Posts Tagged 'Men'

Wear it for me…

I was never one for jewellery. I took the view that a man should really only wear a high quality watch and a wedding band. One of those hallmarks of masculinity for me. A stylish watch; an elegant suit but he polishes his own shoes. These should all come naturally to my ideal of masculinity. There are other aspects but that encompasses one facet of the type of man I try to be. I’ve had that ring little over a year but only started wearing it every now and then over the past few months. It has a story of course. All jewellery should.

“Would you wear a ring for me?” It was an unusual question for a relationship that was less than a week old. “Darling are you asking to marry me?” I’m nothing if not a tease. “No, it’d just be nice. It’d let other women know that you’re taken but only if you have no problem wearing one.” I laughed. I like to make my friends happy and I like to bring joy to other people’s lives. For me this was a no brainer. “Shouldn’t you be down on one knee or something?” But it didn’t mean I couldn’t still have some fun. “If it’s a problem it’s fine.” I took her by the hand “No, it isn’t a problem but I can’t wait to make my friends and family back home freak out by saying I’m going ring shopping on Facebook.” When I lose the imp in me you might as well make preparations for the wake.

All my relationships have been long distance. This one was no different. We’d met through blogging and I’d flown across the ocean to meet her. I’m kind of stupidly romantic that way but for me we’d done everything right. We’d had a good long friendship before hand. I was familiar with some of the people from her church and when I arrived I got on with everyone. The only thing that sucked was the whole long distance aspect.

So we went ring shopping. Two of her friends went with us as we’d met them for coffee on the way. “What type of ring should I get?” “I don’t mind. You’re the one who will have to wear it. You pick it out.” “Aren’t girls meant to have the idea of a ring in their head already?” “Those are our rings silly. Not guys’ rings.” I didn’t have a clue what type of ring to get. We were in an Irish shop. It could have been worse with all the stereotypical Irish junk but I managed to finally settle on one. With her in college she couldn’t afford to pay for it. It wasn’t a big deal. I was just happy that she wanted me to wear a ring. It was proof in a way that she was committed to what was going to be a tough relationship.

It took a while to get used to the ring on my finger. I couldn’t wash my hands while wearing it. I realised immediately that putting it on the kitchen sink was a bad habit to start so my habit was to put it in my back pocket. Half the time after washing my hands I would forget to put it back on. Eventually though it became familiar. The weight on my hand. I came to feel it was a part of me. I liked having it on my hand and on my finger. Yes, this was a new step; a new direction but one that had me on a path that I wanted to embark on. A woman who shared my version of Christianity; who blogged; who danced who put up with my flaws and failings. A woman I wanted to build a life together with. A life built for a Hollywood love story.

There’s a reason we go to the movies. Escapism. We want to forget about our lives for two hours and imagine how they could be. Were you to draft a script about the heroine in this instance there would be a happy ending. She gets the guy she loves in the end. It just wasn’t this guy. For Hollywood it isn’t cheating on the guy who was merely there to make the heroine realise which of the men in her life she truly loved. That guy only wanted the best for her and wanted her to be happy. For Hollywood that’s enough to brush him out of the picture.

So this ring which was meant to be a symbol of love across the oceans crossed an ocean never to return to whence it came. In the movies it’s alright to forget about the guy who bought a symbol of fidelity expecting it to mean that faithfulness would abound – or if not that, at least friendship. The symbol he didn’t wear on his finger for fear of questions when the relationship was in its death throes so he put it on a chain and wore it close to his heart, believing that love between friends would mean that at least friendship would remain. The symbol that eventually became a thunderbolt of pain that clapped throughout his entire being with every beat of his heart before the burnings sensation of it on his skin meant he could no longer bear the sight of it such was the furnace of emotions it unleashed through him. The symbol that eventually became as cold, inert and lifeless as the metal from which it was forged.

I don’t believe in hiding or getting rid of things unless they no longer serve any purpose. This ring still serves a purpose for me but right now I can’t tell you what it is.

Men don’t like being the bride

The video above became a bit of sensation a while back. In it, a KJV only preacher stretches the bounds of biblical interpretation by arguing that the mark of a real man is that he urinates while standing up. The video was originally posted by the pastor himself, if my memory serves, but has since been taken down. No-one likes to be ridiculed but remember children. The Internet is forever.

People laugh at the video because of the absurd point that he makes but let’s try and dig the principle out of this. Who knows? Maybe I could one day make this one of my 52 life changing sermons I have in my back pocket. The error made here was taking verses from the Scriptures to fit a pet theory rather than looking at what is revealed in Scripture itself. Somewhere along the line of urinating standing up became the mark of what it means to be a man.

I was watching Brian Houston from Hillsongs Church Australia preaching at their Men’s Conference on God TV. I struggle with my attitude to a lot of the things that happen in church. How much is the prompting of the Holy Spirit and how much is down to the skill of the person you’re listening to? That’s not to say they’re mutually exclusive as the Holy Spirit can often use the words of others to convict us. It’s just when we become dependent on great preaching or the perfect worship ‘experience’ we are committing idolatry. We are placing spiritual disciplines before the Holy Spirit. We are placing judicious use of sound effects before Jesus. We are making gods of frail vessels who have a talent. But I digress.

Brian Houston said a certain phrase on stage. It’s something any preacher could have said and he’d have gotten a storm of deep toned “Amen!”s echoing from the congregation. It’s time for men to be men! A man has to be a man! Men need to start acting like men and not like, as our misfortunate preacher from the video says, males. Does anyone even know what that means? What is a man? Let’s have a go shall we? Let’s take two stereotypes for the sake of argument.

