presently was that being raised in a home that is financially dependent on God's provision is one of the biggest blessings of all, because you are in constant struggle in the choice to escape or to deal with life's difficulties.

John M. said...

Escape into fantasy. John, thanks for your vulnerability and for nailing an important issue.

I agree with Steve that we are all tempted and we all have our favorite escapes and addictions or at least compulsive behaviors.

It's ture that the lusts of the flesh, both "sinful" and "simply selfish" (Is there a difference?) have not changed.

I do, though, think that the younger generations have greater opportunity and means to indulge the age-old escapes. The means have diversified and intensified.

Things have intensified from having to go someplace, look somebody in the eye and buy a magazine to look at naked pin-up girls to having pornography availble in private at the click of a mouse with every nitch fantsy and fetish that you can imagine -- and some that probably haven't been imagined by most of us.

We've gone from guys getting together in a smokey room once or twice a week to play poker (or even monopoly) to virtual realiy on-line games with whole communities of gamers playing 24-7 -- the list goes on...

It's kind of like the difference between chewing coca leaves to having a steady, nearly unlimited supply of crack cocain at one's finger tips.

The current situation probably isn't any more destructive than the old delivery systems, the difference is how rapidly and intensly one can find his life consmued.

What used to take years, maybe decades to develop now takes only a matter of months.

That's the difference I technology advances, so does the fantasy delivery pipe-line. It's true that it's not really generational, because many in our generation get caught in the net also. (Pretty good unintended pun, huh?) But it definitely is a huge issue for young men, as John the Musician so aptly stated.

So how do we avoid getting consumed with fantasy and engage the responsibilities and "rapids" of real living?

joe 6-pack said...

lets be concrete John M.: how do YOU "avoid getting consumed with fantasy and engage the responsibilities and "rapids" of real living?"

steve H said...

Excuse the misspelling of escape route -- there probably are roots to some of our escapes of choice, but that's not what I meant to say.

steve H said...

I won't go into it here since the topic is manhood, but I am finding help with some issues in my own life with the help of Dallas Willard and Don Simpson's "Revolution of Character: Discovering God's Pattern for Spiritual Transformation." This book boils down Willard's "Renovation of the Heart" and lays out some pretty clear steps toward shedding unreality and coming into God's reality.

joe 6-pack said...

just a though here: we have not really discussed two of the aspects mentioned earlier of manhood or masculinity - the idea of stewardship and the idea of rulership.

Brian Emmet said...

I think fantasy involves escaping from pain: some of us drink or do drugs, others view porn, others while away the hours in front of a computer screen... it's hard for us to recognize or name the pain we're in--for many, it is the emptiness, boredom and anomie of the modern world. I think one good way to fight against fanatsy is by trying to actively, practically serve somebody: pick up the trash, do the laundry, spend time listening to a somewaht boring and obnoxious colleague, etc. Much of my fantasizing involves various martyr-stories (in response to the pain of feeling unrecognized, unappreciated, unworthy), or violent hero-stories (with Guess Who as the hero).

Stewardship and rulership ought to be taken together, as one thing rather than two. Stewardship means (a) I have been entrusted with resources that belong to someone else and (b) I am responsible to the owner to see that his resources are used in ways that fulfill his purposes for them.

John M. said...

lets be concrete John M.: how do YOU "avoid getting consumed with fantasy and engage the responsibilities and "rapids" of real living?"

Joseph, I wanted you guys to answer that question!

For me it involved a series of events:
1. I admitted that I had a problem, and that I was making bad, desturctive choices.

2. I became open and accountable to a group of brothers. I meet with one of the men in that group weekly for breakfast and we offer one another mutual accountablilty and I stay in touch with others in the group and discuss issues when necessary.

3. I admitted that I had a hole in my soul and that I was "medicating" pain as Brian spoke of. I began looking for root causes, did some reading, and got counsel/ministry from Sam Lopez and another brother who had.

4. I continue to walk in total dependence on the Lord to keep me out of irrational/addictive behavior. I continue to read/pray/walk in accountability/ and seek healing.

Before the four things above, I tried for years to screw up my will power, pray, fast, and swear to myself and God that I was done with the desturctive behavior -- none of which really worked in the long-haul.

Although I didn't realize it, I was only dealing with surface symptoms all those years and I kept falling back into the escape behavor.

Not until I realized and admitted that I had a major, addictive problem, and moved from just trying to modify and control behavior to actually dealing with root issues that were behind the behavior, did I began to make significant prgress toward healing and wholeness.

I haven't arrived, I'm on a journey, learning as I go, and attempting to remain teachable, vulnerable, and open to all that Jesus wants to give me in the process of restoring this "broken icon" in Scot McKnight's words.

joe 6-pack said...

hey John, one of the young men in our god-party last night apparently was very helped and encouraged by your transparency and sharing on the manhood thread. Thanks!

John M. said...

Good! Thanks.

John M. said...

Don't know if this will get read. Seems that interest has died out, but I'll give a try.

It seems to me that having our man-hood affirmed is a huge boost to actually accepting it and moving forward into rulership, stewardship etc.

John Eldridge says that most men still feel like little boys inside, and struggle with insecurity because their father never affirmed them as a man.

Most of us can't change that, unless we are Fathers -- then we can do it with our sons. (Eldgridge says it's never too late.) But I would submit that we need "fathers" in the faith that can and should give this affirmation to the younger men around them -- perhaps even to each other.

After I heard the above from Eldgridge I examined my own affirmation of my son's manhood and found it lacking. The next time he was home from CO, he was telling me about the way he was relating to some of the guys under him at work. When I finished, I simply said, "I see the Kingdom at work in you and I'm proud of you." I was not prepared for his response, he grabbed me with the tightest bear hug and said, "Thanks Dad!". My only regreat was that I hadn't done it sooner and more often.

Eldridge says that this type of affirmation -- especially from fathers to sons -- releases the manhood and confidence of a young man in a way that is vital to a man becoming a man. If this is true than our culture, both inside and outside the church, has been robbed of a key to releasing young men into their destiny as men.

joe 6-pack said...

great story about your son John.

I found the Youtube video by Justin Timberlake interesting ... especially the first slide which contains the passage from Corinthians 13 about putting away childish things. The whole rap song is about young black men maturing and thinking through the consequences of their choices, and learning to make smart choices.

If you watch the video to the end, there is a powerful series of images almost at the end that contains themes of good and evil and redemption.