High Heels & Masculinity

Not long ago I heard on the radio that some men would be wearing high heel shoes in a special walk sponsored by the White Ribbon Campaign Organization…

I’ve often joked about wearing stilettos, but only in the context of explaining how the German army used tanks in their Blitzkrieg military strategy during WW2…   (They lined them up one in front of the other -as opposed to advancing side by side.)  I’d then explain further that if one’s foot was stepped on with running shoes as opposed to heels, the latter would be more damaging.   (That’s how the Germans were able to perform the “break through” of their enemies’ defenses with their tanks exerting the pressure like the tip of this female footwear…)   I may have totally lost you, but then again this was not supposed to be about grade 10 history.

Back to the point…  The White Ribbon Campaign is an organization that has the primary goal of ending gender-based violence and promoting gender equality.   (This is an extremely important agenda.) 

The other night I was catching up on “Timeless” (that television show that time travels through history) and it centered on the episode of women suffrage (the right to vote) in 1919.  I was horrified at the brutality and violence of the male police officers against the female protesters, and it seemed reminiscent of what occurs with domestic and other forms of gender violence.  Yet, how does the Campaign wage war against these behaviors? 

One of the primary values of the organization is to promote a “new vision of masculinity”.  The idea focuses on men taking responsibility and leading the charge against gender-based violence.  Men wearing high heels paints the metaphor of walking in another person’s shoes.  (Although,  I bet some women might argue about the cruelty of such uncomfortable footwear and rant against this representation of femininity…)

On their website they state the following:

Through education, awareness-raising, outreach, technical assistance, capacity building, and partnerships, White Ribbon’s programming challenges negative, outdated concepts of manhood and inspires men to understand and embrace the incredible potential they have to be a part of positive change.

Toxic masculinity hurts everyone.

How can manhood in all of it’s importance, depth and nuances be labelled as ‘negative’, and masculinity as ‘toxic’?  Those negative and toxic elements are not a holistic nor definitive  representation of all it is.  Masculinity and manhood represents nearly half the people on this planet.  So, what if I were to describe a large group of people by their worst offenders?  Furthermore, where does one find up-to-date concepts of manhood?

Interestingly enough, this ‘new vision of masculinity’ is actually an old vision -minus the high heels (which I suspect panders to the gender fluid ethos of our contemporary culture).

The first man (Adam -who appears to be an obvious template of masculinity) became “one flesh” with his wife.  Upon their introduction he declared words of comfort and care, meanwhile underscoring the depth and connection between a man and woman.  He said, “You are bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh…”  (Genesis 2:23)  He acknowledges his love and recognition for Eve by declaring how interconnected and intertwined they were on the most fundamental level.

In the New Testament the understanding is expressed further as males (husbands) are commanded to treat females (wives) as their own flesh (or bodies), which is a call to love, nurture and care.  (Ephesians 5:28)

Typically, we love our bodies and don’t demean, discriminate or are violent towards ourselves.  We take responsibility of this attitude, and the way we treat ourselves is the way men should treat women.  That has been the oldest and truest vision of masculinity. 

Stats about violence against women are unacceptable, alarming and sad, but masculinity is not toxic, nor does manhood require new vision.  We need to more clearly see the old one. 

What do you think?  Your thoughts and comments are welcome. 

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Who is Good Enough for my Daughter?

Who is good enough for my daughter?

As I reflect on this question, I’m reminded of that scene from that old movie Uncle Buck where he (the late John Candy) goes to pick up his 16 years old niece from a party.  Being rather protective he tells a shady looking boyfriend to “hold on a sec” while he goes to get an axe from the trunk that’s “sharp enough to circumcise a gnat…”   It was quite funny to watch the response of the young man…

You’d think with my having three daughters I’d carry around three axes, or at least one shotgun, but who am I kidding, I’m not a violent person.  Furthermore, I’m not one of those guys where “no one is good enough for his princess…”  Nonetheless, I have a very clear description of the type of young man who is not good enough.

