A triumphal warrior’s call

Subversive for the Savior
Devotional by John Piper      (my comments in orange)

When Jesus met the man filled with demons at Gadara, the demons cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29)

Demons learned a mystery here. They knew they were doomed. They knew the Son of God would be the Victor. But they didn’t know until it happened that Christ was coming before the time of final defeat.

Christ is not going to wait until the atom bomb drops to end the war. He has begun to lead a subversive force into the territory of Satan. He has trained a “life-squad” (that’s us boys) to perform daring rescue operations. Christ has plotted many tactical victories before the time of the final strategic victory.

The resulting wartime mentality is this: Since Satan’s doom is sure, and he knows it, we can always remind him of it when he tempts us to follow him. (Remember … “Lake of fire, Lake of fire”.  When assaulted, remind the foul one of his final destination!)  We can laugh and say, “You’re out of your mind. Who wants to join forces with a loser?!”

The church is the liberated enemy of “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). We are the guerrillas and the gadflies. We are the insurgency in the rebel kingdom of “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2).  (Big AMEN to that!)

It is not safe. But it is thrilling. Many lives are lost. Satan’s forces are ever on the lookout for our subversive activity. Christ has guaranteed resurrection for all who fight to the death. But he has not guaranteed comfort, or acceptance from the world, or prosperity in enemy territory.

Many have gladly given their lives behind the lines running errands for the Commander. I can think of no better way to live — or die!

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What am I supposed to “do” ?

We had a full room this morning .  55 strong.  God showed up!  

Here are the slides from this morning —> manschool-wholeness-4

Read the following text from Romans 7 in The Message.  See if you can relate…

But I need something more!  For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help!  I realize that I don’t have what it takes.  I can will it, but I can’t do it.  I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway.  My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

It happens so regularly that it’s predictable.  The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up.  I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight.  Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

I’ve tried everything and nothing helps.  I’m at the end of my rope.  Is there no one who can do anything for me?  Isn’t that the real question?

I highlighted in bold a few of the key passages – “I can will it, but I can’t do it”.  I can’t do it.  As much as I want to stop the sin … I just can’t stop it.  My decision to “stop” just simply doesn’t result in action.  The cycle of repeating this habitual sin happens so regularly, it’s predictable.  Think > pornography.  lust.  overeating.  road rage.  a relentless focus on self.  isolating myself. overspending.  As hard as I try, I cannot stop the cycle …

cycle

We all struggle with habitual sins we cannot seem to stop.  And you know, as you go through this cycle, it really turns into a downward spiral.  The more I repeat the sin, the deeper into my guilt/shame I go.

“The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does”.  Romans 7:25 MSG.

Christ can “do” it.  You cannot.  I cannot.  In my power, I cannot overcome this habitual sin.  The cycle will defeat me as it always has (or else I wouldn’t now have this habitual problem!).  But… but … Christ can.  And He does that by shifting how you look at this.  Stop focusing on the “doing” and start focusing on what you want to “be”.  Focus on the “being”.

Galatians 5 > “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”.  Focus on one of these that you feel God is wanting to push into with you.  Instead of trying to “stop” sinning, instead focus on what you feel God wants you to “be”.  For instance, I want to be a man of self-control.  I don’t want to be that man that is driven by his impulses.  My desire is to learn to control my impulses and learn self-control.  For me, that starts with a very small thing, resisting the impulse to drink Coke Zero and instead drink water.  Maybe it’s also giving up cookies after dinner.  Maybe it is giving up the “relief” of a certain TV show I go to.  It starts with the little things.  Little steps of faith of a long-obedience in the same direction.  God’s trying to teach me a big thing like self-control.  He’s sanctifying me.  It’s a big picture, “Richard I want you to get this.  I will use it in you in a big way so I need you to learn self-control.  I’m building you, shaping you, preparing you.  You need this tool in your toolbox for life.”  It may begin with a very small act of obedience … water instead of Coke Zero.  It may be no more wine.  It may be deleting apps.  It may be starting a regular exercise program.  It may be…  

It’s a small step towards a big sanctification.  The cycle above is me-focused.  My ability or inability to stop, my failure, my shame, my repeating the same cycle over and over.  By instead turning inward from my ability to overcome this, it is turning outward to Father and letting Him show you what it is He wants to sanctify and teach you.

