attached is the letter from John Eldredge that I read today at Manschool.
more to come …. Scan0031
attached is the letter from John Eldredge that I read today at Manschool.
more to come …. Scan0031
Bart will be with us in person on Wednesday morning. I encourage you to join us. Attached is a great talk with Morgan Snyder interviewing Bart inside Bart’s workshop at his ranch in Colorado. If you have about 45 minutes, watch this video. It’ll help you get to know Bart’s story and will make Wednesday more meaningful for you.
Please pray that the Lord will move and bring men into our midst that need to hear Bart’s message.
This music video by Jimmy Wayne captures much of what we’ve been talking about in regards to Sonship. The little boy keeps reaching his arms out asking for love from his dad. Even though he is rejected, he pursues. He never gives up hope. And as you see rather emotionally, he comes to the realization that the very things he wanted from his Dad, God was always offering him. With arms stretched wide, God never gave up, never quit pursuing us even to the Cross.
As Morgan said this morning, “God is bigger than the loss of a father”. You see that in this music video.
In Braveheart’s opening scene we see young William with his father, enjoying him, knowing he is loved. Then innocence is lost. The assault comes. He loses his father. At the funeral, the girl comes and gives him a flower. The flower is God saying to him, “Don’t shut your heart down.” The uncle comes and takes him in. He teaches him manhood and the things of a warrior. Teaches him Latin.
Wallace goes on pilgrimage and in so doing, releases control. He goes away from home to be fathered.
Leaving the old life and going on pilgrimage is the greatest risk you will ever take as a man but you must go. The only way to receive God as father is to relinquish control of the world you have, the safety, the demanding of your father to come through for you dead or alive – you have to leave that and receive God’s invitation to take a pilgrimage away from home and to be fathered by Him.
In Morgan’s life, he had father wounds via a dad who worked 7 days a week. But it has come full circle. He now sees his Dad as a father but there is no pressure on the man to come through. Morgan no longer demands that his father come through to meet his needs. Morgan is a validated, confidant man. He knows his True Father and he knows what God says about him. So he can release his dad, enjoy him and even offer a strength to him.
Morgan serves under really good kings. Godly men – John, Bart and Craig. Each is a part of Morgan’s father image. Each brings him something he needs to soak in – things his earthly father can’t provide for him. But no single man can fill that need for “father”. It is too much to put on a man.
He even had an 83-year old woman teach him how to shoot a bow! Morgan needed someone to teach him, prayed the Father to come and father him through this and at the bow store, he gets an 83-year old woman. So Morgan goes with it and as it turns out she was an Olympic archer who has taught youth for 43 years.
Morgan questions, “How do you give him what you don’t have?” That’s a real question for all of us as men in regards to our sons. If you didn’t “get it” from your Dad, what do you bring your son?
Morgan is now very, very intentional about what he is bringing to his own 10-year old son – from teaching him about bow hunting, knives, camping, processing a deer, reading books, riding bikes, campfires and stories, Saturdays at Dunkin Donuts … Morgan is present in Joshua’s life and intentional about schooling him in the art of being a man … fathering him.
He has learned how to ask to be fathered in many things. Every time there is a project around the house, he’ll go to Home Depot and pray before he goes in, “Lord father me through this”. Invites God into it. And every time, help has come to walk Morgan through the “how to do this”. NAPA commercial, “Just because you have to do it alone doesn’t mean you have to do it by yourself.”
A little humility and a lot of questions and God will father you through it.
And as each sage comes along and teaches you and shows you how … a little substance is transferred to you as a man. Find men and ask them to father you.
When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. When the son is ready, the father will appear. He will discover that the father needs him as much as the son needs the father. The sage gets much from showing you the way.
“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
God will father you. He will show you the ancient paths. If you invite Him in and let Him do it. It is available. More.
We need to first ask Him to heal our unbelief that He can or will. It all starts with releasing our earthly fathers – letting them go, taking the demand off of them (whether dead or alive) that they must come through for you. Once you release them, you see them as a son just like you are – it radically shifts the relationship. No longer insisting that they come through, you will find you can come alongside them and that you have much to bring to them. It starts here and then it goes to asking other men (or 83 year old women!) to father you in many things from bow hunting, to finances, to marriage, to fixing things around your house or many of the “I have no clue … will you show me’s” in this life. And most importantly, it is ALL about asking The Father to father you. Bring God in and let the Father speak into your heart.