The story of Jephthah (in Judges 11 in the Old Testament) is one of my favorites.  He was a young man whose purpose came off the rails, and was misaligned -largely through no fault of his own.   This young man was “illegitimate” meaning that his father conceived him with another woman that was not his wife.  When daddy died, he was no longer welcomed in the family by his brothers and was unceremoniously expelled from his community.   (Culturally, for that time period, family was everything and he became homeless in the biggest way.)

Jephthah chose then to go a place named Tob.  Although the name of this place meant “to be pleasing, or a good thing” it was far from that.  He fell among (and I quote)worthless men“.  No, this is not a Biblical mandate to confirm what you have suspect all along that men are dogs…  (But that’s not true…dogs are actually quite nice animals…)   All joking aside, Jephthah began an Old Testament thug lifestyle of stealing and killing to make a living – “raiding” for personal gain, as opposed to being a mighty man of valor God had created him to be.

Going back to the point, the Bible identified that there are some men who are “worthless”.   What a harsh thing to say!   But, this idea is not about being no good because of personal baggage, issues, or even merely “bad behaviour.”  Jephthah had all of these, but he was not a “worthless” man -although he wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice of suitors…

Worthlessness, as I understand it does not mean that they had no value as human beings -for God loves sinners, but they were worthless in the sense that they brought no value or worth to those that they were around.  They brought negative value, pain, addiction, and waywardness.  They had no investment in the well-being of Jephthah, nor were they a positive voice to guide him back to his true identity and purpose.  Those guys were takers, not givers. They just wanted to use Jephthah for what he was – muscle, a good fighter, and a good source of income.

As a father, I don’t want anyone that brings no value attached to the life of my children (male or female).

Obviously, we as men and teenaged boys aren’t perfect, (I get it, I know that I’m not), therefore, will I cut some young men a break when it comes to my daughters?  Probably not.  Jesus preaches, come as you are, and he’ll fix you, but my daughter isn’t Jesus.   It’s not their job to fix any worthless man (or boy).  Besides, it’s hard to be connected with someone else when one does not know who or what they are.

To any young men out there (or parents of young men), I think that they may need to work on discovering, developing and living in their true identities.  They’ll definitely need to “Let Sleeping Giants Lie” (take a look at that post if you haven’t already.)  And, when Jesus says that he’s worked on them enough, maybe that’s when it’s time to get into a relationship.

Do you agree or disagree?  Am I way off base?  Your comments and thoughts are welcomed.

 

Israel

God Loves Bad Men and… 

God loves men who are addicted to pornography, and God loves men who are not. God loves men who are good and loving to their wives, and God loves men who are not.  The uncomfortable reality (to those who are slightly self righteous) is that God loves good guys and bad guys…

In light of this opening statements, one must wonder… Is God conflicted?  Of course not.   But, wherever your theological paths may originate, it leads us to the larger truth which is that God loves men.

So, does your behavior matter?  (Hold that thought for a second.)

God identified David as a man “after His own heart…”   But David was guilty of marital infidelity- he saw a naked woman, lusted after her, and found a way to get her into his bed.

He was guilty of a murder conspiracy- he found a way to get Bathsheba’s husband killed so that he would be unintangled by loose ends.

He was guilty of being a poor, ineffectual father who let too many things slide which ultimately ripped his family apart…  (Those are the plain, ugly facts.)
“After God’s own heart”?
Does that mean that God was “fine” with his behavior?

No, actually, what is meant was that David had a heart towards God, he sought after God’s heart, in spite of his short comings.

The overlooked and uncomfortable reality is that having one’s heart towards God ultimately bears more fruit than one’s action.

Track with me here a second before you pick up stones…

Having your heart’s desire towards God is a path way to redemption, forgiveness and transformation.

When we read the book of Psalms, we don’t think about martial infedelity, murder or bad parenting…   We see a book (so beloved by believers)  that lifts our hearts and minds towards God.

Yes, bad behavior does matter, there must and will be a payment, but if you’re a believer, Jesus balanced that ledger some time ago.

