I was not a particularly big guy in high school. Playing football at 5 foot 8 inches and 180 pounds, I had to use my quickness to be successful instead of my strength. When I played offensive guard for the JV football team, I relished the opportunity to block the defensive linemen who were bigger than me. I was on a warpath and no opponent who lined up across from me was going to prevent me from completing my assignment. Even I was amazed at my own determination at times. If a big man was lined up across from me so that I couldn’t move him to the place I was assigned to, I just decided to take him in the other direction. No matter what, I was going to open the hole for my running back. As a grown man, I could learn a lot from my younger self. Masculinity calls us not to shy away from challenges, but to press in and go after them regardless of how daunting the task may seem.
Throughout Holy Scripture, we see the Lord calling men to impossible tasks-David slaying Goliath; Moses leading Israel out of Egypt; Elijah and the prophets of Baal- just to name a few. In all of these instances the Lord clearly expected the man to walk forward in obedience and faith in His provision. The Lord does not put a task in front of man and then withhold from him the ability and resources to complete it. So why do I so often find myself afraid to move forward when the Lord has placed in front of me a task that seems impossible or unachievable?
If you are like me, you might be acutely aware of all your weaknesses, past failures, and deficiencies. If I am not careful, this awareness paralyzes me. And to make matters worse, I often don’t realize that I am falling victim to this way of thinking unless someone else points it out to me. I love to dialogue with others about biblical masculinity and how being a Christian man should empower us to be willing to dream big and raise our aspirations. After all, we are co-heirs with Christ. We are sons of the Most High God. Our God owns and rules the universe, and we are His. We are His kings of whom He is King. And yet, when my feet hit the ground and I am confronted with real life challenges and tasks, this biblical perspective about my identity in Christ often fails to reach my brain. There is at least one reason for this that I have learned, and it goes back to my awareness of my weaknesses to begin with.
I have always been an introspective person. In high school I would sit in class and write poetry when I was supposed to be working on the lesson for the day. I would often skip school so that I could get away and pray. My first attempt at college only lasted 1 semester before I failed most of my classes and dropped out because instead of going to class, I wanted to escape to the woods and pray and reflect. One time as a young man, a young lady told me that I had a complex. I didn’t know what that meant and was worried it meant something bad. I proceeded to spend the next couple of days trying to figure out what she meant by it (this was before the days of google), only to find out that it means I care too much about what others think of me and am too aware of myself- or something like that (egg on my face). While it is good to be self-aware, I have begun to learn that it can also be unhealthy when taken too far.
Think of a man who has accomplished a seemingly impossible feat. Maybe someone whose achievements are recorded in Holy Scripture. Maybe someone in modern history. Now ask yourself, did this man have any weaknesses? Of course he did. Now ask yourself, would this man have accomplished such great things if he spent a lot of time thinking about how inadequate he was or how insufficient he was for the task confronting him?
Something I am learning about biblical masculinity (and I am far from having mastered this) is that strong, respectable men of God do not waste time worrying about whether they are able to accomplish the task God has given them. They walk forward in obedience with their faith on the Lord, not themselves. They are only able to think this way because they are not particularly introspective. I have learned that introspection, while potentially useful to an extent, can be one of the greatest enemies of godly masculinity. Instead of introspection, strong men go after challenges with their faith placed in God. If they fail, they fail trying with all their efforts spent achieving it. It is ultimately up the Lord to give them success, not themselves. There is something beautifully freeing about grasping this truth.
When we understand this, it frees us to live life to the fullest and pursue hard things. It strengthens our resolve to commit to the task, and reinforces our commitment, enabling us to persevere when the task feels too hard. It is only when we stop looking at ourselves and our weakness, which ALL humans have, and furrow our brow in faith towards the mountain in front of us that we then are able to leave a history of accomplishments for our posterity to enjoy and be proud of. When I lined up across guys bigger than me during a game, I did not pause and fret over the fact that I was smaller than the defensive lineman I was facing. I looked across at them before the play started with an inner smile because I knew I was about to drive them out of the way and there was nothing they could do about it. May we learn to live this way because the resurrected and risen Christ is our King.