And we ended with this song as a prayer. I love this song. It captures this step of faith we must make toward Sonship, this pilgrimage…
“I’ve come to this place in my life I’m full but I’ve not satisfied this longing to have more of You. And I can feel it my heart is convinced. I’m thirsty my soul can’t be quenched. You already know this but still come and do whatever You want to.
I’m standing knee deep but I’m out where I’ve never been and I feel You coming and I hear Your voice in the wind.
Would you come and tear down the boxes that I have tried to put You in. Let love come teach me who You are again. Would you take me back to the place where my heart was only about You and all I wanted was just to be with You?
Come and do whatever You want to.
And further and further my heart moves away from the shore whatever it looks like, whatever may come I am Yours
And further and further my heart moves away from the shore whatever it looks like, whatever may come I am Yours
Then You crash over me and I’ve lost control but I’m free. I’m going under, I’m in over my head
Then you crash over me, and that’s where You want me to be.
I’m going under, I’m in over my head. Whether I sink, whether I swim, it makes no difference when I’m beautifully in over my head
Whether I sink, whether I swim, it makes no difference when I’m beautifully in over my head”
Here is the question for you today… “How big are you willing to dream? How big a life will you live?” If you have not read last week’s blog post (Wild at Heart – Adventure 2), please do so. Last week, we discussed the Holy Spirit as the “Wild Goose”. He cannot be tamed and we never know where He is going. Is He safe? No, but He is good.
We said that life without the Spirit is boring and domesticated. Jesus didn’t die to make us safe and comfortable – He died to make us dangerous to our enemy in the battle for a lost world. And yet, too many of us are living lives of mediocrity buried by all the responsibilities we have. Where is your passion? Where is that excitement you once had when you were an emboldened new believer unafraid to share your faith?
Why are so many men – even in our own church – seemingly checked out? They tell me they “hear great things about Manschool” and then say “but”. Which is always, “but I can’t come”. Why is that? Really? “I have to carpool my kids”. OK, ask your wife if she’d rather you be at Manschool one day a week instead of taking the kids on Wednesday. I bet she’d delight in you being at Manschool. The men that are coming are regularly telling us, “My wife loves that I am willing to get up early to be here. She loves that I’m in Manschool.”
It’s a choice. What path are you going to take?
Clearly, it’s easier to sleep in. No question. It doesn’t risk much to stay at home. Manschool is risky. It is an investment of your time, energy and faith. We’re going to push you. Men will challenge you. We go deep and go into areas you typically don’t hear discussed in church – frank, honest, candid discussions among our Tribe as we seek to grow closer to God.
But I digress…
The question we discussed this morning revolved around just how big our lives were going to be. All men stand at a fork in the road and Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it”. One path is an intimate walk with God. It is Sonship. It is accepting that God is my Father and that He chose me before creation and that He delights in me. It is a radical choice, a radical walk. It is the Wild Goose and it cannot be managed. You certainly will not be able to control it. If the Wild Goose leads you to give up your career and your home and enter the mission field or the ministry … is any part of that “safe”?
Think of Mark 10:29 – “I tell you the truth, Jesus replied, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first, will be last, the last first.”
This path requires huge faith. It is a life where we cannot control the outcome. It is a life where your vision and your dreams are so big that God has to show up in order for it to work. It is giving up caring what others think and embracing a radical walk with God. All of us were created for “more”. Way more. But our wounds, our fear, our shame, our self-doubt they hold us back and they cause us to settle for a lesser life.
The second path is the life we can control. It is a life where a man says, “I am only going to reach so far but I will be able to control it. My kingdom may be small but the taxes will be paid, the checkbook always balanced, the yard – even though it is tiny – it is immaculate. I’m not going to take risks with deep friendships, instead I’ll pretty much be an island to myself. My kids, they’ll know me but I won’t be willing to risk much with them. My dream for them will be that they keep the law, make the grades, get a good job and stay the heck out of trouble and in so doing, my wife’s facebook posts will always show off a nice, tidy, family who has it all together. As for missions and ministries and all that stuff, that’s really for those guys who can’t make it in the workplace. I’ll pay my dues, rise the corporate ladder, keep my nose clean and retire with a big 401k and a whole lot of comfort.”
