No, not the kind that appear on the cover of GQ.
In this day of gender confusion, political correctness, and spineless faith, we need male models. Men who exemplify true masculinity. Here I speak not of the overblown sort of a powerful sports figure or movie icon, but the strong, steady walk of a man who fears God, loves his family, and serves Christ’s church. We need to be able to point to them and tell the young men around us, “That’s what being a man is all about.”
Men like Herb, who for nearly three decades has been faithfully teaching junior high students, as he enjoys working with the young people under his charge. When he’s not teaching, during the summers this father of two daughters and five sons has had them up on ladders re-roofing and painting homes so his children could learn the value of work and obtaining useful skills. He also has employed other young people during their times of need, including two of my sons during a summer when one was supporting a new wife and the other needed the companionship his sons provided after a recent move. He and his wife Patty have had college students live with them for years, providing a home away from home for them. Currently Herb is giving many hours adding on to the home of a young widow and mother of four in our church to give them needed space, and involving other guys as he does so. Sometimes this means he even comes to our elders meetings with his paint clothes on or sawdust in his hair. His caring heart is also seen in scenes such as yesterday, where we saw him standing in the back holding his baby granddaughter in his arms, keeping her quiet during the worship service.
Men like Greg, who like Herb has seven children but the opposite number with respect to gender. He was constantly spending time with the two older sons, developing their interests by taking them hunting, camping, or to sporting events and teaching them how to get under the hood of a car, repair a household item, or quietly meet the need of someone in church. The grease under his nails or the hole ripped in another shirt often told us what he had been up to that week. Yet Greg is not all rough and tumble, for perhaps what shines through Greg’s life most is his soft heart toward the ladies in his life. He regularly displays his interior decorating skills as he fulfills another dream of his wife, Pam, by completing a home remodeling project. For his four married daughters, he designed a thematic wedding motif with a creative flair that left the guests marveling and all of us wondering what he will come up with when his last daughter’s turn arrives. A man of few words, Greg would not always speak first in our session meetings, but when he did he brought wisdom and, on several important occasions, the righteous correction that we needed.
Men like Jason, who is pretty tough as an Army Ranger and jujitsu grappler but his real masculinity is seen in some other important ways. When he sensed the call of God to ministry, he left full-time military service last year to move his pregnant wife and four children to a place where he could be trained and enroll in seminary. In order to accomplish this goal, he had to take employment as a construction worker for a year though this was not his training. The work, provided by another good model in the church named Bill, helped him provide for his wife and now five children, and he gave himself wholeheartedly to the hard labor and acquiring the new skills that were needed. To prepare for seminary beginning this fall, he did do a part-time internship but did not spend his days doing a lot of summer reading like a lot of guys. Instead, he just finished being out on a boat in the Atlantic with his father and brother for over a month, fishing to earn money to provide for his family while going through school. He drove home this weekend to reunite, but only had a few hours with Natalie and the children. He had to leave directly to do a required week of duty with the National Guard. Seminary will seem easy in comparison.
Men like Daniel, who I watched grow up as a quiet young man in a family with seven other siblings whom, shall I say, might be called more vocal than he (I have to be careful – one of his brothers writes here on Gentle Reformation). Daniel’s gifts were often used in the “do not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing” spirit he learned from his dad, as in the background he was always serving in countless, unseen ways. He has a faithful, determined demeanor, and when he heard of diaconal-type needs on a mission field of the church in South Sudan he and his wife, Natalie, took up the call. They are raising their three boys there now as they both model and teach the church in the areas of mercy and justice. They have weathered not only the austere weather but such things as having unexpected leadership needs thrust on them, the letdowns of others in the ministry, and even now the threat of a new civil war. Whenever I see Daniel, which this spring was just for a few minutes, his boyish grin remains but it is accompanied by the knowing look and strong handshake of one who has experienced hardship but, like the tree of Psalm 1, has thrived.
Men like Ken, nearly a nonagenarian who some would call a retired minister but those who know him best realize that is a misnomer. He and his wife Floy have given decades to loving their three sons and helping them and others in Learning to be a Family. Though he enjoys using his hands to craft wood projects, Ken’s greatest contribution to the church is in shaping men. His ministry of discipleship has greatly impacted the church, and he has traveled near and far to instruct men in it. His warm countenance, loving spirit, union with Christ, and willingness to “talk shop” directly have been used by the Lord to impact many younger men, including this one. He met with five seminarians and me early in the morning this past year to work on discipleship, and the time was invaluable to us. And yes, he’s “that pastor of Rosaria’s” I get asked about so often!
I could name so many more men. My point in this post is that parents, pastors, and mentors need to work diligently to make sure they get their boys out of their little worlds of self-centeredness, off their screens, and away from the idea that it is only being with friends that is important. They need to be around men like these who can model Christ for them and shape them for eternity.