Let Sleeping Giants Lie..

There’s a movie I watched -admittedly much to my embarrassment- about a man who experienced the late onset of puberty due to a medical condition.   One of the most disturbing things about the film was that it highlighted the self-obsessive, self-gratifying, self-debasing nature of uncontrolled sexuality of the teenage male.  Maybe the movie was intended to be satire, nevertheless, it was a pitiful depiction of reality.

Sexuality may be the most potent force in the life of a male.

Jerry Seinfeld, in one particular memorable episode of Seinfeld made a comment something to this effect: “A man will watch a movie no matter how pointless, if there is a slight chance of frontal nudity.”   We laugh at this line because it’s funny, but deep inside we know it’s true.

Your sex drive is called a drive because, well…it drives many aspects of our lives – maybe even every aspect.   For some it resembles a 2.2 Litre Chevy fourbanger, and others a Tuatara 6.9 Litre V8 Twin Turbo -they both drive…   As a matter of fact, you may have driven your life, integrity, reputation and precious family relationships right over a cliff into a spectacular fiery carnage of infidelity, pornography and broken commitments.  (Or maybe you’re in the process of doing that…)

Sexuality, in spite of being an amazing, wonderful gift from God, is a giant that can cause wreckage and havoc in our lives and those around us.

In high school, I experienced a growing sexual awareness.   I wanted to have a girlfriend, but felt quite a bit of frustration because things just never worked out.   (In retrospect, that was a great blessing.)  I was well liked and popular, but nevertheless with my shyness and the self-consciousness of my –what I thought at the time– big ears…  (which I now think are perfect), I just never really had the confidence to commit to the single-minded pursuit of a relationship.

In today’s setting teen relationships and sexual exploration are encouraged, supported and accepted.   More young men desire to wake the “sleeping giant”.   Why such a rush?  Do high school aged young men need to have girlfriends?  Do they need to be in relationships?

In a Discussion Club of high school males, we tackled that very question.   Surprisingly, in their minds, having a girlfriend equated to having experience with females.   They rationalized that if they didn’t have those intimate relationships, how would they ever know how to understand and relate to women and grow from the hurt and loss that may occur?

It seemed that having girlfriends (to them) were noble, necessary life lessons.   Personally, I suspect it had to do more with the unrestrained, sexuality of the hormonal teen aged impulses, cranked up in a fallen, lustful world.

It’s interesting though, on one hand, those young men all agreed how easily girls could be a distraction, (some boys have torched whole semesters…) yet somehow, they felt they should be able to handle relationships…

Well… intimate relationships lead to intimacy.   It all leads to sex, eventually.   (What’s the point of just holding hands or kissing?)  I supposed it doesn’t matter -if you believe that premarital sex is fine…  But, if you don’t believe it is, why not avoid the temptations?   Why poke the bear of your sexual drive?

A close Christian friend told me that he lost his virginity in high school.  One of the most painful things he had to do was tell his fiancé (now wife) that she wasn’t his first time.   (Can you imagine that conversation?)

Young men sometimes view women as objects of sexual conquest, and the mindset is to “take” so that “I feel good…”  It’s all about personal gratification.

I want my three daughters to know that a man is supposed to add value to a woman’s life.  (It’s the kind of value that comes with maturity and spiritual depth.)  It’s not about taking, but giving.  Married men take a large chunk of their early marriage life learning about sacrifice and unselfishness (with their wives being in the safety of a committed matrimonial relationship).  Those lessons are  intensified ten fold with the introduction of children.  We (present company included) learn that sex is more than sex, but part of intimacy and relationship and commitment.

What kind of value can a grade 9, 10, 11 or 12 add to young woman?  Listen, if I were running things, I’d ban guys from dating… at least until their 2nd year university.  (Can you imagine how many young men would then pursue post-secondary agendas?)

Young men, your sexuality, your sex drive will be there your whole life, wouldn’t it be better to wait on God’s timing before you wake that giant?  As a matter of fact, you must put him (that giant) under the influence and guidance of a really big God.  We’re lying to ourselves (big time) if we actually believe that we can handle things in our own strength.  (Ask King David about that…)

What’s my  counsel?  Don’t pursue intimate relationships, avoid pornography like the plague, and (for the love of Pete), figure out who you are before you even think of joining yourself to someone else.