This path prizes comfort above all else. It savors control. It’s a small path and a very small life. But you will dumb it down, shrink it and manage it to get it to a size you can control and once you know “life is all up to me and what I can accomplish and manage within these narrow borders” then … you will see no need for God. Nothing in your life will depend on God because you can do it all yourself. There is no Sonship here – no need for it. You and God, you’re kind of partners and since you’ve got it under control, He leaves you alone to do your thing.
This is a WAKE UP call men. It is time to stand on the walls and shout and wake up the men around us. What kind of man do you want to be?
I believe a shaking is coming. I believe Christ Community is already being shaken. I certainly believe America is shaking. Birth pains are all around us. We stand perilously close to losing our nation. Racial tensions are everywhere and our city is divided. Many in Columbus have no hope. There is so much more we can do, so many more lives we can impact for the Kingdom. It is “somebody else’s problem” until it erupts in our own backyard. Aslan is clearly on the move. He is looking for warriors to join him. My question to you is simply, “How big are you willing to dream? How big a life will you live?”
Are you going to choose the safe path of control, predictability and comfort? Or will you choose the Wild Goose and embrace Sonship with the Father?
We pushed deeper into Adventure this morning. Men shared many incredible insights and one man, a powerful testimony about his father wound, his marriage and just how much Manschool has meant to him … “My wife loves that I am coming to Manschool.” Amen to that.
We opened with this clip that we’ve seen before from the movie “Never Cry Wolf”…
We ended with this awesome clip from Gerber knives that challenges our “desire” to live life “safely” …
Rosie flies Tyler, a bookworm who has never been camping, into Alaska’s remote Blackstone Valley. Rosie is questioning him on the “why?” “Why are going Tyler? What is your purpose? What are you looking for out here?” He tells him “The gold isn’t in the Valley. It’s sitting at home in the living room, facing the boob tube, bored to death. Bored to death Tyler.” He goes on later – after the plane’s engine dies in midflight – and says to him, “How do you beat boredom Tyler? Adventure. Adventure Tyler.”
Too many men forsake their dreams because they aren’t willing to risk, or fear they aren’t up to the challenge, or are never told that those desires deep in their heart are good. Matthew 25 the parable of the talents – there is nothing about this servant that talks about his ability or his dream or his desire. All we see if fear and a lack of trust. He buries the talent. He focuses on control. The soul of a man isn’t made for controlling things; he’s made for adventure. You are made for adventure.
When God set man on this earth, He gave him a blank canvas on which to paint. He gave him a world to explore, to build and to conquer and a creation to care for. God never revoked that. That offer is there for you too. If you had the permission to do what you really want to do, what would that be? This can be a career or a ministry but it can also be other things … taking up hunting, learning to paint, taking wood working classes, riding a bike, hiking the Appalachian Trail … what would you do?
Don’t ask “how?” “How?” kills desire. It cuts it off at the knees. Not “how?” but “What?” What makes you come alive? What is written upon your heart? Your true calling is written upon your heart and you discover it when you enter the frontier of your deep desires. When your life becomes an adventure, it gives you a purpose.
This is frontier stuff here guys. It isn’t “safe”. You can’t control it. It moves you. It stirs something deep inside you. There are no boundaries around it. Remember that quote, “The spiritual life cannot be made suburban. It is always frontier and we who live in it must accept and even rejoice that it remains untamed.”
We must move our spirituality away from the law and rules keeping. There is no life there. A dutiful man is a bored man. The goal of our faith as a man isn’t a no booze, no cuss, no smoke man who serves as an usher, does vacation bible school and follows his wife to yard sales on Saturdays. Flushing out all that is wild from a man – and some of it needs to be flushed – has the effect of turning a stallion into a gelding. Gelding – a castrated horse. Castration eliminates the hormonally driven behavior associated with a stallion and allows a male horse to be calmer and better-behaved, making the animal quieter, gentler and potentially more suitable as an everyday working animal.
