This is not the letter I wanted to write; if I it were down to me I’d write to you words of encouragement, words that would tell of Christ and his salvation, words that would paint pictures of the abounding love, grace and peace of God. But I can’t, there’s a greater burden on my heart, a burden that can no longer be ignored. This letter needs to be written and as no one seems to be writing it would seem that I must despite my lack of qualifications, my young age or that I write this letter to myself as much as anyone else.
More than anything I write to you as children because that is who we are. I do not like this knowledge but I find it to be undeniable: we are children, mere infants, because we have fallen so far short of the biblical call to manhood. We are children because our lives are marked by a distinct lack of responsibility, an abundance of apathy, an absence of discipline and a mindset of cowardice and fear. We call ourselves men but this is but a fiction for if we were men we would shake the world. Make no mistake, I will not mince my words or seek to hide behind pleasantries, I will be blunt, honest and hard because I will address you as the men you are not. This letter, if written correctly, will hurt you for I intend to strip you of everything and then lead you to Christ. In doing so brothers I strip myself of everything and lead myself to Christ, so come, if you are brave enough, let us face our faults, find them to be true, fall on our knees before God and so stand tall as men.
This article strays a lot more into the Ben Mildred view of things than the biblical view of things. Upon further reflection I may not agree with myself or entirely what I was getting at. Still, feel free to read it anyway.
It’s a funny old world; there was I thinking I was done with my ramblings on what it means to be a man when Mr Long Legged Cleggy Weggy (aka Nick Clegg) goes and embarrasses himself by announcing that he cries and has feelings. As one memorable comment on the internet said: “What a complete tit this Clegg man is.”
Now let me get this straight: I don’t have anything against men crying. Qualification: It has to fall under the following three categories: the death of a loved one, a heart broken by love, injustice or poverty or as a sinful man weeping before his Father God.
What I hate is when men cry for the wrong reasons: out of self pity, for little things of little importance or just because they’re, you know, really emotional people. The problem with Nick Clegg’s confession is that it makes him look weak and pathetic. Paradoxically enough there can be nothing more moving than a broken man crying. Indeed, there can be a lot of strength to a man’s tears.
It is my pleasure to introduce the following guest post on manology. It is written by a friend of mine, James Shrimpton, who has a regular blog called Ruminations of an Assistant Pig Keeper (if you get the reference award yourself some man points). As Proverbs 27 v 17 says: "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" Enjoy!
Examples to learn from
After Ben’s slew of excellent posts on the new field of ‘manology’, I thought it was about time I contributed to the subject. I don’t have any new insights to offer, but I thought I’d show a few of the great examples of manliness that have inspired and touched me. Most of them aren’t perfect, but they are all worth learning from.
And no, none of them are Chuck Norris. Sorry.
“While men differ in their individual lives, there are certain great qualities which are essential in all noble manhood”
Truth, justice, perseverance, purity, humility, love, leadership. There are more, but those will do for our consideration now. We’ll consider three examples together now, the historical example, the Biblical example and the ultimate example.
So far we’ve covered a lot. We’ve established that to be a man you don’t need to be as swift as a coursing river, have the force of a great typhoon, the strength of a raging fire or even be as mysterious as the darkside of the moon. No, to be a man you must obey God. For what is the sole end of man but to glorify God and enjoy him forever?
But then we also realized that we can’t do this. As men, on our own, we can do nothing without God. We are nothing without him. Without God we are like the beasts of the field, we are a vapour, a mist, the grass, there for a little while then blown away by the wind.
Yet there follows a truth more glorious than any we have yet discussed. It is best expressed in that verse from Joshua which if you don’t know off by heart by now you should feel ashamed:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1 v 9
Hello Man, look at yourself, now back to me, now back to yourself, now back to me, sadly, that’s not going to achieve anything. I’m not the man I should be, the man I want to be, the man God requires I be and I’m not by any stretch of the imagination the man to hold up as an example of being a man. No, instead I’m the boy I don’t want to be, the child it’s easier to be, the spoilt brat that I wish I wouldn't be and the coward that embarrasses me. But it’s worse than falling short of my standards because, after all, my standards aren’t what matters. I fall short of God’s standards of being a man.
And it gets me down. I long to be more than I am, I long to be what I should be, I long to be like the men of God who walk the pages of the Bible. How then do we go about this? How do we go from unmanliness to manliness? How, in short, do we man up?
The secret has two parts. Let’s start with the first:
Without God you can do nothing
For some reason the words may run into one another. I cannot solve this. Sorry. It's probably the influence of Chuck Norris scaring my words to huddle together.
As you may have noticed from my blog postsof late the question of what it means to be a man is still wandering around myhead and occupying my spare thought capacity. What’s more I keeprunning into bible verses, sermons and other stuff that keeps the topic in mymind. In the providence of God I came across the following verse in my dailybible reading:
“When the time drew near for David to die,he gave a charge to Solomon his son. “I am about to go the way of all theearth,” he said. “So be strong, act like a man,”
1Kings 2 v 1 – 2
These are David’s final words to his sonSolomon. And I love them as they essentially read: Son, I’m about to die, manup. But the question we must immediately ask is what did David mean by this?Fortunately he goes on to explain things to his son:
To put this in context as my twentieth birthday approaches I am becoming increasingly obsessed with what it means to be a man. And by that I mean what it means to be a man in the biblical sense, a man as God created me to be.
I’m beginning to form a picture of what it looks like. But as a side train of thought I remembered a scene from Lord of the Rings (see video at end of post) and thought I’d share it with you…
Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.
Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.
Over the last three months I’ve had a growing realization that so many of my problems in life can be solved by telling myself to man up. And as my twentieth birthday approaches I find myself more and more thinking about what that means. What does it mean to be a man? What should ‘manning up’ look like? So I created a new field of study: Manology. That is, the study of being a man. What follows is my first venture into the field as I explore the singular importance of the very biblical command to man up.
Of course, the actual phrase ‘man up’ doesn’t appear in the Bible. But we do Joshua 1 where God gives the new leader Joshua what can only be described as a pep talk.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1 v 9
The phrase ‘be strong and courageous’ is repeated four times in the passage. I read this chapter on the 27th November last year and the phrase has been stuck in my head ever since. It’s basically God telling Joshua to man up!