"I've been feeling totally inadequate as a man lately because I don't do anything "manly". I'm not strong, I don't play sports, don't know how to fix things, don't know how to fish, or camp, couldn't beat up a fly... I think "How the heck can I raise up a man if I have no idea how to be one". What I want more than anything is to be a skilled, tough, man."
I can totally relate. I have spent most of my life feeling like I am not a real man, feeling I don't measure up to others' expectations and views of what I should do as a man. American society has this idea of what it is to be man, and sadly it has crept into the church and the most Christian of homes and families. It goes something like this:
1) A real man loves sports. Playing, watching, and eating sports.
2) A real man can tear apart and rebuild an engine, change the oil on his car, fix anything on his car
3) A real man can build things
4) A real man has sex with every woman he can have - OK, slight exaggeration there
5) A real man smokes, drinks, and curses like a sailor
6) A real man marries and has several kids
7) A real man drives a pick up and rides a harley without a helmet.
8) A real man is a walking advertisement for a tattoo parlor
9) Real men don't cry
And other manly things, or so called manly things like that.
I never managed to meet many of the manly ideals.
1) Lousy at sports and hate sports..... ................strike 1
2) Can't fix anything on a car..............................strike 2
3) Hate hunting, fishing is OK but a bit boring.....strike 3
4) Marriage is out, no kids.................................strike 4 and 5
5) There's no way I'd ride a motorcycle, much less without a helmet.... OK, that is common sense, doesn't deserve a strike....
6) And there's no way I am putting a permanent tattoo on this body. It isn't much of a body, but it just ain't happening.
7) I cry............................................................strike 6
8) I love to read..............................................strike 7
9) I love to shop, especially in bookstores.......strike 8
10) Sexual identity issues......................... more strikes than I could come up with
I don't even know how to run a chain saw. Oh, I could start one, but would most likely cause serious injury to me, and none to the tree. And I did change the oil on my car once, but it was so much of a bother, I decided I'd rather pay someone else to do it. And I can change a tire. I also wear blue jeans when I can.
Throw sexual identity issues into the mix, and I have felt as far from being a real man as I could possible feel. No, I never felt like a woman, thank God - no offense ladies - but feel like a man? No way. It was just something to add to a long list of failures. I wasn't good at anything, but especially at being a man.
But here is the truth of the matter: each society and age down through time has had different ideals of real manhood. Take a Harley-riding, tattoo-covered guy from today and drop him into Egypt during Moses' time, and he'd be lost. A real man built pyramids, mixed mortar, rode camels...... not a loud, dangerous machine. Drop your sports fan that can tear an engine apart and put it back together into the days of the Old West, give him the equipment they had then, and tell him to build a house from trees, and he'd be lost. In light of the men of the day, he wouldn't measure up.
I don't imagine Adam, Noah, and Jesus had much interest in sports. We have no record of Jesus hunting. Fishing? Kind of. He did build things, but compared to modern Amercia's definition and ideas of being a real man, they wouldn't measure up much better than I do.
I was reading recently of some tribe on the other side of the world that has a rather barbaric test of manhood. When a boy turns 13, he is circumcised, with nothing for the pain. If he makes it through the ordeal without crying or making a sound, he is a man. Wow. Put that up against the average sports loving man from the USA. They'd be screaming and passing out.
Could it be that most societies and civilizations have it wrong on what it means to be a real man? If it changes from country to country, from age to age, then who is right? Are any of them right?
The Bible doesn't just come out and list a bunch of things and say "this is what makes a real man", yet all through Scripture there are evidences of what God wants for us as men, and what is important to Him. Things like:
8) Waiting til marriage for sex, then being faithful
9) Serving God with all you have
10) Hard working
11) Memorizing Scripture, not sports scores
12) Refraining from addictions like smoking, drinking, and drugs
13) Not walking out on your family, even one in the womb
And there could be a lot more added to that list. God doesn't care that I am terrible at sports, if I can fix a car or plumbing, if I ever can marry. If I cry - after all, Jesus Himself cried.
I haven't arrived. Even with that short list I made above, I have a lot of room for improvement. No, I don't drink, smoke, or do drugs, but I've battled addictions and bad habits. I've fallen short in the other areas, but God still loves me. I am still a man in His eyes, and I would rather strive for the things the Bible says to strive for as a man, than be the best mechanic, hunter, or ball player in the world.
Now for the record, I am not saying that everything I listed that people view as traits of real men aren't wrong. A few of them are, and a couple of them are just plain dumb.
What I am saying, is I would rather my manhood be defined by God and His Word. After all, He is the ultimate authority on........ well everything, including what makes a real man. And it isn't sports or big trucks. It is living for Him and obeying and serving Him, no matter what the cost.. That takes a real man.