Fathered by God – The Warrior

The Lord is a warrior.  A man wants to be something to be reckoned with – it is the heart of the warrior.

Everything you’re going to want in this life, you’re going to have to fight for.  Life is hard.  You were born into a world at war.  Your marriage, kids, jobs, dreams, extended family – you will have to fight for all of it.  It is opposed.  You are opposed.

The warrior heart is essential to overcome the passivity we all inherited from Adam.  Adam fell through passivity.  We need to overcome it.

We’re wounded in the warrior stage when we are taught as boys that all aggression is always wrong.  The stage is stifled when we have a passive father.  We are wounded when we try to rise up and we’re beaten down i.e. facing down a bully and losing.

The good news is that God wants to restore the warrior in us.  He allows hardships, trials, difficulties to come our way not because He’s abandoned us or is cruel but because He’s trying to teach us and train us.  When you see the passivity creeping in on you – choose against it.  Say to yourself, “No, I will not go passive here. I will stand up. I will speak up”.  Every time you do, it strengthens you and you will feel like more of a man.  Overcome your fears, overcome your self-doubts.

The warrior heart is that inner resolve, that inner strength that says “I will yield to nothing”.

Most of our training comes in the spiritual realm – spiritual warfare.  Whatever comes at you, the accusations, discouragement, assault…the warrior rises up in you and you say “No” – shut it down by the authority given to you by Christ.

Our tendency is to either go passive or take on too much.  “I must take this on to show I’ve got what it takes” and you take on way too much – or — the fear “I can’t take this on.  I’m afraid I don’t have what it takes.”  For all of us, in the crucial moment, when the battle is fierce, that question will always arise “Do I have what it takes?”

The enemy wants to shut down the warrior heart – through passivity, fear, shame, humiliation or defeat.

Stay in the battle, regardless of how it turns out.  (Think of fighting for your wife)  That is the heart of the warrior.

Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt became an American symbol of the “strenuous life” – one of his favorite phrases.  He believed in hard work, in pushing the body, in living on the aggressive, muscular, energetic side of life.  He worried that his generation of men were going soft and that the body would rob the mind and then the manhood of the nation.  He was right to be concerned.  We should be terrified of this today.

He didn’t start out like this.  Born into a wealthy family, he was a sickly child with severe asthma.  He was intellectual with a fierce curiosity and zeal for investigating life, but his body failed him.  Exertions brought on breathlessness which left him weak and bedridden.  Even when he paced himself, he quickly ran out of energy.  He seemed doomed to a nearly housebound life.  His father finally intervened and sat him down and said, “Theodore, you have the mind, but you have not the body, and without the help of the body, the mind cannot go as far as it should.  You must make your own body.  It is hard drudgery to make one’s body, but I know you will do it.” 

It was a turning point.  What boy wishes to disappoint his father?  What boy does not take to heart his father’s solution to a life-altering challenge?  A family member who watched the conversation later said that young Theodore, “the sorry little specimen”, looked up at his father, “threw his head back and declared he would do it”.  He devoted himself completely to the challenge.  He lifted weights, hammered away at a punching bag, swung dumbbells and spent hours grunting himself into position on the horizontal bars.  Years went by with little improvement.  Finally as a freshman in college, it started to take hold and Teddy experienced a “miraculous transformation”.  Those dreary years of exercise, hour after hour, made him into a man who knew the power of work, of will over body, and of the need for a man to live a strenuous life.

Later in life, he tragically lost his dear wife and his mother in one 24-hour period.  He was destroyed – “the light has gone out of my life” he would write.  He had a baby daughter he knew was in need a woman’s care and what he did next shocked the upper crust NY society but it completed the process of making him a heroic man.  He handed his beloved daughter to his sister, sold nearly everything he had, and moved to the Dakota territories, where for several years, he had been investing in a cattle ranch that overlooked a bend in the Missouri River.  He remained there for three years.

Why did he go?  Why such a dramatic move?  The answer seems to be that Roosevelt needed to restore and rebuild and he knew only one way to do it: return to the strenuous and the difficult.  Perhaps those hours of lifting weights and balancing on horizontal bars had surfaced forces of soul he needed to summon once again.  Perhaps a return to the arduous physical life was the only way he knew to quell the turmoil of his heart.  Obviously, he needed space, wilderness, difficult tasks, and looming danger.  He knew this was the key to healing.  He had experienced this truth in his life before.

