One of the key things about understanding the Genesis Man is that we are tasked with living out, and living in specific relationship Roles. We may be husbands, fathers and Mentors, but also important is our roles as friends. I would argue that just as boys need the influence of men to grow and be healthy, men need other men in their lives. We need real friends that influence us on deep, personal levels. God has commissioned each of us to speak into, and build onto the lives of other men.
In the last 12 months, other than my father, there are three men who have had a significant impact in my life; Gerald, James and Richard. During the last 12 months, I have gone through the season of sickness and death of my older sister, crossing my own personal Rubicon of ministry, life and the future. I have to admit that it was a time that I couldn’t see God, but clung desperately to His hand in the darkness.
When I sat back to reflected on this, Gerald -a friend and minister at my church (Abundant Life Gospel Centre), came to mind. What I remember the most was that he embraced me as a son at a specific moment in time when I needed that physical contact. I didn’t need a hi-five, fist bump or encouraging word, I needed an embrace. Even as adult men, there are times when we feel alone and isolated by life circumstances and emotions, and we need the comfort of a trusted male figure. Even without his knowing, it left a lasting impact on me. (It is also comforting to know that he constantly lifts me up in prayer, and thinks highly of me.) When we as men allow God to influence our actions and choices, it is simply amazing the kind of influence we can have on one another.
James has always been a kindred spirit, and perhaps is the most relatable male in my life. We talk movies, comics and strange scientific theories. There was a specific moment when I needed a presence in my life and he was there. I was at the altar praying, shell-shocked by the deteriorating future of my sister’s existence. I asked God for his comfort, but secretly wanted more than a spiritual experience. (Sometimes Christians have a way of making everything super spiritual…) So, I told Him that He didn’t have to send someone to pray with me because I had faith, and He was enough… but if He did send someone… Well before I knew it James appeared out of nowhere behind me. I don’t know what he said to God on my behalf, but a greater presence was never more needed. Being there for someone has more of an impact than we can ever realize, but it’s hard to know when you actually need to be there… Therefore, we should avoid the dangers of social hibernation and spend time with each other.
Richard has been a high school buddy since forever. He has been the longest and sole surviving relationship from that part of my personal history. Occasionally we get together and talk… I mean, really talk. Even though he lives a distance away we keep the physical connection when we can. We break bread, watch the odd movie and provide a nostalgic link to a life that once was… (when he had better knees, and I didn’t have to take my glasses off to see my cellphone…) We’ve always talked and hung, and I’m pretty sure that I could admit things to him that I couldn’t to anyone else.
After my sister’s funeral, we met for dinner. In my maze of confusion and alien emotions (I didn’t even know what grieving was), he truly was a lifebuoy. When I didn’t know whether God would make life go “back to normal”, or if he was transforming me somehow… without a shadow of doubt he knew it was the latter. (That truth is still being unpacked even right now.) We need friends who can see things clearly, especially when our own vision is impaired by the blows and jabs of everyday existence, and unprecedented experiences.
What am I saying? We need a few good men in our lives, even if we have wives or girlfriends.
The image of a Greek phalanx formation has always struck me as the way we should live our lives as men. This army advanced in lines of soldiers with shield in left hand and spears in right. Your shield protected the man on the left, and the guy on the right protected you with his. Together they were a successful victorious fighting force the ancient world had never seen. I use this analogy only to show the inter-dependency and strength of men when they move together and support one another. When we are alone (if you would allow me another analogy) we are sitting ducks, in danger from sniper attacks… How many of your friends struggle with addictions and the constant threat of family implosion due to the pressures they face? God never meant for us to go it alone.
I encourage you to find and rely on a few good men. They are out there. We are out there. Whatever you may be facing -good, bad or ugly- have the courage seek out and accept support. Open avenues of communication and make a positive impact in someone’s life.