There you go – You are now “more suitable” to society. No, the gelding, rules-keeping, spiritual law abiding man … we need to move away from that as the road map and we need to move toward being men who are able to live by the Spirit.
Celtic Christians had an interesting term for the Holy Spirit. They called it “Ah Geadh-Glas”, or the wild goose. They were on to something for the Holy Spirit is something that cannot be tracked or tamed.
Pastor and author Mark Batterson believes Christians spend too much time worrying about making the right decision. He thinks that if people would just allow the Holy Spirit to lead them completely they would be better off.
A few years ago I was reading about Celtic Christianity and discovered that they had an interesting name for the Holy Spirit. They called it the Wild Goose. When I first heard that I thought that it sounded sacrilegious. But the more I thought about it I realized what a great description of what it means to live a spirit led life. It is like a wild goose chase. You aren’t going to know where you are going most of the time but that also goes by another name – adventure. In my experience, take the Holy Spirit out of the equation of your life and it spells boring. Add it into the equation of your life and you never know where you are going to go, what you are going to do, or who you are going to meet. The name comes out of that ancient understanding of who the Holy Spirit is.
With that in mind, what does it mean to rediscover the untamed nature of God?
I am a pastor so I eat and breathe the Church. But I think what happens in a lot of churches is that we try to tame people in the name of Christ. What we end up with is a very domesticated kind of experience with God but when I read the Gospels it was very uncivilized and undomesticated. What I would like to think is that Jesus didn’t just die to keep us safe. He died to make us dangerous. When I pronounce a benediction at the end of our services I would like to think that I am releasing dangerous people back into their natural habitat to wreak havoc on the enemy. Wild Goose Chase is really a book about unleashing people to really experience the true reality of what the Holy Spirit wants to do in our lives.
I’m looking at these apes in their cages and I am thinking I wonder if the Church does to Christians what zoos do to animals. We end up in a cage and it is not the true experience.
Fear is a big one for people. The enemy’s tactics haven’t really changed since the Garden of Eden. He wants to use guilt to keep us focused on the past and use fear to keep us from really living by faith. I talk a lot about how we can face those fears, step out in faith, and do what God has called us to do. I think one of the cages that is kind of a subtle thing is the Cage of Routine. Routines are normal, natural, healthy things. Most of us take a shower and brush our teeth every day. That is a good routine. Spiritual disciplines are routines. That is a good thing. But once routines become routine you need to change your routine. Otherwise, you will end up in this place where you are kind of going through the motions spiritually. One of the things I share in the book is change of pace plus change of place equals change of perspective. It is a very simple thing but in my walk with Christ I have found that if I just simply change things up a little bit, go to a different place, or even change my version of my Bible, or do things at a different time, it just kind of gives me a fresh experience with God. It keeps it real.
If we aren’t careful we can land in that Cage of Guilt and get so focused on what we have done wrong in the past that we don’t have any emotional or spiritual energy to really think about what God has for us in the future. The Cage of Guilt is a dangerous one because you have to keep coming back to the foot of the Cross, confessing your sin, receiving that forgiveness. Then you need to set back out on that adventure that God has called us to.
Can people live by faith and be bored?
I think it is impossible. Faith and boredom are antonyms. A guy named Soren Kierkegaard said that boredom is the root of all evil. That is a profound statement. You have to think about it. I think faith is the small mustard seed of opportunities every day. For example, am I going to love this person? Am I going to share my faith with this person? Am I going to pray that little prayer? It really is a daily thing where you seize those little mustard seed opportunities and then see what God does. That is where the adventure comes from.
Why do you think people start out in life pursuing a passion but then end up settling for a paycheck? You write about this.
This is the Cage of Responsibility. It is a subtle one because what happens is at some point a lot of us turn our responsibilities into excuses to why we cannot live by faith. I call it “responsible irresponsibility”. It is living our lives in a way that the true God ordained passions. Sometimes this gets buried beneath those responsibilities. We end up just living a life of mediocrity. What I really want to challenge people to is to identify what are those God ordained passions? What has He called you to? Get back in touch with those and have this challenge of wanting do die doing what you love to do. I do not want to just arrive safely at death. I want to live by faith and do the things God has called me to do.