After arriving in the Dakotas, Roosevelt did not spend three years in a comfortable chair by the fire with a brandy in one hand and a book in the other.  Instead, he became the western hero of his dreams.  He herded cattle and broke bucking horses.  He stood down grizzlies and fought off desperados.  On one occasion, he tracked down thieves for three days across 300 miles in subzero temperatures.  Once he took the criminals captive, he then traveled another six days and 150 miles to surrender them to authorities.  And the wilderness healed him.  He tamed the wilderness around him by way of taming the wilderness of his own soul.  He grieved and got through it.  He lived in the moment, in the physical, and in intimate connection with nature.  It forced him from living entirely in his thoughts to living a rooted, earthy life in which thoughts come only after work is done.

All men need what Roosevelt found – a strenuous physical life, the possibility of harm, challenges to face, enemies to oppose, land to conquer.  Our lives push us away from this.  We work in cubicles or comfortable vehicles.  Technology serves us and keeps us from exertion.  We live in opulent blandness – overfed, over-tended, over-entertained, and overly preoccupied with ourselves.  But men need aggressive, physical lives.  They need contest and conquest, strain and struggle.  Otherwise, we lose ourselves to softness and effeminacy.  It is not much of a surprise that a New Testament world that is translated effeminate from the original Greek actually means “soft through luxury”.  It is a warning. 

Roosevelt reminds us we are not disembodied spirits.  We are souls sealed into bodies.  We need to work the machinery, be alive in both body and soul.  It will awaken the masculinity in us.  It will help us untangle our inner knots.  It will remind us we are men.   (from the book Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men)

Fathered by God (3) – The Cowboy

About age 13, the question arises and it is “the” question of the masculine journey – “Do I have what it takes? Am I a man?”  It defines our life as men.  We get it answered through older men in their affirmation, validation and initiation through experiences in adventure and hard work.  Like when your Dad or Granddad tasks you to do something for the first time by yourself and you think “Wow, he thinks I’ve got what it takes and he thinks I can do this.”

The heart of the cowboy is wounded at this stage when he doesn’t have any of these experiences – when he never ventures out, never takes risks and never has those experiences that test him.  Or it is wounded when he does and he has failures and his Dad labels him – “you’re a Mama’s boy” or “You’re an idiot” or a “whimp”.

Teddy Roosevelt knew he was an unfinished man and so he put himself into hard places, learned to hunt, took on hard work with his hands and tools = he went into that unfathered place and got it.

So the encouragement to you is to fix things at your home.  Fix the broken sprinkler.  Fix the busted door.  Go to Home Depot, ask for help, watch youtube videos, figure it out and then do it.  Don’t just call someone.

Without these experiences, we become men who won’t take risks, who are hesitant, soft, stay in areas where we feel safe.  It’s wrong to let a man stay on the couch or the boy to stay in front of the video game.  Seek adventure with other men.  Your heart loves being a part of something and being invited up into something big.

The risk is that you find something you’re good at and you lock onto it.  Work.  It’s safe.   I can do it.  “I can do my job” and so you go there. All your energy is poured into work and you disengage from the rest of life.  Work becomes your life.  You don’t need to take risks, work justifies you.  It justifies a small existence.  And so everything else in his life suffers because work is his life.  The contra is true as well – that we can become adventure junkies and just spend our lives seeking the next, greatest adventure.  And that’s a small life too because where is the wife?  Where is the investment in the kids?  Where is community?  We must seek an appropriate balance here.

If you’ve missed this as a man – go get it.  It’s there.  God can take you there.  You can learn to hunt or to fix a lawnmower or build a table. It’s never too late.  You can pick up deer hunting at age 40.  You can learn to fish at 50.  You can learn woodworking or plant a vegetable garden.  You can hike the Appalachian Trail.  It doesn’t have to be outdoors – though we suggest that because there is something about nature that tests us – adventure can be starting a new ministry, working at a food bank or starting a small group of men.   The point is, adventure is just beyond your comfort zone.  Will you take the step?

It seems like God allows hardships in our lives because there is something He wants to surface.  It’s one thing to be told you have what it takes, it’s quite another to be tested and see there is actually a resolve in you that rises up in the face of adversity.

So the question for you today is “At what point in your life do you find adventure?”  Where is it?  Are you living any adventure?

Fathered by God (2)

Boyhood is designed to be a time of exploration and wonder made safe by a good and loving father.  If that was “well done” by your dad, you felt the delight of fathering – of knowing you are the beloved son.  You were designed to hear it – you needed to hear it.  The boy needs an assurance that he is loved, prized and beloved.  Without it, he can feel abandoned.