One more thing…

My strong recommendation is a pre-teen program which fathers and close male mentors can participate in together, called “Passport to Puberty.”  (By Family Life Today -check out the link… Passport to Puberty)   This powerful resource can help your preteen boy (if I can continue with the metaphor) to scope out the giant before he awakes.

Thanks for reading, and as always, feel free to comment.   (It would be nice to know if anyone is out there.)   We share the same struggles and walk a common road.  I encourage you to share your thoughts and experience with someone else.  Start a conversation, you would be surprised how valuable that may be to another person.

Israel

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Whose Your Daddy?

As a man,  your greatest testimony is probably not so much what your neighbor,  work colleague,  or church brethren surmise.   I believe it lies in what your family concludes about you as a father or a husband.   That’s where the ‘rubber hits the road’ for compassion,  grace,  and spiritual consistency.  This is where at your weakest, the strength of the Saviour must shine through.

It’s not to say that we are to required to be perfect humans,  but family life is an opportunity for the Lord to make up the slack, and our character shortfalls.   We should reiterate -like the bridge in the song “Lead Me” by Sanctus Real…  “Father, lead me with strong hands so I can lead them…”   (Check out this link to a real man song!)   Sanctus Real “Lead Me”

My mind always goes back to step-father Joseph.   Can you imagine how his son (Jesus) felt,  knowing that His  dad stood by His mother (when any self-respecting Jewish man would have bailed from that relationship -with far less soul searching)?  He chose to listen to God,  and loved Mary as his own flesh.   Joseph was kind,  compassionate and not a jerk.

He was also an individual of sexual integrity.   In Matthew 1:25, the Bible tells us that he did not consummate their marriage till after Jesus was born.  His desires did not flounder in the swamp of selfishness,  which as men we’ve all struggled to free ourselves – present company included.   He chose first Mary’s physiological and psychological well being and deeply respected God’s mysterious will.  Men,  we could take a page from Joseph’s book.

This New Year,  even though our children may not be members of the Trinity,  and our wives’ names don’t rhyme with “airy”,  let’s strive to live a testimony to the people whom we can most effectively influence to create a lasting, positive legacy.  Let’s be the kind of Daddy and Husband God wants us to be!

Happy New year,  and may you abide in redemptive peace and spiritual prosperity.

Rubicon

The Rubicon was the name of a little stream with huge significance.   It marked the border between the will the General Julius Caesar and that of the Roman Empire.   Rome had recalled Caesar from his military conquest to come back to Rome without his army.   It didn’t take much for the power hungry general to convince his adoring army to come with him back to Rome to defend his honour.  With the crossing of the Rubicon Caesar joined the notorious group of generals who turned the Roman army against Rome.  Therefore, the Rubicon has become a historical boundary that signified “the point of no return.”   Once Caesar and his army went past that little stream, his imperialistic intentions were crystal clear.

There are times when we all approach our Rubicons and we are forced to make a decision whether or not to cross…   But what happens when the Rubicon comes to you when you’re standing still?   The death of my sister from cancer (earlier this year) was my own personal Rubicon.  It came to me, and I was forced to cross.

A lot of my life systems came “off line”, and to a grinding stop.   Family routine, work life and ministry function all became collateral damage of this personally unprecedented event.   When time started moving again family routine commenced – my kid’s lives needed to get back to normal.   I returned back to work after some time off – I needed my income.   However, ministry function seemed to fizzle like sails without a whisper of wind.

However in reality, although things seemed to be slowly getting “back to normal”, there was nothing normal about it.   I felt impatient with my family, unmotivated at work, and still ministry appeared shell shocked.

So, what is a man to do when he faces life shaking events?  I thought that perhaps I needed someone to talk with…

Before deciding to see a professional counselor, I was surprised at how my own cultural, male and spiritual biases pushed back at me.  As someone from a Caribbean background, how could I talk “my business” to a complete stranger and further more pay a decent amount of money to do it!?  (When the counselor asked, “What brought me here?”  I felt like saying, “Not my health coverage!”) 

Spiritually, I wrestled with the (mistaken) notion; Aren’t you suppose to “pray it through”?  Isn’t it just supposed to be between you and God?   As a man, how could I possibly be so vulnerable and “share my feelings”?  Isn’t that so… weak?  Shouldn’t I already have it figured out?  Regardless, I ignored those questions because, well…mental health is…health.  Besides, how could I be the man God wants me to be if I wasn’t firing on all cylinders?

