I don’t have a lot to say besides watch this movie. Wait until you have a free half hour and watch it. There’s a lot of understated goodness in this film about men and wilderness, fathers and kids, husbands and wives. Searching For West:
The Anima Project is a group that is making awesome art for Jesus in the form of short videos. The other day my Facebook news feed exploded with my female friends sharing the link to a video for women by The Anima Series called Who You Are: A Message To All Women. The video was spot on with gospel truth, cool music, and an engaging, artistic style.
The Anima Series has a companion video for men–Who You Are: A Message To All Men. Check it out.
If you’re like me, you might find yourself a little uncomfortable with someone saying so many good things about you. The video might expose a little of your cynicism. If you find it uncomfortable to open up, get a little vulnerable and just soak up the good gospel truth about who you are when someone tells it to you, then watch the video again and practice owning what’s yours in Christ.
We have a lot of self-defense mechanisms that prevent us from believing the good things God has said about us. We have also bought lies from people, culture, Satan, and ourselves. Those lies can become deeply entrenched in our minds and hearts and make it hard to receive truth. This video is a small opportunity to do what should become a daily practice for you–filling your head with God’s truth about who He is and who you are in Him.
I was recently traveling out of state to support a friend of mine as his groomsman at his wedding. The groom, the other groomsmen, the photographer and I all lived together in a house for three days or so while the bachelor’s party, rehearsal and other festivities were continuing.
Alec, the photographer, a friend of mine from college, was actually shooting two weddings that weekend. One evening, one of the other groomsmen made a comment about him that struck me as incredibly insightful. He said that, for being one of the busiest guys he knew, this photographer was also the most peaceful person he could think of. I instantly agreed.
After the wedding, the night before I left to drive back to Colorado, I asked Alec about where he got his inner peace. He quickly answered “I just have joy man.”
Since then, I’ve been thinking about his answer. Alec recently tweeted a quote of a quote to me. It was John Piper quoting G. K. Chesterton. In his book, Orthodoxy, Chesterton said “Man is more manlike when joy is the fundamental thing in him.” Though it’s obvious from the context that Chesterton is using “man” in the general human sense of the word, I believe this quote contains a lot of truth that we as men need to receive.
Man is more manlike when joy is the fundamental thing in him.
Awhile back I talked about the importance of finding your identity as a a son of God (a genderless spiritual reality for both men and women) before anything else. You need to find your identity in sonship well before you try to find it in manliness. I’m now realizing that Joy needs to be another integral aspect of who we are. Substituting “human” for “man”–if humans are more humanlike when Joy is the fundamental thing them, and an integral aspect of your humanness is your manhood, then you’ll be more of a man when Joy is a foundational aspect of your character. The same would go for women.
This flies in the face of the Hollywood image of men.
On one hand you have the American Manly Man. The American Manly Man is stoic, only smiles when he is shooting something, can’t maintain a relationship with a woman because he’s too busy being a hard-ass and fighting. The American Manly Man doesn’t laugh from Joy–he just makes cynical, sardonic remarks about how he doesn’t care. His smile is really a painful grimace.
On the other end of the spectrum you have the American Dude, who is too stupid and base-minded to have real joy. Real Joy is set on higher, eternal things, but the American dude is content to find his ersatz joy in fart jokes, boobs, football, beer and bacon. Joy gives us incredible drive but the American Dude is content just getting fat and doing whatever his wife tells him to. His grin just says that he doesn’t know what to do.
These stereotypes must not define us as men. They are based on fear. The Manly Man is too scared to feel and the Dude is too scared to act. While I’ll probably always like the Die Hard movies and will always laugh at fart jokes, I need to find that, beyond all of that fluff, Joy is what is truly integral to who I am as a man. Be clear that we’re talking about Joy and not just happiness. The difference is important but there is not sufficient space here to lay out a theology of joy and a discussion of how a man obtains it. That will be your job for now and maybe we’ll discuss it in the future.
For those interested, here is the full quote from Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton. As you’ll see there is way more to the thought than what we’ve discussed above.