Abraham is the patron saint of Wild Goose chasers. It says in Hebrews 11 that he went even though he did not know where he was going.
Where are you living defensively? It might be in a marriage, maybe with your kids, it might be spiritually, it might be occupationally. Where are you playing it safe? Where is the will of God for you? How is God calling you to step out in faith? I am hoping that it is enough of an impetus to kind of be that push for them. I want people to realize that they should be playing offense with their life. I want them to play offense for the Kingdom of God. The wild goose will show them the way.
The spiritual life is not suburban. The wild goose cannot be contained. It is always frontier. You will not know where the next step will be. We must rejoice that it remains untamed. The realm of God is dangerous. You must enter into it and not just seek information about it. There are no formulas for God and there are no formulas for the man who follows God. Modern Christianity is obsessed with formulas “seven steps to a highly effective marriage”. The problem is that formulas removes any real conversation with God. If you rely on a formula, you won’t need to talk to God. The first step toward freedom is letting go of control. A man is never more of a man that when he embraces an adventure beyond his control or when he walks into a battle he isn’t sure of winning.
The only way to live in this adventure – with all its danger and unpredictability and immensely high stakes – is in an ongoing, intimate relationship with God. The control we seek is an illusion. Far better to give it up in exchange for God’s offer of companionship. Set aside the formulas and enter into an intimate conversation with the Father.
Our whole journey into authentic masculinity centers on those cool-of-the-day talks with God. Simple questions change hassles to adventures. The events of your life become opportunities for initiation. “What are you teaching me here God? What are you asking me to do? What in my heart are you speaking to?”
The impact of Wednesday’s discussion on adventure was far deeper than I anticipated. It stirred something in many of our hearts. In the small group I visited, I was struck by how many men in that room had shed tears during the story of October Sky. For many men, it triggered the father wound they had received but it also brought a deep conviction to them about their own role as a father. Another man afterwards told me he was glad we kept the lights off because he was trying not to come apart.
There is more here we will unpack. Good things. Worthy things. I ask you to do some digging yourself. What is going on in your heart? What happened to you on Wednesday morning? What is God stirring and what are you doing about it?
The final scene from October Sky is attached here – you see the entire community is there, captivated by Homer’s dream. As the rocket flies, you see the town looking up at hope soaring into the sky. You see coal miners looking up and you know they are wishing they too had pursued a dream. You see his teacher lying on her death bed – her dream fulfilled of enabling these young men to pursue their dream. And lastly, you see his Dad, realizing the magnitude of all his son had accomplished in spite of his demands that the boy work in the coal mine. You see a father’s pride.
The Father has that same pride for you. The Holy One puts his arm around you every day as you fight this fight and pursue your dream/calling and as you fight for those in your care. With His arm across your back embracing you, He says, “Well done son. Well done”.
Wednesday, we started into the discussion of Adventure. We started with this incredible clip from “A river runs through it” (one of the great movies of this era) …
Here is man who has found what makes him come alive and pursues it with reckless abandon. Risk, daring, etc. mean nothing to him. He knows that in order to achieve his dream, he’s going to have to embrace risk. And then his brother describes him in this moment …
“My brother stood before us, not on the banks of the Big Black Foot river but suspended above the earth, free from all its laws like a work of art.”
Oh to be free from all its laws and to stand as a work of art. Powerful.
And then we went through some of the comments from the chapter on Adventure (see below) and showed clips from the movie, “October Sky”. Again, a classic movie. If you haven’t seen it in full, check it out on Netflix or you can buy the DVD on Amazon for $5. This movie is the story of a young man who found his dream, found what made him come alive and he pursued it. He was destined for life working and dying in a coal mine like his father and grandfather before him. Instead, he was captivated by a dream and as you see the story transpire, you see how his dream inspired others around him and eventually, his whole town. It’s a true story and it’d do your soul good to see it.
Adventure. I’ve been there. You go to Chimney Rock on Lake Martin or other cliff type jumps and you get this experience. From the water, it doesn’t look that bad. So you go to try it. You climb and climb and when you get to the jumping point, you look down and think “no freaking way”. But you eventually jump and it is exhilarating and like John said, you go back and do it again. Why is that?