So, a man has got to do what a man has got to do…

Amidst the push back from my own cultural, spiritual, and male biases…  I did see a counselor a few times.  Do you know what?  I’ve not regretted it.  Proverbs 11:14 says, “in a multitude of counselors there is safety”, and that reality has never been more true to me as it is now.

Sexual Integrity

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only (Christian) guy to have struggled with lust, and the only guy (even now) that needs to be careful of what is consumed (lest it leads to places of failure).

 

Of all the men and young men I’ve talked and mentored; only one has ever actually flat out admitted that he struggled with pornography.  (I’m reasonably certain he’s not the only one…)  When I was  younger and and attended University, it was a continual challenge to avoid watching stuff that was lustful and contained nudity.  Yet, today young men and men (Christians) put on a façade as if those struggles don’t really exist.

 

Maybe in our collective minds men (in our modern context) have redefined pornography to include only that which is “XXX” rated, but “soft porn” (a classification that’s highly deceptive), and general nudity is acceptable…  Also, maybe that part of our lives (our hidden habits) are too taboo… too shameful…   It’s just too uncomfortable to let someone else know what really goes on behind our scenes…

But take comfort!  The Bible doesn’t seem to shy away from sexual issues.  Actually there are some rather explicit scriptures that are definitely not read Sunday mornings, and are liable to make the most seasoned congregation blush!  Take for example Genesis 38.  It narrates a series bizarre circumstances of sexual exploits, but that nevertheless highlights important lessons on sexual integrity.

Genesis 38 starts out with the main character Judah (one of the 12 sons of Israel) departing from his familiar environment, and then initiates a sexual relationship with a foreign woman.  (I really have to wonder if he married for sex, because almost in the same sentence it says that he got married and had sex.  Read chapter 38 verse 2 and see if you get the same feel.)

Anyway, his wife conceives three times and Judah then has three sons.  In a somewhat “Klingon-like” fashion, the Bible states that ‘son number one’ was wicked “so the Lord put him to death.”  (NIV)  So now Tamar, the wife that Judah had selected for his first son, suddenly became a widow.

The custom at that time was to keep the family in the family, therefore a male sibling was encouraged to marry his brother’s widow.  However, the second son died also (at the hand of the Lord) because…well… he preferred to just have sex, rather than to be fully committed in the process of family responsibility and continuity.  (Read chp 38:9-10 for more clarity.)  He was selfish.  He felt that any child he would have had with Tamar would not be his, therefore he took the necessary steps to make sure she would not get pregnant…

 

[Sidebar: Guys… sexual integrity matters outside and inside marriage.  God was clearly displeased with son number two and punished him with death.  God does not approve of selfishness, sexual integrity matters.]

 

Fast forward… Judah’s wife eventually dies.  Tamar is still a widow (her biological clock, by the way, is still ticking…)  Son number three is still available.

 

I think that what happens next in the narrative highlights this lesson; The lack of sexual restraint leads to complicated problems.

Judah goes to “Young Street” and solicits sex with a prostitute or a “harlot” -that’s the term mentioned in the Bible.   It is interesting to observe the anonymity surrounding sexual dysfunction.    I’m not sure if all prostitutes wore veils, but this one did.  Judah didn’t care what she looked like, he was willing to buy sex, and she was willing to gain from it.  As a matter of fact his friend (Aullimite) acts kind of like a “john” because Judah sends him (after it was all over) to go and make payment.

Now I’m not sure what the time frame was between his wife’s death and his marketplace sexual encounter.  Perhaps Judah’s mental state may have been saturated in loss and grief, and we know that poor sexual choices are definitely made in periods of emotional confusion and vulnerability.  However, the “payment” is always worth more than the experience.  Specifically, in this context, the Bible said that she wanted Judah’s “signet and chord and staff”, which were essential elements of his familial and social identity.

 

By the way, (surprise, surprise) it turns out the “harlot” was his daughter-in-law Tamar.   Yes.  Judah had sexual relationships with his sons’ wife.  (Yuck!)

Let’s pause at this cliff hanger…

Joseph… A Mid-wife?