The mass of men have been forced to be gay about the little things, but sad about the big ones. Nevertheless (I offer my last dogma defiantly) it is not native to man to be so. Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live. Yet, according to the apparent estate of man as seen by the pagan or the agnostic, this primary need of human nature can never be fulfilled. Joy ought to be expansive; but for the agnostic it must be contracted, it must cling to one corner of the world. Grief ought to be a concentration; but for the agnostic its desolation is spread through an unthinkable eternity. This is what I call being born upside down. The sceptic may truly be said to be topsy-turvy; for his feet are dancing upwards in idle ecstasies, while his brain is in the abyss. To the modern man the heavens are actually below the earth. The explanation is simple; he is standing on his head; which is a very weak pedestal to stand on. But when he has found his feet again he knows it. Christianity satisfies suddenly and perfectly man’s ancestral instinct for being the right way up; satisfies it supremely in this; that by its creed joy becomes something gigantic and sadness something special and small. The vault above us is not deaf because the universe is an idiot; the silence is not the heartless silence of an endless and aimless world. Rather the silence around us is a small and pitiful stillness like the prompt stillness in a sick room. We are perhaps permitted tragedy as a sort of merciful comedy: because the frantic energy of divine things would knock us down like a drunken farce. We can take our own tears more lightly than we could take the tremendous levities of the angels. So we sit perhaps in a starry chamber of silence, while the laughter of the heavens is too loud for us to hear.
—Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton
So what do you think? Is Joy integral to who you are? Should it be? What do you think Joy is and how do you get it?
A few months ago I was at a worship event in the mountains for a weekend when someone made a comment, almost in passing, that changed everything about the way I think about being a man. The speaker was Ben Pasley, a spiritual leader (and huge influencer in my life) whose work you should get acquainted with. Pasley was talking about sonship. “Son” is the status of all those who are in Jesus, man or woman. If you know Jesus, you’re God’s son. There’s a ton to say about sonship, and a lot has been said in Ben Pasley’s book, Orphan Slave Son.
So Pasley is talking about sonship when he says, “The identity of ‘son’ is the only identity you can have that is limitless.” Ben went on to say that you can find your identity in lots of things and that’s okay but the only true foundation for our identity must be as God’s son. He specifically mentioned manliness. He said you can see yourself as a manly man and that’s alright but if your identity rests on your manliness then it is limited and conditional. It can be taken away.
When a man like Ben Pasley is at the microphone the gold is dispensed almost too quickly so you have to be paying attention. I was and my jaw dropped when he brought up this identity stuff. The mention of manliness as a possible source of false identity felt like it was spoken directly to me. My first reaction to being “found out” is often denial but it didn’t last long because the knife was too sharp and the damage was done.
A truth as big and life-altering as this needs to be captured, filed and returned to often over a long period of time in order to be adequately processed. So in the months that have followed I’ve thought about it a lot, asking myself the question, “Where are the places I base my identity other than in Christ?” I’ve found that there are lots of these places but for our purposes, I want to talk about manliness of course.
To be sure, I would be the last person to deny the significance of manliness. You are a man, that’s how God created you, that’s an important part of your identity, and you should want to be the best man you can be. But your manhood cannot be the foundation of your identity. When we base our identities on our manliness we limit ourselves and inevitably begin to live false lives.
Some of the results of an identity founded in manhood:
- Fear. When we’re struggling as men, when we do something weak or generally unmanly, we respond in fear because the foundation of our very selves is cracking and because we’re afraid of being found out.
- Anger. Anger usually follows fear for men. We’ve put ourselves in a losing position and it pisses us off.
- Lies. We will always have to pretend to be “manlier” than we are. We end up worrying more about things that appear manly on the outside in order to maintain the impression while neglecting the manliness of the heart. We posture.
- Weakness. There is no strength to be found in a false identity.
- Wounds. We’ve built our manliness on things that have nothing to do with being men and try to hold other men to our false standards. Instead of building other men up we try to limit their identities or even tear them down to augment our own position.
It’s because of the use of manhood as a false identity that many people believe manhood is nothing more than a performance. They believe that there is nothing inherently distinct (beyond our physicality) about men and that manliness is just an act males put on in order to fit in culturally. I deeply disagree with this position. God has made us men down to the heart. It’s that truth that is the reason for this blog. Men living out a manhood that is the foundation of their identity are the source of false beliefs about the role of manhood.
First, you are a son. There is nothing you have to do to remain a son except remain. There is nothing that can separate you from the love of Christ and therefore nothing that can take away your place as God’s son. If you foul up or if you are attacked it will not damage your status as son in the least. Everything you need to do flows naturally from your identity as a son. If we want to be great men then our manhood needs to be founded on our place as sons. It is the only identity that is limitless. Put manliness in it’s right place and it is a glorious thing God can use in big ways.