I was visiting a church the other day when something amazing happened. There was a guest speaker and, while I honestly can’t remember what his sermon was about, I remember how it ended. At the close of his talk he began speaking to the men and he asked all of us in the church to stand up. I started getting nervous at this point. I was afraid he was going to ask us to hug the man closest to us.
The speaker, who I’ll call Joe, began to call us out of passivity and fear and to encourage us to rise up as men of God and take care of our families. He did a “repeat after me” deal in which we all said something to the effect of “Lord, I will stand in your power and not give in to fear.” Then he asked us to look at our wives if we had them and say “I’m fighting for you.” I did this but I had to say it in a laughing way because I felt convicted that I wasn’t really fighting for my family at the time. Finally, Joe told us all to stand in a circle around the sanctuary and hold hands. It is noteworthy that in this church the men seemed to outnumber the women because that almost never happens.
He then prayed over all of us and invited all of us to pray at the same time. I had a little resistance to the whole gesture at first but I quickly gave in to the power and encouragement of the experience. It’s hard for me to put into words the weight and charge I felt in the room, the sacredness of the moment, the thrill at tasting something almost never handed out in churches–manly encouragement and leadership.
Here’s the most surprising thing about the whole deal for me–Joe, the guy who led us, is kind of a…a softy. To be more descriptive, out of all the men I’ve met in my life, he is the most like an actual teddy bear I’ve ever seen. Joe is a counselor so he’s always talking about feelings in a soft voice that makes me want to take a nap and he’s actually shaped like a teddy bear. There is nothing about this man’s appearance that would make me look to him for help in a fight, for leadership, or for really anything manly at all.
And yet, despite my opinion of his outward appearance, God thought it was a good idea to use him. Not only to use him but to use him specifically to call out, challenge, strengthen and build up all the men in that building. He demonstrated true leadership, boldness and challenged the norm of how things were done. He did something that many would consider risky in an environment that can be judgmental and averse to change. It wasn’t the guy with the big muscles or the sharp jawline, it wasn’t the guy in the suit or the guy with the biggest beard–it was the human teddy bear who shone with glorious manliness that day.
It seems that God gets a kick out of using men who other men wouldn’t normally look up to. He chose David, the youngest of his twelve brothers to be king over his people even though no one else thought he deserved the chance. He chose Gideon, (which reminds me–the story of Gideon is actually what Joe talked about that Sunday) the least of his family which was the least of his clan which was the least of his tribe which was the least of his nation. In other words, God chose a wiener when he chose Gideon to be the leader of his whole nation.
In the story of David, the kid brother who was out watching the sheep, God says that people look out the outside of a man but that he looks at the heart. You can read about it in 1 Samuel 16:7. Then theres the fact that God likes his glory to be seen and doesn’t like for men to take the credit for his work.
There’s something else which is really just my theory. I think that the enemy attacks us in the place that God wants us to be strong. I’ve found it to be true that in the place of a man’s deepest wound, you’ll find the place God designed him to be glorious.
An example in my life: I always felt incompetent growing up. I felt like I screwed evereything up and that I wasn’t capable of doing complex tasks. As the Father has spoken into that area of life I’ve discovered that competence is really a great area of strength for me. So the man who seems too girly or puny to lead other men, the man who walks around with his wound on his sleeve, might just be the man God designed to be a great leader.
So what does this tell me? It tells me not to ignore the guy who I think is a wiener because he might have the heart of a warrior and God can do anything he wants through him. It tells me that when I feel like a wiener that I shouldn’t discount myself for the same reason. It tells me that my judgement of things can be all too superficial, immature and ignorant and that I should look for the strength in the hearts of the men God has surrounded me with.