“I want to live my whole life like that. I want to love with much more abandon and stop waiting for others to love me first. I want to hurl myself into a creative work worthy of God.”
Life is not a problem to be solved. It is an adventure to be lived.
God set the dangerous stage for this high-stakes drama and called the whole wild enterprise “good”.
Think about it – mountains you can conquer, the Grand Canyon you can explore, the waterfalls you can discover, the oceans you can surf – New Zealand, Ireland, Napa, Costa Rica, snorkeling in the Virgin Islands, hunting elk in the mountains of Colorado – all these vistas He created and then the rattlesnakes, panthers, bears, sharks, etc. All the “risk” that is there – why did God create ALL this?
He rigged the world in such a way that it only works when we embrace risk as the theme of our lives, which is to say, only when we live by faith. A man just won’t be happy until he’s got adventure in his work, in his love and in his spiritual life.
Manschool is risky. Think about it. It’d just be a heck of a lot easier to pass on trying to pull this off. To pass on inviting men into a deeper walk. It’d be a lot easier to just give up on the quest. Manschool is an adventure. The vision for a tribe, wide-awake, passionate about their love of God and radical in their pursuit of Him … that is a vision written upon the hearts of many men in this room.
Marriage is risky. Authentic husbanding is terribly risky. Pursuing your wife, never, never, never giving up … that is risky.
What is it that makes you come alive?
Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
Too many of us are not actors in the drama of our lives … we are reactors. “We go where the world takes us, to drift with whatever current happens to be running the strongest.”
Most men spend the energy of their lives trying to eliminate risk, or squeezing it down to a more manageable size. Their children hear “no” far more than they hear “yes”; their employees feel chained up and their wives are equally bound. If it works, if a man succeeds in securing his life against all risk, he’ll wind up in a cocoon of self-protection and wonder all the while why he is suffocating.
The price of your vitality is the sum of all your fears. In other words, you have decided to trade vitality for safety. The things you fear will kill off all desire because a key part of desire is risk. All the things you have desired – the girl you wanted to ask to prom, the girl you wanted to ask to marry, the first house you bought together, the business you dreamed of launching, the children you dreamed of having … every single one of these desires carried risk. If you wall off risk in your life – if you value safety, predictability and comfort above all else – you will find yourself in a cocoon. Too many of us escaped from our cocoon and emerged as a soaring butterfly and now as we’ve aged, we’ve tucked our wings, folded them up and are trying to go back to the safe.
We’ve forgotten how to dream. We no longer imagine. We medicate our pain rather than go to the pain. Risk. Adventure. Dare. Those are “long-ago” words and we’ve bought the lie that we no longer have the capacity.
You HAVE the capacity. (more to come…)
As we walk and learn what Christ has to say to us and as we learn from older and wiser men, we have presented this teaching on “Eve”, our women, our wives…
“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
Yes…the ancient roads which lead us to the rest for our souls. Rich material.
David Platt was the Pastor at the Church at Brookhills in Birmingham. He now leads the International Missions Board. If you have not read his book, Radical, I encourage you to do so. It truly is “radical” and it will alter you view of money, things, etc. in relation to the Kingdom. As Platt traveled the world, he was struck by so-called “secret churches” in communist, Islamic and oppressed nations. Basement churches where believers would come and soak up the Word for hours on end. They were desperate for it. Hungry for it. And they knew it was nourishment for their soul and their very survival. 4-5-6 hours on end, they would come and devour the Word of God to learn of the King content to sit in a basement, sometimes lighted only by a single light hanging from the ceiling. And he contrasted that with the American Church – the $23 million gym with the weight rooms, basketball courts, rock climbing walls and surround sound. The sanctuaries with plush stadium seating and gigantic HD screens and members who got antsy if the sermon went past 12:00. So their church started the “Secret Church” where they would gather on a Friday night from 6pm to midnight to tackle a subject like sex or marriage or money and literally pull every single Scripture to see what God had to say about the topic. They’d publish 100 page study guides and immerse themselves in the Word. Those are available online by the way. Here is what David had to say about marriage…
It’s not always easy. As soon as I say – I know that as soon as I say, “Men, the priority in your life is to love your wife. Love your wife”, I know that there are men that are saying, “You don’t know my wife”. I know. There are difficult situations represented across this room. You say, “Well there are a lot of reasons not to love my wife”. This is where I want to remind you, men, that your love for your wife is not based on her worthiness to be loved. It is based on God’s command in you to love them. That is huge.
