Tony’s father died when he was a young boy. The event devastated him, and he plummeted into a yearlong depression. He eventually pushed the depression aside, however, through his achievements. He poured himself into his schoolwork and athletics, and excelled in both. He went on to college and into business knowing nothing but success because of his commitment to hard work and achievement.
As a young man, Tony, somewhere deep inside him, asked himself, Am I a man? But he couldn’t come up with an answer. His father, the main man in his life, was dead. Young Tony didn’t know by example what a real man was. The question persisted: Am I a man? Without the example and instruction of his father, Tony saw the achievement-oriented men in his culture and deduced that a real man was someone who worked hard, earned lots of money, and climbed the ladder of success. Any threat to his achievement, therefore, was a threat to his manhood, and that kept him perpetually angry.
In his ignorance, Tony wrongly defined manhood as something he did, not something he was. Are you like Tony? Maybe you’re like many men who were abandoned physically or emotionally by their fathers. If your definition of masculinity is linked to doing something there’s a good chance you often don’t feel like a man. And if you’re a dad, I encourage you to reflect on what message your sending your kids on what it means to be a man.
Yesterday I spoke about Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the difference between what he called ‘cheap and costly grace.’ Unlike Bonhoeffer, most of us probably won’t be called to martyrdom. But all of us are called to lay down our lives as living sacrifices in response to the grace given to us by our living God. All of us, in other words, are called to acknowledge that there’s a cost to Christian discipleship.
- It costs very little to attend church, join a men’s group, or go to a conference for Christian men. But it costs a great deal to come home and remain committed to following Christ when it means loving your family sacrificially.
- It costs very little to avoid pornographic magazines, videos and websites. But it costs much more to submit your mind and eyes to purity on a moment-by-moment basis.
- It costs something to send your children to Christian schools to be taught from a Christian world view. But it costs a lot more to live by example before your children’to shepherd their hearts with wisdom, consistency, strength, and compassion.
- It costs something to insist that your kids dress modestly. But it costs a lot more to help them to think and act modestly — with humility of spirit.
So, Christian man’husband’dad’where do you stand? Are you comfortable? Have you made too much peace with sin? If so, I challenge you to think about the cost of Christian discipleship, and be willing to spend what it takes to be a true disciple.
You face unlimited distractions that keep you from looking at yourself and your circumstances, don’t you? You use these things’ like work, sports, food, sex, or stuff’to try and meet legitimate needs in unhealthy ways. In other words, when you crave something you know isn’t good for you, you do so because you’re using it as a substitute for something you legitimately need but that you find has been difficult to acquire or achieve.
For example, men with an insatiable desire for status or possessions often have an unmet need for love but are afraid to take the risks that intimate relationships require. Instead they invest their time, money, and energy in inanimate objects’things that cannot surprise, disappoint, or reject them. Other men continually demand perfection in others. More often than not, they’re struggling with their own feelings of inferiority’and ultimately, with their own need to be forgiven.
Any intense ‘need’ or desire for a particular activity or relationship is a warning flag that you need to look at it more carefully. You may not know you’re using that activity or relationship as a substitute, but if the thought of losing it makes you fearful, you need to explore the reason why.
My point, men, is this: You have legitimate needs. And an important part of seeing and living the truth is finding out what those true needs really are and realizing that your heart won’t be satisfied by counterfeit substitutes.