Song number 12 on my Life Sound Track is called “You Are More” by Tenth Avenue North, and it has a chorus that really resonates with me:

“You are more than the choices that you’ve made,

You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,

You are more than the problems you create,

You’ve been remade.”

What do I hope to accomplish with this blog? Well, if you are less than perfect, if you struggle with hurts, hang up and addictions, if you’re not a good man, God loves you.  There is hope for whoever you are, and wherever you’re from.  You just need to start with turning your heart towards God.

This idea of focusing or not focusing on behaviour is probably an uncomfortable  slippery slope…    

I’m not trying to divorce behaviour from choices or consequences.  What I’m getting at, however, is that pointing out or focusing on behaviour rarely ever changes it.  You see that with the Old Testament “Law”, right?  (The Law couldn’t save, it could only highlight sin…)  

We know that behaviour is important because it’s all part of living out meaning.  You live out meaning based on how you behave, and that comes about by the way you think, (conscious and sometimes unconscious).  Addressing the thinking, as the foundation underneath, is important.

When I’m writing these blogs to reach men and young men, there are some young men who are engaged in bad behaviour, and instead of pointing that out, I want to make the focus about the thinking and what it means to be masculine.  Maybe that is a more relevant conversation to be had.  If we can turn our hearts to God, our behaviour will follow.   (Do you remember the move “Field of Dreams”?  “If you build it, they will come!”)

Yes, I was trying to drum up a little bit of “shock and awe” with the topic.  However, the theological point that underscores this entire discourse is that of grace and love.  God loves all people, and he wants them to become his sons and daughters.   The fact that God loves good and bad men really focuses on the importance of relationship.  It brings hope to guys, no matter where you are… you can still approach and explore that spiritual aspect of your masculinity.

Masculinity is about living in relationship with God as He helps you (and me) live above mere motions, reactions or the “nature or nurture” of life…

Know this, we are not shackled to bad behaviour.  On the other hand, we are not self righteous saints without spot or wrinkle.   Rather, as we live with God, that relationship can and will effect you and shape your own choices and actions…

You will find yourself living in your purpose, and living in the meaning and roles of manhood, and living in relationship with God in the physical, social, and spiritual arenas of your  masculinity.

The Justice League and Jesus 

​Apparently, wealth may be the most enduring super power of them all… (at least according to Batman…) 

I got the chance to watch the latest DC offering: The Justice League.  While I enjoyed it, (and I promise you they’ll be no spoilers here), I was moved in an odd way to maybe not anger… but to marvel (no pun intended).  To marvel at what, you ask?  

I was a little irritated because despite Superman having rescued world, despite he being the people’s hero, despite he being a beacon of hope for humanity, despite he giving his life, which was the ultimate sacrifice…the bank still foreclosed on the home of his grieving single mother?  Seriously? 

Did anyone at the institution think that maybe showing a little compassion would be at best human, or at worst a nice public relationship gesture?

It underscores the vivid reality that a man has to provide some kind of legacy for his family – whether he’s super or not.  Legacy is simply something that lives on after we are gone. 

Abraham had a strong sense of legacy.  He saw the future through the eyes of God and had the foresight, provision and planning to positively impact the people in his family (just ask Lot).  

Unfortunately, his younger nephew made poor   real estate choices, and landed in Sodom, hot water, and in captivity. 

When Abraham heard of his predicament, he used his pre-trained (black ops) personal security force to rescue Lot.  (You should check out his entire story in Genesis 12-14.) 

Now,  Superman may share some similar narrative messianic qualities, but if his character  indeed bears any parallels to Jesus…well I’ve got to say that Jesus did a better job making sure his mother was taken care of.

As well as discovering our legacy as young men, developing it in the daytime of our masculine strength, and protecting it in the twilight of our maturity, we as males need to take a note from Jesus’ playbook.  We’re tasked with protecting and providing for our families, or in other words, possessing a little Batman-like “contingency planning” mentality.   

I feel confident that we are all capable of doing this.  What do you think? 

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

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.