I was reflecting and thinking about Joseph from the New Testament.  By the way he was a wonderful step-father and a committed man of God who was filled with integrity.

So the story goes that Mary and Joseph couldn’t even get a room, and they ended up camping out in a stable or cave, or something like that.

Now the Bible doesn’t specifically say this, but I have to believe that Joseph helped in the delivery of his step-son Jesus.  Joseph was perhaps the New Testament’s first male mid-wife!  (That kind of involvement in family life for a man in that culture and that time period would have been unheard of.)

I know that the Bible doesn’t say it specifically, but it also didn’t say that some other midwife, or female help in this delivery.  Could Mary have done it all by herself?  That is unlikely.  I was present at the birth of all 4 of my children, and even though my wife is amazing she (like any other woman) needed an extra hand in delivering our children.  (A hand…and maybe some oxytocin…)

 

When you think about it, if Joseph was a participant in this delivery, it speaks to something incredible in regards to the role of men in their families that goes beyond provider and protector.   It reflects on men being present for any aspect of family life.  (No matter if it’s perceived as “feminine” or “women’s work”.)  I think we can accept the importance of men taking on more responsibility in the home.

 

I was considering how Joseph could embody our identity as modern men in this generation.  Men of this generation (from what I’ve seen) partner with our spouses in taking care of the home and the children.  We do so in a way that has been in stark contrast with our predecessors from the 1950’s and even the 1960’s.  (So ladies, cut us some slack…sometimes!)

 

So whatever, and however God desires us to participate in, and partner with our spouses in our home and families, as men we need to do it as the will of God.  It may be delivering a child (hopefully not) or making their lunches.  We are a new kind of men in today’s society, today’s generation.

(If you’re not married, take notes.)

One more thing, Joseph was a man of sexual integrity, and I deeply admire that about him.   He never touched Mary (sexually – till after the birth of Jesus), and it was not because he was commanded not to, but he put his own desires behind the well being of his wife and God’s plan.  (Men, we won’t die if we don’t have sex.)

Speaking of sexual integrity, next time I want to talk about what the Bible says about sexual integrity through scriptures you have never heard read on Sunday morning…  Trust me, I’m telling you the truth.  (Try Genesis 38 for size…)

Two things I don’t get… One that makes sense

There are two things I don’t get, and I come across them occasionally, primarily because I spend at least two and a half hours per day commuting to work.  Both are things that I’ve noticed on peoples’ cars.

 

First of all, I’ve got a bit of a bias against bumper stickers.  I figure that there are cheaper and better ways to advertise or communicate your message than on your car.  After all, it’s a car not a bill board right?  No, I’m not talking about the stickmen families (although, I’m not sure if I get that either.)   Have you seen the “Jesus fishes”?  They are symbols that the New Testament churches used (it was in the shape of a fish, and it referred to the word “fish”).

“The meaning of the word and symbol is very clever. The word ichthys means fish in Greek, but the letters are also the initials of five Greek words that mean “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior” (Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter).”  Sometimes this symbol was used to help persecuted Christians to secretly know where meetings would be held.

 

I get it.  It’s an evangelism tool, kind of.  What I don’t get are the “Jesus Fish” with the legs at the bottom.  It’s really an expression of Darwinism and evolution, is it not?   I can understand extreme passion of modern day Christians who would opt to place this symbol on their cars, but why would you put a “Jesus Fish” with legs?  At least a Christian’s passion is about God, and Christ and faith and devotion…

 

What possible passion and fanaticism could one have about Darwin?  Sure, they may have an inkling for what they believe is truth, but is there no other warmer or more emotional truth?  Who do you thank for a new born baby, or a nice summer day?  Darwin?

 

What about the second thing?

 

Well, I almost have to blush to even mention it.  You may not see them often, but have you seen the trucks where individuals have put well… male scrotum underneath their vehicles?   I’m not even sure where one buys this type of truck accessory.  I’m not sure I want to know.  (I’m not sure if it’s as bad as those cars with eyelashes on their headlights.)

 

But, really??

With the much needed discussion of what it means to be a man, and what is masculine, and what is manly…I’ll tell you this; it’s not a truck. Being masculine, and being a man may not always be the same thing, but I can guarantee this… a truck is not a man.  It’s ridiculous, it’s border line offensive (as a man) and mostly weird.  Sorry, that’s just the way I feel.