The Prodigal Son, despite his desire to leave home and spend his inheritance, when he turned home he saw his father run to him and embrace him.  It is a message of “You matter to me.  I delight in you”.

We are wounded at this stage through experiences that tell him he is not the beloved son.  It is a passive father – who doesn’t say “I love you”, doesn’t hug, doesn’t show affection and who checks out emotionally, relationally and spiritually.  A young boy doesn’t know how to interpret that.  He gathers from it, “It must be my fault” or “What I do is never really good enough”.  Or it comes through a violent father – physical, verbal, sexual abuse.  The boy learns he is not safe and not adored.

We see wounded men at 30-40-50 – they crave attention or the story always has to be about them – or – they can’t move confidently into their world.  They are hesitant.  Fearful.  They seek love through chasing success, needing constant affirmation or fixating on sex.  None of that ever works.

We see that the way a man’s heart was handled as a boy has shaped him as a man today.

Most of us did not get that effectively from our earthly Dads but we can receive it daily from God.  Hearing that from God and knowing you are a son brings healing to your past and gives you this foundation you need so that you can move confidently into your world and into the masculine journey knowing you really are a son.

It’s crucial.

(From the book)  “You are the son of a kind, strong, and engaged Father, a Father wise enough to guide you in the Way, generous enough to provide for your journey, offering to walk with you every step.  This is perhaps the hardest thing for us to believe – really believe, down deep in our hearts, so that it changes us forever, changes the way we approach each day.  Of the thousands of conversations I’ve had with men over the years, in a counseling office or around a campfire, and of all the personal struggles that fill the pages of my own journals, I believe this is the core issue of our shared dilemma as men.  We just don’t believe it.  Our core assumptions about the world boil down to this: we are on our own to make life work.  We are not watched over.  We are not cared for.  When we are hit with a problem, we have to figure it out ourselves, or just take the hit.  If anything good is going to come our way, we’re the ones who are going to have to arrange for it.  Many of us have called upon God as Father, but, frankly, he doesn’t seem to have heard.  We’re not sure why.  Maybe we didn’t do it right.  Maybe he’s about more important matters.  Whatever the reason, our experience of this world has framed our approach to life.  We believe we are fatherless.

The enemy’s one central purpose is this – to separate us from the Father.  He uses neglect to whisper, “You see – no one cares.  You’re not worth caring about.”  He uses a sudden loss of innocence to whisper, “This is a dangerous world, and you are alone.  You’ve been abandoned.”  He uses assaults and abuses to scream at a boy, “This is all you are good for”.  And in this way, he makes it nearly impossible for us to know what Jesus knew, makes it so very, very hard to come home to the Father’s heart toward us.  The details of each story are unique to the boy, but the effect is always a wound in the soul, and with it separation from and suspicion of the Father.  It’s been very effective.”

Fathered by God (1)

Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.      Jeremiah 6:16

“The journey of masculine initiation…

We don’t know much about the stages of development in our instant culture.  We have someone else make our coffee for us.  We no longer have to wait to have our photos developed – not even for an hour – for now we have digital cameras in our phones that deliver back to us the image, instantly.  We don’t have to wait to get in touch with someone – we can email them, page them, call them on a cell phone, text them … this very moment.  We don’t need to wait for our leather jackets or our jeans or caps to get that rugged look – they come that way now, pre-faded, tattered.  Character can be bought and worn immediately.  (wow)

But God is a God of process.  If you want an oak tree, he has you start with an acorn.  If you want a Bible, well, he delivers that over the course of more than a thousand years.  If you want a man, you must begin with a boy.  God ordained the stages of masculine development.  They are woven into the fabric of our being, just as the laws of nature are woven into the fabric of the earth.  In fact, those who lived closer to the earth respected and embraced the stages for centuries upon centuries.  We might think of them as the ancient paths.  Only recently have we lost touch with them.  In exchange for triple venti nonfat sugar-free vanilla lattes.  The result of having abandoned masculine initiation is a world of unfinished, un-initiated men.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.  We needn’t wander in a fog.  We don’t have to live alone, striving, sulking, uncertain and angry.  We don’t have to figure life out for ourselves.  There is another way.  Wherever we are in the journey, our initiation can begin in earnest.  Far better for us – and for those who have to live with us, who look to us – to rediscover the stages and honor them, live within them, raise our sons through them.  Which brings us back to our predicament: who is going to do this for us?”

And so begins our study of “Fathered by God”.

Many of us feel unfinished as men because of the gaps that exist in our teaching – things we missed from our fathers.  We feel like, “I don’t know how to handle life”.