The world says your love for your wife is based on what you get back (go back and read last week’s post on “covenant or contract?”). It’s based on how much they deserve it. It’s based on what is most fair and right. And if they don’t do something right, then they don’t deserve your love. That is not what Scripture says. Scripture says, “Husbands, love your wives.” And this is why – this is why we need to see the connection between the Gospel and our families. How can men who live with unlovable wives love them?
The only answer is the Gospel. This is the picture of the Gospel. The whole picture of the Gospel is a God, not who loves the lovable, but who loves the unlovable – who gives His life for us when we were the most undeserving. How in the world can you love your wife? By the love of God in you. It is His grace in you. It’s 1 John 4:19. We love, why? Because He first loved us. This is a love that God alone can give in us. This is why the Gospel and Grace is at the foundation of our families, because His Grace is the power to do this.
And you think about these tough marriages, tough wives, and you think, well how – how can God call me to love my wife in those situations? And the answer is the Gospel – it’s the Cross. It is you going to God (daily) and saying, “God, my wife is very unlovable right now.” And God says, “Loving the unlovable is my specialty.” And He gives the Grace – God never gives a command that He doesn’t empower us to carry out. Say that one more time – God never gives us a command that He doesn’t empower us to carry out. His Grace – this is why we need the Gospel, this is why we need Grace.
Culture says as soon as things are inconvenient in marriage, when things are not working out with your preferences – well, then you move on. No, the Gospel says when things are inconvenient, when things are not working out in preferences … then you love your wife. You love your wife. Love your wife. Love your wife. This is the priority, that you love your wife.”
Let me end with this thought – when things get tough, we tend to think the grass is greener on the other side. That surely there is a woman out there besides my wife that will love me as I need to be loved. As I deserve to be loved. Let us be reminded that your grass, it would be green … if you watered it. If you fed it. If you nourished it. If you take, take, take from it, it will brown up and die. What you feed grows and what you starve dies. May your wife be a lush, green, nourished, rich lawn. May she be radiant to reflect the fact that you are loving her well…
(This one is long but it is perhaps the best material yet on the practical applications on Eve)
We come home from work and we just know. We feel it. Something isn’t right. She’s off. I know I should engage but 99% of the time, I completely avoid the situation. I go to bed and lay there and think “I hope she doesn’t want to talk”. Ever been there?
What she needs in this moment is for me to move towards her and engage but I’m afraid she’s going to present something that I just don’t know how to deal with or what I’d have to offer. So… in shame … I disengage. Like Adam, I go passive. I turn to my phone, my emails from work, engage with the “noble” work of helping with the kids, whatever, but anything other than go towards her.
I hide in an addiction to technology like business email or facebook – things I can handle because they don’t respond in real time and they don’t require anything from me.
I move away from the thing I can’t manage (her) to the thing I think I can. I disengage from the need right in front of me. “If I avoid this, maybe it will go away.”
Men, this is our challenge. This is where valor appears. This is where we live “Excurvatus ex se” a life beyond self.
Covenant or Contract? Marriage is a covenant, not a contract. A contract is all about me negotiating terms that benefit me. In its very nature, it is selfish. Real estate deals are contracts. Selling a business is a contract. Both are all about me getting all I can from the deal. A covenant is about me giving myself to you for your well-being. A covenant is a protective covering. It is a promise. Every covenant has a head. The one that’s ultimately responsible for the oversight, management and well-being of the protected. The husband is the “head” in the model of Jesus being the head of the church. It is servanthood. A contract is about my benefit. A covenant is about her benefit. “I want a divorce to start over. You know, God wants me happy.” That’s contract thinking, not covenant thinking. What they are saying there is “ME”. Me to be happy. Me to get what I want. Me to get what I need. Covenant is about what is best for her. We’re talking about the difference between selfishness and servanthood.