 

Now, being a “Genesis Man” man is the recognition that the core of what we are (men) revolve around the concept of relationship: relationship with God, relationship with people, and relationship with the environment.

 

One thing I do get, that has nothing to do with vehicle paraphernalia, is the solution to much of the problems plaguing young men and men.  It’s Mentorship.  Mentorship is a key element in relationship, and it flows out of the idea of the importance of relationships as noted in Genesis 2.

 

 

The Young Men’s Summit is less than a week away, it’s this Saturday May 23, 2015 from 1-4 PM!  Mentorship, employment and motivation will be our key area of focus and discussion.

 

This year there will be a forum discussion involving four special guests: Esrick Quintyn, Chudie Asidianya, Hugh Keane, and Mervin Dixon.

 

I’d love for you to be there to join this discussion.

 

Please email < menandmaleyouthalliance@gmail.com> and let me know you will be attending, if I don’t know already -I would like to make sure that we have enough lunch for everyone.  You could also fill in the form at the end of the Blog.

 

 

Lastly, from this Summit we will be creating the Durham Mentorship Employment Network.  More information will follow.

 

See you there.

 

Israel

 

The Wire, Violence, Sex and Drugs…

What’s happening in Baltimore?  Right now, it’s more complicated than this blog could possibly explain…

 

However, Baltimore was also popularized with the rendering of the 2002 – 2008 HBO television cop show called “The Wire”.  To be truthful, this is not a show that I would recommend.  There were incredible amounts of profanity, violence, sex and drug use.  Interestingly enough though, the use of profanity, violence, sex and drug use (depicted in the series) are symptomatic to the desperate social, economic conditions of perhaps “any given Sunday” inner city environment.  I’m guessing that the producer opted in creating a realistic, raw, adult representation of what things really look like.  (It’s not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure.)

 

The viewer realizes very quickly that every character is more than just flawed, and they are great distances from perfection.  As a matter of fact, there are equal opportunities of corruption, and genuine bad stuff portrayed by men and women, gay and straight characters, politicians and citizens, cops and criminals.  There is no one who is good.  The moral line is shaded and elusive.   The “good guys” aren’t always good, and the “bad guys” aren’t always bad.   Moral relativism rules the day like the t-rex hero of Jurassic Park (the first one, which incidentally was the best.)

 

One consistent observation I noticed was the lack of fathers.  (It was glaringly obvious during a heart breaking Season Four which focussed on education, following a group of young male characters and there descent into manhood.)    Mind you, there were plenty of male influences, but many of them were bad, and few were good.   The critical mass of positive male influences was critically low.   (I wonder if the lack of direct fathering, positive direct fathering,  is not the greater issue in these circumstances.)

 

We need an army of men to lead our sons and mentor the fatherless into authentic manhood and masculinity which focuses on relationships in three realms:  relationship with God, relationship with people, and relationship with their environment.

 

Relationship with environment refers to the reality in Genesis chapter 2 that God made purpose and work for Adam (the first male prototype).    God created the “garden” before He created the man.  God had every intention for Adam to take a “tending” role in his environment.

 

Purpose.  Meaning.  Employment.  Spiritual Relationship.   (They seem to be lacking at times.)  Are these our Achilles heel?  Does this lack account for some of the failure amoung men and emerging men encounter?

 

Fast forward to Baltimore.   The issues are real, deep and complicated, but I feel that taking up more responsibility of mentorship and leadership as men must be at least one of the keys to the solution.

 

In The Wire, does art imitate reality, or  is it the other way around?  It’s debateable, but here is an interesting conclusion…

 

Despite the language, sex, drug use and societal despair, in the end, the earthly hopelessness of our insurmountable social problems can find optimism in the divine, within relationship with Jesus Christ.

(Kind of a weird thing to take away from the show… eh?)

 

This is the last comment:

 

Saturday May 23, 2015 the Men’s Group at Erie Street Gospel Centre will be hosting our 3rd annual “Young Men’s Summit.”   (in Oshawa at 17 Erie Street, 1-4 PM)   The focus will be on Mentorship, Employment and Purpose.  Join us as we engage in a conversation with our special forum guests.

Please register at themenandmaleyouthalliance@gmail.com or call 905-433-1438 -as a free lunch will be provided.

 

Sincerely,

 

Israel