Step 1 is just to admit, “I am an unfinished man that needs fathering, that needs initiation”.  That’s dropping the poser.  Step 2 is having the humility to say, “I can’t do this myself.  I need someone to show me the way”.  There is incredible freedom that comes as you drop the pose and say “I need help”.  There is no shame in saying, “I’ve never used a chain-saw but I want to learn how, can you show me?”  To go from a man doing life all alone posing that he has it all figured out to the man that is authentic in is strengths, humble in his weaknesses and freely asks to be fathered is a beautiful thing.

That’s where we’re going this summer.  Come along for the ride…

Wounds – are you willing to “go to the pain”?

Disney’s The Kid.  We see Russell Duritz.  He crucifies people.  Leaves wreckage behind.  He is a heartless man.  What is wrong with him?  What’s his story?  “What have I become?  How did this happen to me?”  Have you ever felt that way about yourself?  Ever wondered how you got this way?

Where along the way did I lose heart?

The heart is the center of human personality.  Jesus wants your heart close to Him.  The heart is the center of the action.  “It is wicked” – yes, no doubt … before Jesus gets a hold of it.  Acts 15:9 “God purified the heart”.  Matthew 13 – the parable of the sower – “The seed that fell on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart.”  As a believer in Christ, you have a new heart, a good heart.  We no longer want to sin.  That isn’t our desire.  We still sin but our heart doesn’t want to go there.  Christ has removed your heart of stone and given you a heart of flesh.  It is your heart that Jesus came to rescue and restore.

Through our wounds and our pain, many of us have hardened our heart.  That’s what we see in Russell Duritz – he’s a jerk and runs over people and hasn’t shed a tear since his 8th birthday.  His heart is hard.  And this happens to all of us – this is a brutal world for the heart.  And we find ourselves not being the man we wanted to be.  Feeling our future is uncertain, fear compels us.  That’s where the perfection comes from.  It’s where our emotional distance comes from.  Our drivenness.  The anger is rooted deeply in … the heart.

John shared his story.  Working in Washington DC.  Driven man.  Crisp.  Sharp.  Intense.  Untouchable.  Angry.  Lead, follow or get out of the way.  Brutal perfectionist.  Began to notice that he didn’t have any close friends.  That his anger was just beneath the surface.  No real interest in God the Father.  No interest in “Father”.  Jesus yes but not the Father.  Uncomfortable around men.  His anger would especially come out around older men – particularly older men above him that weren’t leading well.  Married but totally emotionally distant from his wife.  Affair with his work.  Consumed with fear.  “Life is up to me.” 

Finally he had to deal with it and had a counselor go deep with him to figure out where all this was coming from.  He dug into his story.  He had a great few  years with his Dad, traveling with him, camping and fishing all the time and then his Dad fell into alcoholism and he disappeared.  No Dad.  He didn’t know how to handle it or interpret it.  “I must not be worth fighting for.”  The camping trips ended, fishing trips ended.  Family blew apart.  John started acting out, rebelling, getting in trouble, arrested.  It was a cry of “engage with me, rescue me”.  In John’s wounded-ness he made the agreement, “I’m on my own.  I’ll never need anyone.”

The arrow pierced his heart and rather than asking God to heal it, he just shoved it in deeper.  “I can live heartless. Fine.  Who needs a heart?”  He became driven and emotionless.  Do you now see how he became this driven, emotionless, angry man who didn’t trust older men?

The core question of a man of “Do I have what it takes?”  Our wounds tell us “no” via the silence.  The question has never been answered and so we’re haunted by the doubt that “I’m not”.  In The Kid, we think Russell is just a jerk and then we hear his story.  There’s always a story.  Always a story.  Beneath every posing man is a wounded boy.  This is a brutal world on a boy’s heart.

The Father/Son relationship is the primary relationship in this world.  Every boy needs to know that – 1) his father adores him – and – 2) have the core question answered of “Do I have what it takes?”  Even Jesus needed these.

Dad has the power to bless by giving his son these and he has the power to cripple a boy by withholding them.  How about you?  Did your Dad do these things for you?  Do you see how if you didn’t get this foundation from him how it could have shaped your personality today?  This isn’t an exercise to go and blame our Dad’s.  No, this is an effort to find the pain.  Many of us will rewind the tapes of our lives only back so far – maybe to college or when we got married and we haven’t been willing to go back to the things that shaped us as kids.  That is where we need to go to ask Jesus into those places so He can heal them and you can be restored.

Are you willing to talk about it?  Are you willing to go to the pain?