November 2, 2010

Male Ambiguity 3

Continuing on with our discussion of Male Ambiguity...

There is an incredible plan for each of us. Our unique personality, likes and dislikes, strengths, weaknesses and skills and talents are not happenstance. We are all different for a reason! That's a great thing- what a boring world it would be should we all be the same!

That said, we cannot be all that our Creator has designed us for if we fight Him and remain in unhealthy places in our lives. Have we created a hole so deep by "just surviving" that we are afraid to take steps to health?

"For as he thinketh within himself, so is he" (Proverbs 23: 7, American Standard Version)

Where can we get stuck? Author Leeann Payne writes, “In secure possession of their gender identity, the great majority of men moved from the chest, as it were, out of hearts freed from the Legalisms of Childhood, the Narcissisms of Adolescence, or the Perfectionisms of an Adulthood spent futilely seeking self acceptance (or even the affirmation of parents).”
Crisis in Masculinity; page 13

Question: Let’s look at these and see if we find ourselves here in one spot or in many…

“Legalisms of Childhood”

This may be best represented by folks who tell others what to do and how to do it- but don't follow their own advice, setting themselves up as an example. They live unrestrained lives, taking actions which immediately or eventually inflict pain on others or use them for their own pleasure or purposes. Everything is about them and what they want. As adults, we know real community and true love requires sacrifice and looking out for the needs of others first.

For those stuck in this childish mode, there can be an unspoken list of Do’s and Don’ts, Shoulds and Shouldn’ts. Maybe its is being Performance Driven and Oriented; the ends justifies the means. Success at all costs. “Fair” is a big deal, “The Way Things Should Be”. These folks stuck here can live their lives under expectations, judgments, and curses- and they tend to do the same to others, especially when they do not get what they want. Roles are important, so relationships may be difficult, and status means quite a bit to them. You might see them tend toward a joyless life.

“Narcissisms of Adolescence ”

May be best represented by those folks who are a slave to their passions. Characterized by a lack of self-control and a huge ego or a deeply wounded one. These kind of guys cannot control the carnal nature but instead indulge it with abandon, to the detriment of the truly important relationships they do have, risking health, career, and maturity. Very vulnerable to addictions- overeater, being a workaholic, alcoholic, sex addict. My needs and wants, my time, my interests, my hobbies- “It’s All About Me”, “What’s in it for me?” The common good is unimportant, so commitment may be a one way street. Relationships are probably many but may be shallow. I can fall into this one: he fears growing up and taking responsibility. If he is a parent, he could be living life through his children.

God wants to bless the people He loves with freedom and joy- and his patterns for life are guidelines which bring safety and blessing and personal fulfillment that is deep and lasting. Then, and only then, do our lives bring Him honor- and our soul is at rest. The great Apostle Paul writes, "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:22-24

“Perfectionisms of Adulthood ”

For guys stuck here, there is a high need to prove authority and position. Image and control are very important. He'll use words and actions to manipulate. Having to look and be perfect, he is an easy target for a “secret life” where his addictions and actions that would disqualify him and ruin his image can take root and grow. Without friends for real support and honesty, he is lost in patterns which will destroy his life.

It's not just the "big" areas that can create problems here. I know men who couldn't tell the truth, men with uncontrollable tempers, men who stole small items at work, or others who couldn't control their need to look like the nice guy to everyone. Each experienced devastating consequences as something that didn't seem so significant finally became more important to them than what they really wanted in life. Most importantly, thet lost self-respect as well as losing sight of who they were. Patterns were set in place that couldn't be easily removed and without help.

What are some common characteristics in all these three stages and descriptions?

• Fear Based Decisions and Actions (or lack of action)
• Self-focused- difficult to think of or support others
• Can be emotionally inattentive to primary relationships
• Has difficulty focusing on God’s hand of blessing in their lives
• Compensates for something lost or something never gained
• For those of us married, we can turn responsibility over to our wives, leaving them burdened, confused and hurting
• Those of us with children can leave them confused, too.

Ultimately, we can be confused about who we really are as men, and instead, live a life full of good intentions without ever doing anything with them! Very disappointing and unfulfilling.

In an age where the world needs heroes, and we as men are looking at others by which we can model our lives, let's take a look at Jesus Christ as our model of manhood. Even if you are not a Christian, there are many things you can learn by examining the life of this extraordinary person.

The Bible says He dealt with the same temptations as us (Hebrews 4:15), so in this regard, his life on earth was no different than ours. This means ALL temptations- insert your own favorite struggle here. Jesus chose to be baptized by John, who was confused why the Son of God would want a baptism of repentance.

"Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented. He took ownership of what was right, and He chose to live his life in a way that would be a blessing to others.

He was tempted with all things. Look at this passage in the Book of Matthew, Chapter 4:
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."

4 Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:

"'He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"

7 Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."

10 Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Notice that twice Satan says “If you are the Son of God…” questioning his identity in the Father. When Jesus doesn’t cave in, Satan offers him all the world has in exchange for His true identity. There is nothing that evil men like more than when we lose sight of who we really are and trade it in for short term pleasures and pursuits. We are designed to make a positive difference in our world, but we can throw it all away so easily.

Jesus could have tossed it all away, but instead chose to make the ultimate sacrifice, choosing to die on the cross for the sins of all men for all time. Was there ever a bigger or more difficult mission than that? He is the Hero of all time, a worthy role model for those of us who want to be more than we are and to make our world a better place.

Now, for those of us who are trying to follow Jesus, Paul again has encouraging words regarding Our Sonship, Our Manhood, Our Identity. In Galatians 3:26-28, he writes, "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

Be warned: When we choose to live differently, we will be challenged, even attacked for the choice. The Same Experience as with Jesus will happen to us: We will be questioned by others our identity (And we will sometimes question ourselves about our identity in Christ). Through the ways of the world, we will be offered whatever appeals to us in exchange for our Manhood, our True Identity! These offers will become available to us as we make choices along the way toward whatever we place before God, thereby setting our hearts up for deceit.

Let me ask you a question, "What have we exchanged for our True Manhood, Our Godly Identity in Jesus?” or even "What compromises have I made in my life in order to not 'rock the boat'?" If you do not know the answers, ask those you trust- and listen well.

The answers will reveal the very areas that hold us captive to a life that is far less satisfying than the one we want. Then ask God for the strength to do what is right and honorable. There will be blessing as freedom as you forge ahead in his strength.

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