“You don’t understand. I’ve got this incredibly difficult wife.” Not as difficult as Jesus’ wife, right?
“But my wife, she’s undependable and unthankful and doesn’t meet my needs.” Oh that’s nothing like Jesus’ wife right? She’s a real piece of work!
The church of Jesus is not always this beautiful, radiant, glorious bride. She is needy, she falls into sin, folly, rebellion, selfishness but Jesus loves His bride, His church, and He pursues without getting exhausted.
We read Ephesians 5 and words like “love” and “washing with the Word of God” and “making her holy” and “nourishing her, cherishing her” and becoming “one with her”. That is covenantal language. Here’s the bottom line men – your wife is your garden. If you don’t like the way the garden looks, you’re the gardener. You can’t just stand back and yell at her, or give demands to her, or pass judgments on her. You are to love her as Christ loved the church. You need to pursue her. Invest in her. Care for her. Cherish her. Nurture her. Protect her. Fight for her. So how are you doing? Adam, where are you? Are you providing for her? Not financial provision though that is part of it but rather emotional provision? Spiritual provision? All this provision so that she may flourish? Nourish so that she may flourish!
So there is this deep, rich, fertile soil that can be marriage. It is the promise. When I took the hand of my girlfriend and asked her to marry me, I invited her into the promise. I looked her father in the eye and confirmed the promise. I stood before God and others and sealed the promise…I will never leave you nor forsake you. And in so doing, I stepped into Shannon’s deepest longing.
John Eldredge says, “The deep cry of every little girl’s heart is am I lovely? Every woman needs to know that she is exquisite and exotic and chosen. This is core to her identity, the way she bears the image of God… Will you pursue me? Do you delight in me? Will you fight for me?”
And so I say to you – this is the promise to our wives after 10, 15, 20, 30 years of marriage. After 26 years of marriage, Shannon still needs to hear “I choose you. I will continue to fight for you. I will continue to pursue you. I delight in you. You captivate me. You intoxicate me. You are lovely.” Her need for this is really insatiable. She can’t hear it or feel it enough. It NEVER goes away.
Women are extraordinarily complicated animals. The world comes at our women very hard. They want to be pretty. They want to be skinny. At 45 they want the bodies of a 20 year old. They want their children to be popular and included but they also don’t want them to be popular. When my oldest went off to college, it was very hard on Mom. In the months leading up to our daughter leaving home, my wife was on a huge emotional rollercoaster. It was tough. But here is where she needed me most. She was emotional. She was angry. She was scared to death of the change. She pushed me away one moment and was clingy the next. How easy it would have been to “move away from the thing I fear I cannot manage and instead focus on something I could manage like email.”
In that moment, what she really needed from me is just one simple thing – no matter how “crazy” she might have been through this, she just needed the quiet strength, comfort and security of the promise. She needed to rest under the “oak of righteousness”. She needed to rest in that I will never leave nor forsake you. I’m not going anywhere. This is my place in the battle. This is the hill I will die on. This is my Braveheart or Gladiator moment – Strength & Honor. It is no longer about my winning or losing. She might respond to me – or – she might not. That is really no longer the issue.
Her question is simply, “Will you keep pursuing me?” “Will you keep fighting for me?” And I take it to God and express my frustration, my hurting, my lack of patience and He lovingly says, “I know son, I know. Now go back. Keep pursuing.”
I will leave you with this. Morgan Snyder was relaying a story of a friend. He was actively pursuing his kids. He took on the responsibility of morning carpool so he could engage with them and launch them daily into their world. He helped get them up and get them going in the morning. He was intentional. It was sweet, rich time. Then he took it deeper. He started praying over them, personally every day before they headed to the car. He fought for them. He prayed down the Kingdom of Heaven upon them. He bound up the spirits that would attack. He placed the Cross of Christ between them and the evil one. It was great! One day, his wife was outside talking to another mom and came into the front door as he was praying over his kids and she bowed and listened to the prayers. When it was done, he looked up and she had tears streaming down her cheeks and all she could say was, “What about me? What about me? I need those same prayers from you. I need you fighting for me.”
Eve. There she is. She is yours. She was a child of God long before you made a covenant for her. Adam, where are you?