Tough, strong, brave, rugged and bearded! These are all normal characteristics or traits we would use to describe someone who, in our view, is manly, correct? We value you the athletic, the strong, the hyper intelligent, and successful in their fields as being the most competent of men in our culture today. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of these traits by the way, especially being bearded! It’s easy in our culture today to place our focus on these qualities, rather than bringing into view the qualities that showcase the true strength of a man.
My father was a carpenter when I was growing up, and owned his own construction company. He wasn’t extremely successful by most people’s standards, but he more than provided for the needs of our family. If there were lean times in our home, then I was oblivious to it. I grew up without need, and honestly without too much want as well. I was taught to work hard, and every summer from the age of 12 my job was located at whatever building site my father was working at. I had all of the usual jobs you would expect. You know, the jobs that require little thought, but lots of, shall we call it, “elbow grease.” I saw men hit their hands with hammers, cut their fingers with saws, and not a handsaw, we’re talking full on circular saw! I never saw a tear. A few screams, and lots of “cuss words”, which to a young man being raised in a fairly conservative home hearing those words were like going to an R-rated movie. Exciting, yet embarrassing all at the same time! These men, who my dad had hired, trained, and apprenticed in many cases, were the spitting image of the character my father walked in. Tough as nails. And yes, my dad could beat up your dad – just ask me! My point is that I grew up with a good child hood and strong male role models. Even with all of that, my picture of the qualities that make a man of true character were painted on the battlefield of the construction site, which didn’t leave much room for emotion or transparency. I mean c’mon, you hit your hand with a hammer and tell me your first instinct isn’t to curl up into the fetal position! That crap hurts, but that’s the example I was given.
Insert Jesus. Jesus was a man’s man. He camped; he traveled, saw the world, stood in the face of adversity and laughed in the face of fear. He, much like myself, was raised in the home of a carpenter. Now, this is about the only comparison between Jesus and me that you’ll find to be true, but a guy’s got to start somewhere, right? Jesus saw all of the same things that I did growing up. The toughness, the machismo, and perhaps even more so given the particular time and culture he was born into.
Even with all of that, when you read about Jesus, who he was and what he had to say, it wasn’t only the toughness, but there was a vulnerability to who he was. He possessed an astute and calculated level of transparency. Jesus wasn’t hesitant to allow people to get close to him. In fact, he preferred it. Jesus, time after time, was found feasting in the homes of people that the religious leaders of his day found less than desirable. He was so willing to be himself around them that the less fortunate, the poor, the needy, hungry, liars, thieves, and the like constantly forced their way through large crowds just to catch a glimpse of this man. Why was this?
Many reasons I’m sure, but one that has become abundantly clear to me over the past few years, is that Jesus allowed himself to be vulnerable with those around him. He wasn’t guarded or masked in anyway. He let people into his life, because he knew that the only way he was getting into theirs is if he offered that olive branch first. And offer he did. Time and time again we find Jesus encountering people with dire need in their lives, and making himself utterly available to them. As a matter of fact, many of these times his disciples would attempt to help Jesus keep his focus on the “task at hand”, but Jesus would easily bypass agenda for relationship.
I’m reminded of the story of Mary and Martha: Luke 10:38-42. Jesus was at their house and Martha was busy working in the kitchen and making sure that everyone’s needs were met. Honestly, she was trying to be a great host, and serve in the best way she knew how. Her sister, Mary, wasn’t so inclined. Rather than help Martha, Mary chose to sit at Jesus’ feet, listen to him teach, and get to know him better. Martha was furious with Mary’s lack of effort, but Jesus comforted Martha by basically telling her that all of her busy work wasn’t what he was after. He’d rather have her in the room with him building relationship. Our agenda can easily get in the way of relationships. Jesus was so good at being open with others, while still allowing them to reciprocate with a level of vulnerability that skirted judgment from his point of view.
In our recent conversation with Kenneth DeVon we learned so much about the power of vulnerability (listen here: Kenneth DeVon Podcast). Kenneth exuded true manliness in opening his heart and his life to our listeners and us. The truth is, man or woman, we could all learn something from Kenneth and his desire for relationship above all else. Kenneth’s story about his life-long friend, whom he hadn’t seen in many years is moving. When he encountered this man on the streets of Houston, Kenneth’s reaction was a level of emotional brokenness that most men wouldn’t have the courage for. It wasn’t weakness, but that show of true strength and love for his friend that rekindled and reconciled a relationship that is still impacting both of them to this day.
How are you impacting your friends, family and other relationships? Are you a closed wall presenting a façade of strength, or are you exuding a vulnerable, active love? Choose love!