The answer isn’t what you need to stop doing.  It is, instead, a process of looking to what kind of man you want to be.

attached is a link to Nick Cash’s blog post that Derrick referred to this morning —> http://www.seedbed.com/mind-the-gap-between-being-and-doing/

Nick reminds us that our desire for being will determine our actions.  Do you see it?  The cycle above is all about our actions changing our being.  No.  Wrong.  That won’t do it.  Your actions are what got you in that cycle in the first place.  You cannot conquer habitual sin with “doing”.  No, instead it must come from what you want to be.  What kind of man do you want to be?  What kind of man does God want you to become?

Breaking out of inward living – Excurvatus Ex Se

There are many ways to break out of the cycle of inward living.  The more you “medicate”, the more inwardly you will turn thus requiring even more medication and a deeper turn inward upon self.

Medicate?  Scrolling through Instagram or Facebook.  Just cruising around the internet.  A few glasses of wine.  That need to just go buy something so you’ll feel better about yourself.  Indulging on Chipotle.  Chocolate.  Ice cream.  Shutting off from people, plugging in your ipod, opening up your laptop – listening and watching what will make you feel good.  Pornography.  Pure and simply, porn is simply medication.  Shopping for women.  A new car.  There 100s more forms of medication.  1000s.

The root of all of these is “self”.  It is sin.  You are hurting and your flesh cries out for comfort and after all, “you deserve it”.  So you dive in.  And as we discussed Wednesday, as that cycle feeds on itself, the man underneath curves inward upon himself.  He becomes domesticated.  Indoors.  Behind a screen.  Weak.  Physically weak.  Nothing strenuous.  Nothing to push him.  Just give me the meds.  Remember what Hugh Freeze said – life is going to beat you up and you’re going to want to run to the training room.  They have hot tubs and ice packs in there.  They’ll rub you down and tape you up and make you warm and you’re not going to want to get back out on that cold, rainy football field.  But you have to get back into the game.

Sadly for Americans, we’ve turned inwardly in our wealth and privilege and are consuming medication at the fastest pace in history.  It only serves to dig our holes deeper.  We’ve embraced this in the church.  We’ve adopted a Country Club Christianity where we come to church to get our needs met, to hear the kind of music we want to hear, to have our kids perfectly attended by volunteers (“someone else does that”) … we come to church to be served.  We don’t like the style of music so we walk in when the sermon starts.  Or we even leave the church because we miss those traditional Baptist hymns.  We run in, consume what is there, take communion and walk out the door before its over without having to engage in community.  We leave the church because our 10-year old isn’t happy with how kids church is going.  We’re letting our children make the family decision of where we will worship because their comfort and happiness is paramount.

It is the self-obsessed tendency we all have.  The “me, me, me” of life being there to meet all my needs.  The more we curve in on ourselves, the less prepared and equipped we’ll be for when the inevitable hard times come and isn’t that what we’re teaching our kids?  When life doesn’t go exactly “our way”, we won’t have mechanisms in place to deal with it.  As a result, we’ll make poor, me-centered decisions.

Incurvatus is our sin nature.  It must be fought.  You must be aware of it.

Because, it comes on subtly.  It takes root.  We lose our bearings.  We lose our worship of the Father.  We lose the passion of our early faith.  We settle.  We crave comfort.  In the radical transformation of your life when Jesus knocked you off your horse and said, “I’ve chosen you. Follow me” … in that … how have we now gotten to a place where our personal comfort is paramount?

What part of Jesus is “safe”?

He loves us, adores us, died for us and all He asked was “Do you love me?  Do you love me?  Then follow me.”  “Follow me” doesn’t mean a life that is safe nor one that is inwardly curved upon itself craving comfort.

Do you see what’s happening?  We are consuming and consuming and consuming and in so doing, we’re turning in on ourselves.  Listen to this challenge from Erwin McManus …

“If you are a follower of Christ and you have allowed yourself to be domesticated, you have lost the power of who you are and who God intends you to be.  You were not created to be normal.  God’s desire for you is not compliance and conformity.  You have been baptized by spirit and fire.”

“Asleep within you is a barbarian, a savage to all who love the prim and proper.  You must go to the primal place and enter the presence of the Most High God, for there you will be changed. Let Him unleash the untamed faith within you.”

