Feature

Deep Impact

Why men matter

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If you’re a man, I have good news for you, and I have sobering news for you.

The good news: you matter. Despite the questions our society often raises about the value of men, and especially fathers (think Homer Simpson), you have a deeply important calling as a man. Your presence and your words have an enormous impact on those around you.

The sobering news: you matter. Your words and presence have impact, but that impact can go either way. It can bring life, security and blessing into the lives of others, especially your wife and children—or it can bring fear, shame and violence.

In my work as a minister to men, I regularly encounter men who question their value and competency. In fact, a deep, hidden doubt in their ability to effectively manage the requirements of their lives is one of the most common traits I see.

A few years ago I met a 30-something man who seemed to have the world by the tail. He was the hotshot CEO of a growing company; he had a trophy wife, a beautiful home in the suburbs and a red convertible Porsche he drove at ridiculous speeds to work every morning. He apparently had it all.

Then one morning he called me. “Craig,” he said, “I’m on the shoulder of the expressway. I’m heading into a meeting with my board. They know everything. They know my lies, my cheating and my cover-ups. I can’t pull this thing off anymore. They know the truth about me—I’m ruined.” Then he burst into tears.

Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) had it right when he said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” That’s just as true today as it was in his time. The only difference is that the desperation is not as quiet. How else can we explain the unbelievable risks so many men take to pursue that forbidden affair, to pad their wallets while their employees lose jobs, to bilk others of billions of dollars in pyramid schemes?

What’s going on here?

Intrinsic Value

What’s going on is that men have fallen for the lie that their value is defined by performance, position, power or possessions. Too many men believe that they matter to others solely because they have the world’s external badges that prove their worth. At the same time they know the truth beneath the surface: they wrestle with fear, anger, confusion, exhaustion.

The internal conflict these men live with, the demands of keeping the secrets or keeping pace with expectations, results in men who either passively give up or violently take their rage out on those who least deserve it. You may know some men like this. You may be this man.

In Psalm 139, we learn that all men and women have deep intrinsic value because we were knit together by the God of the universe. Even before we were born, God knew us and formed us uniquely, regardless of gender. But when God chose to reveal himself to mankind, he did so as a Father and as a Son.

When I did training for a mission agency several years ago, my colleagues and I had the dual roles of preparing those candidates who would go to the field and holding back those who should not. Invariably, some had unhealed emotional wounds that profoundly affected their ability to relate to others in a healthy way.

Over the years I saw a consistent pattern in those who were deeply wounded, whether men or women, single or married: almost always, the factor that most heavily influenced their wounded self-esteem and personal sense of value was their relationship with their father.

That realization glared at me like a flashing light: Craig, it’s about the father. It’s about the father. That awakening had a deep affect on me as a dad.

Bless Me, Father

When God chose to reveal Himself as a father, He laid a spiritual mantle on all men who would follow. The presence and words of men carry a message of love and grace—or of judgment and condemnation. Children believe what their fathers say about them, whether it is a message of blessing or of shame. And they make the assumption that God agrees. Many of you reading these words know from personal experience that this is true.

Even Jesus needed to hear words of blessing from His Father. We know that Jesus’ impact on the world was largely unseen for 30 years, until the day he was baptized. “And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’” (Matt. 3:17). The Father gave His Son words of identification; He gave words of love; He gave words of pride.

Later, on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt.17:5), the Father spoke the very same words about His Son with one additional phrase: Listen to Him. With that blessing from the Father, the Son changed the history and future of the world.

Here is one of the most amazing principles of fathering I know: A boy’s primary model for masculinity comes from his father. A girl’s primary model for femininity comes from her mother. A boy receives endorsement of the innate value of his masculinity—that he has what it takes—from his father. A girl receives endorsement of the innate value of her femininity—that she is worth loving—from her father as well.

It’s about the father. When a father withholds blessing from his son, the son will look for it in a community of men through performance or destruction. Or else he will retreat into defeat and passivity.

When a father withholds blessing from his daughter, she will look for it in the words and the arms of another man. Again, many of you already know this from personal experience.

Embrace It

Mothers deeply impact the lives of their children, and they seem to intuitively understand this. Most sacrificially give their lives to bring love, safety, nurture and presence into the lives of their kids.

It’s men who so often seem to confuse their value and their role. Men are called to speak words of blessing into the lives of others, whether to their wives, their children or other men. But so often men swallow the lie of our culture that says, “Your value is in what you own, wear, build or drive.”

Men matter. Deeply. This is the core message I speak to men. But it has nothing to do with the external trappings the world esteems.

I urge men to understand their deep value simply because of Who created them.

I urge them to embrace their roles as men by bringing blessing into the lives of others.

And I urge them to _live out the unique personal calling_1s that God has placed on them through their giftedness and their healed woundedness.

1 Corinthians 16:13–14 describes in simple terms the calling for men: Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do all these things in love.

Men, you matter.

The Call of a Father

In 1 Thessalonians 2:11–12, Paul provides some principles for good fathering when describing his relationship to the church in Thessalonica: “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting, and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (emphasis added).

A good father encourages his children by

  • Giving his time: Nothing tells a child she is valued more than the fact that her father is willing to spend time with her. We encourage our kids by making a priority of spending time with them.

  • Giving his attention: A good father learns what is important to his kids and makes an effort to engage them there. His attention conveys the message: Your life is important to me.
  • Speaking words of affirmation: Colossians 3:21 reminds us not to deflate our children’s spirits. Rather, our words should lift them up and encourage them toward paths that are healthy and life giving.

A good father comforts his children by

  • Expressing love: Regardless of whether a man heard them from his own father, his children need to hear him say those three words, “I love you” . . . often.

  • Touching frequently: A good dad finds ways to maintain appropriate physical contact with his kids, be it a quick squeeze of the arm, a hug or an impromptu wrestle on the ground.

He urges his children to live lives worthy of God by

  • Teaching biblical truth: Deuteronomy 6:1–9 indicates that we fathers instruct our kids by the full impact of our words and behavior, all the time: at home, away from home, at rest and at work. Our kids learn biblical truth by how we treat those around us and how we live our lives.

  • Disciplining grace-fully: Proverbs 19:18 makes it clear that in discipline there is hope; lack of discipline brings death. A good father courageously enters into circumstances that are frequently filled with complexity and uncertainty. He refuses to remain passive; he humbly corrects sinful behavior in a manner that is full of grace.
  • Casting a vision: An engaged dad pays close attention to who his child is, what he loves, how she is gifted and what he has to offer others. He resists the temptation to push her into the most prestigious school, or lucrative career, simply for the sake of family reputation.

—Craig Glass

Past Alliance Life Issues

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