Take our first man: he plays football. He washes his car once a week. He works hard at his job and regularly puts in overtime. You often find him hanging out with the lads. He currently rents and is saving up to buy a place. When he does buy his house it’s going to have a tool shed out the back where he can do his carpentry. He can figure out his way around a house. You’ll often find him watching some form of sports on the TV. He likes to get his chips and burger and watch a DVD. That’s his idea of a good night in. He loses the rag if people threaten those he cares about.

And then we have our second man. He’s a bit different. He likes to cook and to clean. He reads a lot of books. He has pink shirts. He loves to watch dance recitals. He dances himself actually. He’s not really into cars. He prefers talking to women than men most of the time. He’s very huggy and affectionate. He takes a lot of time to get ready if he has to go out. He has so many clothes he’s forgotten that he has some of them. He likes to wear designer footwear and always makes sure he has his perfume cologne on if he’s walking out the door. He likes to talk about literature and Shakespeare. He’d much prefer to avoid conflict than start an argument.

Who sounds more of a man?

Who’s more the Biblical model of a man?

Could they be the same man?

The first man is the guy who writes the posts for this blog. The second man is this blogger. They’re both me. Different sides of the same man. And that’s the first problem when this kind of message is preached. Defining masculinity on the type of activities a man does. Hunting sounds like a manly activity that men with guns and an excess of chest hair and sweat get up to. Am I less of a man because I’ve never hunted? I couldn’t be bothered my arse learning how to hunt. I’m pretty glad society has advanced to the point that I can be perfectly ignorant of where my food came from and how it got there without worrying. If it gets to the stage that I have to learn how to hunt the world is in a hell of a lot of trouble. The other problem is that this is nothing more than cultural expectations presented as the word of God. I could be wrong but the last time I read my Bible the imageo Dei wasn’t conditional on one’s familiarity with team sports. My salvation is based on the work of the Cross not on whether I know how to make a cross-halving joint in woodwork.

One interesting hypothesis I was directed to concerning this can be found here. The post is worthy reading as it’s by a psychologist and he talks about church culture. The point he makes about educational attainment among men correlating with greater involvement in stereotypically female activities is an interesting one for me. Books like Wild at Heart speak to a man on a fundamental level. They diagnose the problem to a certain degree but perhaps don’t propose the best solution. It’s like the preacher on stage saying we need men to be men. It gets a reaction but it’s not necessarily the reaction that is best.

This blog post is an attempt to figure out what bugs me about the whole men need to be men ideal. Were I to sum it up I would say it’s too focused on the alpha male. It’s too focused on a masculinity that is based more on specific Western conceptions of manhood than any Scriptural foundation. Sometimes it just seems like pandering to an audience while doing nothing to facilitate making the church more accessible to that audience. Young men who are leaving this country because the only work they know is bricks and mortar. Young men who fail to treat women in anything that resembles absolute purity and sisterly love. People may mock attempts to evangelize through Ultimate Fighter but at least it’s an attempt to relate to the men out there.

What is a man?

The Lion and the Lamb.

Jesus tore up the temple in a fit of righteous anger yet said that we must be as children in order to enter the Kingdom of God. David wrote poetry, songs and played a frail stringed instrument. It’s not a unique failing to alpha male types to read cultural expectations into the Scriptures. What is dangerous is when those cultural expectations take on the authority of Scripture in the mind of believers.

You’ll do for now…

I often like groups or pages on Facebook that my friends join to indicate my approval rather than joining them myself. One such page can be found here.

When I hit college age the gender balance in my friendships swung. Previously I’d been a guy who made friends with guys. After all a lot more teenage boys play soccer than teenage girls and what more are you interested in as a teenage boy apart from playing ball and balls playing? At third level in Ireland for every guy that attends university there are two women. The odds are in your favour. It was no surprise that I ended up with a lot of female friends. Some of it was the product of the clubs and societies I ended up in but another aspect was that, at that time, I felt I related to women better than I did men.

Over the past couple of years I’ve had a lot more online friendships and relationships than real life ones. I use the term real life to distinguish between relationships that occur more in the physical world compared to the virtual world. It’s funny but online relationships can become a lot more intense. There’s no chance to observe what’s going on with that person. That’s a big part of friendships in the real world. Virtually all you have to go on a lot of the time is the text that’s appearing in front of you. You can learn a lot in an online friendships but you can still know very little about the person you’re chatting with.

That doesn’t change the reality of these relationships though. You do make friends. You do have private jokes. You do share a lot and despite all the drawbacks you do have genuine friendships. Some of the greatest hurt I’ve ever known came as a result of a genuine, online friendship. Actually, a lot of the hurt I’ve known has come from online friendships. Maybe that should tell me something…

How much should a person’s other friendships change when they enter a relationship? It’s happened to me a few times now where I would chat regularly with a female friend and then they find a guy. It’s as if you never existed. You no longer figure in their life to any meaningful degree. They got their man and nothing else seems to matter. I don’t think this is a healthy state of affairs. It happens both ways. The general label where I’m from is that a man is whipped. I’m not sure what the female equivalent is.

If you find yourself cut out of a person’s life when they enter a relationship what does that say about your friendship? Obviously there are different seasons to life but how come so many of us seem to enter a cold, dark winter the moment someone else enjoys a warm, hot summer? It just seems wrong.


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