“The original call of Jesus was so simple, so clean, so clear: “Follow me”.  He wants us to surrender our lives to Him and follow Him into the unknown.  If it means a life of suffering, hardship and disappointment, it will be worth it because following Jesus is more powerful and more fulfilling than gaining everything of the world without Him.”

“To claim we believe is simply not enough.  The call of Jesus is one that demands actions.  Jesus began his ministry with a simple invitation, “Come, follow me”.  His closing words to His disciples could be summarized in one word, “GO”.  The invitation of Jesus is a revolutionary call to fight for the heart of humanity.”

YOUR CALL IS ONE OUTSIDE OF SELF.  IF YOU ARE A BELIEVER, THEN AT SOME POINT IN YOUR LIFE, CHRIST CAME ALONG AND KNOCKED YOU OFF YOUR HORSE.  LAYING THERE, BROKEN, FACE DOWN IN THE DUST OF THE DESTRUCTION OF YOUR SIN, YOU WERE AWAKENED BY CHRIST.  “NOW GET UP” HE SHOUTS.  “WAKE UP!”  “I HAVE A DIVINE PURPOSE FOR YOU AND YOUR LIFE.  IT IS WAY BEYOND SELF.  IT’S WAY BEYOND COMFORT.  IT IS RADICAL.  FOLLOW ME”. 

Lastly, from Teddy Roosevelt.  Weak as a child and sickly, his father told him, “You’re smart but your body is weak.  A weak body will take a smart mind only so far”.  Teddy started weight training and exercising.  It served him well throughout life.  Later in life, he lost his wife and mother in one 24 hour period.  Crushed and despondent, he knew he had to zero back in and get healing in his life.  He gave his young daughter to his sister for her to care and he headed West…

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)

 

Living outside of “self”

lake-sunset

Jesus’ sentences stand like quivering swords of flame because He did not come to bring peace but revolution.

The Gospel is a cutting-edge, rolling thunder, convulsive earthquake in the world of the human spirit.

In entering human spirit, God has shattered all previous conceptions of who God is.

The life He has planned for you is much like the life He lived.

He was not poor so that you may be rich.

He was not mocked so that you may be honored.

He was not laughed at so that you could be praised.

You are not to fill up what is wanting in the suffering of Christ.

It is a call to live outward.  It’s a reminder that we must die to “self” and live our lives outward in service to others.  It is a reminder that there is an eternal life.  There is a kingdom to come and in that kingdom, you will have a role to play just as you do in this life.

All you have to offer in this life is your soul.  It is the one gift you were put on this earth to offer others.  It isn’t about gathering all you can.  It is a call to give all of yourself away.

The Quest for Authentic Manhood…

lion

The quest to LiveUP in Authentic Manhood  – a life lived outward – is a passionate pursuit of a different kind of greatness.  Though its path runs counter to selfish ambition, it is no less ambitious. 

It inspires the rare man who longs to live a heroic life that honors God. 

It calls a man to a new kind of courage.

It demands so much of us. 

Integrity not only harnesses our passions, it focuses our intentions.  There are some paths, some options and some directions we simply will not choose no matter the cost to us of standing firm in this Quest.

 

Sex. The front line of the war for your soul…

Here we go, diving into the deep waters with an entry that might really irritate you but as “watchmen on the wall”, we need to go after this…

Right up front, all of us struggle with this.  Testosterone is a hugely powerful hormone.  The younger the man reading this, the more intense the battle.  Add to that a sex-drenched culture and the devastating effects of free pornography all over your smartphone, the TV and the internet and we just all need to admit, “this is a problem”.  It is everywhere.  To try to battle this with accountability or denial or by cutting off any possible temptation (no TV, no internet, not looking at any other woman as you go about your day) isn’t going to work.  You cannot “purify” your way past this.

There is something much deeper at work here.  To battle it, we have to dig deep into the soil and find the root.  What’s behind this?  Beneath it?  What is the “why?” behind all of it.

Let’s start with Proverbs 3: 5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight”.

The main aim of this verse is for us to walk in a straight path.  As we were saying in yesterday’s post, at this stage of life, the others around you – your wife, your children, your co-workers, your friends, your parents … all the people that are counting on youneed you to live your life well right now.  We need you to walk in a straight path.  The church is under assault in America.  Expect more of this.  Our church has been under some attack as well.

