The good news: you matter. Despite the questions our society often raises about the value of men, and especially fathers (think Homer Simpson), you have a deeply important calling as a man. Your presence and your words have an enormous impact on those around you.
The sobering news: you matter. Your words and presence have impact, but that impact can go either way. It can bring life, security and blessing into the lives of others, especially our wives and children—or it can bring fear, shame and violence. Glory or ruin.
In my work as a minister to men, I regularly encounter men who question their value and competency. In fact a deep, hidden doubt in their ability to effectively manage the requirements of their lives is one of the most common traits I see.
A few years ago I met a 30-something man who seemed to have the world by the tail. He was the hotshot CEO of a growing company; he had a trophy wife, a beautiful home in the suburbs and a red convertible Porsche he drove at ridiculous speeds to work every morning. He apparently had it all.
Then one morning he called me. “Craig,” he said, “I’m on the shoulder of the expressway. I’m heading into a meeting with my board. They know everything. They know my lies, my cheating and my cover-ups. I can’t pull this thing off any more. They know the truth about me—I’m ruined.” Then he burst into tears.
Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) had it right when he said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation…” That’s just as true today as it was in his time. The only difference is that the desperation is not as quiet. How else can we explain the unbelievable risks so many men take to pursue that forbidden affair, to pad their wallets while their employees lose jobs, to bilk others of billions of dollars in pyramid schemes?
What’s going on here?
What’s going on is that men have fallen for the lie that their value is defined by performance, position, power or possessions. Too many men believe that they matter to others solely because they have the world’s external badges that prove their worth. At the same time they know the truth beneath the surface: they wrestle with fear, anger, confusion, exhaustion.
The internal conflict these men live with, the demands of keeping the secrets or keeping pace with expectations, results in men who either passively give up or violently take their rage out on those who least deserve it. You may know some men like this. You may be this man.
In Psalm 139, we learn that all men and women have deep intrinsic value because we were knit together by the God of the universe. Even before we were born, God knew us and formed us uniquely, regardless of gender. But when God chose to reveal himself to mankind, he did so as a Father and as a Son.
When I did training for a mission agency several years ago, my colleagues and I had the dual roles of preparing those candidates who would go to the field and holding back those who should not. Invariably, some had unhealed emotional wounds that profoundly affected their ability to relate to others in a healthy way.
Over the years I saw a consistent pattern in those who were deeply wounded, whether men or women, single or married: almost always, the factor that most heavily influenced their wounded self-esteem and personal sense of value was their relationship with their father.
That realization glared at me like a flashing light: Craig, it’s about the father. It’s about the father. That awakening had a deep affect on me as a dad.
Bless Me, Father
When God chose to reveal himself as a father, He laid a spiritual mantle on all men who would follow. The presence and words of men carry a message of love and grace—or of judgment and condemnation. Children believe what their fathers say about them, whether it is a message of blessing or of shame. And they make the assumption that God agrees. Many of you reading these words know from personal experience that this is true.
Even Jesus needed to hear words of blessing from His Father. We know that Jesus’ impact on the world was largely unseen for 30 years, until the day he was baptized. “And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” (Matt. 3:17)
The Father gave His Son words of identification; He gave words of love; and He gave words of pride.
Later, on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:5), the Father spoke the very same words about His Son with one additional phrase: Listen to Him. With that blessing from the Father, the Son changed the history and future of the world.
Here is one of the most amazing principles of fathering I know: A boy’s primary model for masculinity comes from his father. A girl’s primary model for femininity comes from her mother. A boy receives endorsement of the innate value of his masculinity—that he has what it takes—from his father. A girl receives endorsement of the innate value of her femininity—that she is worth loving—from her father, as well.
It’s about the father. When a father withholds blessing from his son, the son will look for it in a community of men through performance or destruction. Or else he will retreat into defeat and passivity.
When a father withholds blessing from his daughter, she will look for it in the words and the arms of another man. It may not necessarily matter who he is…he just needs to be a guy. Again, many of you already know this from personal experience.
Mothers deeply impact the lives of their children, and they seem to intuitively understand this. Most sacrificially give their lives to bring love, safety, nurture and presence into the lives of their kids.
It’s men who so often seem to confuse their value and their role. Men are called to speak words of blessing into the lives of others, whether to their wives, their children or other men. But so often men swallow the lie of our culture that says, “Your value is in what you own, wear, build or drive.”
Men matter. Deeply. This is the core message I speak to men. But it has nothing to do with the external trappings the world esteems.
I urge men to understand their deep value simply because of Who created them.
I urge them to embrace their roles as men by bringing blessing into the lives of others.
And I urge them to live out the unique personal calling that God has placed on them through their giftedness and their healed woundedness.
Men, you matter. For blessing or destruction; glory or ruin.
My greatest joy in life is my family. I know, that sounds like the comment you’re supposed to make as a man and father. All I can say is I literally shake my head in wonder at the family I have: my wife Beryl; my daughter Barclay and son-in-law Vince, their four daughters, Bella, Brynn, Brooke and Blake; my son Alec, my son Conor and daughter-in-law Bonnie, their daughter Gemma and son Calvin. Every one of them is a genuine gift. Beyond that, I have a calling that I live out through Peregrine Ministries. It is to help men: Understand their identity in Christ, Embrace their role as men, and Live out their God-given calling in life. Bottom line is I’m convinced men matter and I want to help them live life on purpose.