We have a country club/consumption culture in America fueled by iPhones, Amazon, Instagram, Facebook, etc. giving us easy access to anything we want to see or do.  Our culture is soft.  Our kids are the “me generation”.  They’ve embraced relativism.  Things that should shock them and scare them … don’t.  We have transgender bathrooms at Target now.  If we offend anyone, we are outcast.  Listen to me, ALL of this is symptomatic of the all-out assault Satan has unleashed on the world.  It is a “me, me, me” world and it has invaded the church.  Think about it, if you were Satan wouldn’t you want to fuel an attitude of “Me.  It’s all about me”?  Think about Lucifer.  Why did the revolt happen in Heaven?  He was in love with himself.  He wanted to make it all about him.  God kicked him from Heaven and sent him to the earth and that “me spirit” has been unleashed on earth in a devastating way recently by the enemy.

We have a church culture that is creeping into this country club like atmosphere of “the church is here to provide for me, entertain me, give to me” and as a result, we’re having a hard time finding people willing to step up and serve.  We don’t have time to serve.  We’re too busy.  We come into church desperately needing to be refilled.  But we have little to give.  If we all embrace this attitude and don’t wake up and realize that isn’t how the church is supposed to operate, eventually the church will collapse for lack of any workers to “toil in the fields”.  And don’t you see, that is precisely Satan’s intent – permeate the culture with a “me” attitude and then sit back and watch it collapse upon itself – the culture and the church.  And you’re asking right now, “what does this have to do with sex?”  Stay with me…

We need you to live your life well right now.  The church faces a great challenge and it needs all of us to be at our best.  There is an enormous battle underway against the church and our culture right now.  Just watch an hour of Fox News at night and it is jaw dropping the nonsense that happens daily in America.  As warriors with Christ, we all have a role to play.   The “church” cannot survive if we remain in a childish “me” place.  It is time for the men of the church (at large) to manUP and put away childish things.  There are FAR greater battles underway,  FAR more at stake than how much sex you are getting weekly from your wife.  Ok, here we go…

The “why?” of this question is way deeper than any accountability group holding you accountable of “did you look at pornography this week?”  That isn’t going to come close to dealing with the issue.  THE issue is idolatry.  We have idolized sex.  Sex is our god…

“If I get sex two times a week from my wife, then I’m good”.  

“My wife won’t have sex with me.  I need a wife that will regularly love me and send me out daily affirming me as a man.  Imagine what mountains I could conquer if my wife did all she was supposed to do to affirm me as a man.”

“My wife hasn’t had sex with me in three weeks, I have needs that have to be met”

Please hear me, I am NOT condemning you as you read this.  All of these…I’ve said to myself more times than I can possibly count.  THIS is what we are dealing with.  This is the magnitude of this issue.  Sex has become our god.  If we get it, we’re all good.  As we said a few weeks ago in this post — https://manliveup.wordpress.com/2016/07/27/fathered-by-god-the-lover/  — we have fallen into the trap of “take, take, take” – that Eve is there for us to take from rather than being given to us to provide for.  We have come to look at our wives for what we can get from them.  That we can get our validation from her.  That she can make us a man.

That’s a dead-end street and I’ll tell you why.  If a married, Christian man falls into this trap of the quotes above, he is a sitting duck for pornography.  That set up, those demands we place on our women, they cannot be met.  There is never “enough sex”.  It cannot be satiated.  The more you feed your desire for sex, the more insatiable the appetite.  The more you think about sex and obsess over it, the more your hunger for it will grow.  Remember one of our foundational truths – “What you feed grows, what you starve dies”.   The trap the enemy has set for us is to feed us these lies of what we “could be” if we were getting enough sex.  It’s no different than “what my life could be like if I had more money.”  There is never enough money.  It’s a lie.  It’s a trap.  And we’ve fallen into it.  So we drink from this and take it in and she cannot meet those demands and we’re all torqued up with no place to go, and so… we turn to porn.  Some turn to other women thinking the grass surely must be greener on the other side.  It isn’t.

The “why” of this is deep.  It is the alter we have built to sex.  It is the belief that sex can fulfill every deep longing I have and equip me for the life I need to lead.  If I go without it, I feel as though I have no oxygen and I quickly find myself wandering into all sorts of trouble.  We have embraced the “me culture” and made sex “all about me”.  That’s a very small life.  That’s no way to love a woman.  It objectifies her, cheapens her and tears the fabric of her heart.  The message we send to our wives either outwardly with our spoken words — or — even more painfully in a silent, non-spoken rebuke of her is devastating to her heart and she’ll shut down.

If we come to our wife with requests (demands?) for weekly sex or 2-3x a week sex or if we go silent and turn to porn and masturbation we are almost childlike in our begging for our needs to be met.  We don’t have mastery over our body.  We are bringing no strength to our wives.  Our flesh is in control and desire burns.  Unfortunately, our weakness here carries consequences for the one who most depends and needs us to come through … our wives.

Let me wrap it up and try to tie it all together and drive home the point – Proverbs is driving us to “walking in the straight path”.  I don’t want you to… Keith doesn’t want you to… your Mama doesn’t want you to… God doesn’t want you to … veer off the path into disobedience or into a wasted life or into anything that would dishonor Him.  And men, I’ve got to say it and I hate writing this but getting drunk on sex, cruising into porn, getting yourself all torqued up and then masturbating is wasting your life.  Literally you are wasting your seed of life washing it down the sink.  It is childish and needy.  All because we worship at the alter of “I’ve gotta have a lot of sex”.

We need you to live your best life.  I need to live my best life.  A worthy life.  A life that is an inspiration to others.  As the great and now late, Craig McConnell said, “Do you live free?  Are you the man that has a strength and an intentionality and a movement to his life, towards God, towards others?  A man who rescues others, who lives well and loves well?”  That’s the man we need you to be.

We do that by trusting God with all our heart.  No, a sexless marriage isn’t what God intended but I trust Him.  I value Him more than I do sex.  Sex goes away at some point anyway.  God never does.  We trust in Him.  We bank on the promises of God, step by step of each day.  We draw upon the vine.  We trust in a good, Holy, loving, all providing God.  We don’t rely on our own understanding i.e. we don’t take matters into our own hands (literally).  “God I can’t understand why I am single now … but I trust you.  I’m not going out to find sex as a way to fill the ache in my soul.  My soul aches for You.”  We do not rely upon self.  If we trust in our own understanding it means we are being self-reliant = it’s up to me to make it happen.  So if I’m not getting sex, I’ll manufacture it.  Lastly, Proverbs encourages us to in all ways acknowledge Him.  That is to know Him.  To connect the branch to the Vine.  To draw upon his Zoe daily https://manliveup.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/best-of-manschool-branch-to-vine-1/.  To draw Him into everything, “Lord the sex thing is killing me, I give it over to You.  I trust You.  I need You.  Sustain me”.  Draw Him in to every situation, all day, every day.

And men, we need you to live your best life now because the church is under assault and our culture is burning around us.  Marriages are breaking up, kids are turning to porn, drugs, homosexuality … anything to find happiness.  Racial tensions are exploding.  People are being gunned down on our streets.  We are in a world at war and the church needs warriors who’ve mastered self by giving over self to God.  We need men who are living well, living with integrity, living strong, fighting for their wives instead of constantly demanding from them.  We need men of integrity who say “Enough.  No more” and repent of the worship of sex and when blessed with a time of intimacy with their wives they will stop and consecrate the time in prayer giving the intimacy over to God as a worship offering.  God created sex as a glorious gift to the married couple and we’ve perverted it.  Now, we take it back.  As we enter into it, stop and consecrate the event, consecrate the time, give God the glory and in so doing you take it as a gift and will trust in God for the next time He grants the gift.  By consecrating the time, you are giving the power of sex over to God, “Lord, we give this to you.  Thank you for this wonderful gift.  Thank you for my beautiful wife.  Help me love her well every day.  We give this act to you and we will enjoy it and then release it.  “It” has no power over us.  We repent of our worship of it or for how we’ve rejected it or denied it.  Let us enjoy this and then get about the business of serving you together as a couple.  Thank you Lord Jesus for this precious gift that is my wife.”

The point of this post was to drive us to straight path, the life well-lived, LivingUP to all our God has created us to be.  Wake up. Don’t waste your life…

What did this stir in you?  Did it make you mad?  Why?  How much time daily do you give to the thought of sex?  How important is it to you?  Can you ever get enough of it?  And then … how do all those questions relate to your relationship with God?  How important is He?  Can you ever get enough of Him?

lots of food for deep, deep thought…

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)