my masculinity is mysterious to me.

As a man, I won’t pretend to know what women as an entire gender want in men as that assumption could only be crippling to the complexity of the sexes in the first place.  In fact, if someone ever tells you in simplistic fashion and with certainty “what women/men want” then I would venture to guess they are without a partner or perhaps the partner they have could benefit from a healthier dose of self-image.

We often view the world in terms of contrast and it can be a fun pastime to define that which is masculine and feminine in terms of opposing characteristics.  The ‘providing’ father versus the ‘nurturing’ mother’.  The boys in blue who smoke and chew, the girls in pink with accessories in sync.  Books are titled “His Needs, Her Needs” and “What Women Really Want”.  Married couples sit around the dinner table and laugh at each other’s quirks, perhaps a healthy coping mechanism for dealing with the mystery of gender (and marriage).

These fun exercises aside, an attempt to diagnose the whole needs or wants of the opposite sex can be risky or even perilous, not just because we investigate from the periphery but because oftentimes we can’t even speak to our own needs.  How am I to discern the needs and boundaries of femininity when my own masculinity would evolve to elude definition?  It’s not wrong to know what we want or need as men and women or at least acknowledge the presence of such things but discerning them never takes place in a vacuum.  Perhaps I am in a safer place to declare not what the opposite sex needs but rather who I am and to then let the opposite sex go with it.

I think this is healthier for a few reasons. Men, if you are always trying to figure out what a woman wants/needs then you will be tempted to provide an answer/solution/provision and thus possibly set up for failure.  Not because it’s a trap but because it’s impossible to explore an empty space and not want to fill it with something, a common masculine characteristic.  Sexual function and gender expression are uniquely and intricately connected, with vast implications but guys…stop trying to fill places that aren’t looking to be filled.  We don’t know every answer, we don’t have every solution and the satisfaction of feminine desires will never be met strictly in those terms.

So then I would first propose that celebrating the presence and mystery of gender differences will often fill the void in ways that we fail to imagine when simply isolating those differences in the first place.  A healthy respect of the opposite sex can ultimately flourish and defining needs won’t extend from a quagmire of contrast.  Is she different from you and is she expressing her needs in a way you don’t understand?  Absolutely but its okay because she is worth celebrating, not conquering.  Can’t wrap your mind around the way he thinks?  It’s okay because he’s still worth celebrating.

Knowing instead who we are and then what we need and want might be healthier still because it allows us to move beyond “needs that must be satisfied” to “needs that are satisfiable”.  This is a key difference because it moves us and our partners from a place of commodity to a place of companionship.  I can’t overemphasize this.  If all I ever do is view my partner in terms of their ability to satisfy my needs then I have handed them over to unrealistic expectations.

Gratification in relationships never comes just from what your partner has to offer but instead who your partner is.  What is feminine or masculine about you might compliment me, what is unique to your gender might magnify my own uniqueness but we are more than the sum of gender differences and subsequent contrasting needs.  Before you are a man or a woman, a boy or a girl, you are a person, the complexity of which is inestimable.

I don’t want to pretend to know what a woman wants because I don’t want to pretend to always know who I am.  My masculinity is mysterious to me and as soon as I feel like I fit some mold or even a stereotype, I find a difference.  I’m okay with this because I know I’m worth celebrating beyond my ability to meet a need.  Somehow this feels healthier.  Somehow this feels like needs will be met in ways that haven’t or couldn’t been met before.

I suppose I could have wrote here what my needs or wants are or even what I want in the opposite sex and we could compare notes but then again, we wouldn’t be celebrating each other very well at that point.  So I’ll let this rest and hope the thought remains with you that you indeed are worth celebrating.

 

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visible families in the (in)visible kingdom.

WHO CAME FIRST?
Before there were kingdoms or empires, before governments or sovereigns, states and tribes there were families.  No matter the meta-narrative (or grand story of the universe) you ascribe to, you have a mother and a father.

(in)visible kingdom, families, devotions, Renovatus Church

Thankfully, our science hasn’t quite ‘progressed’ to the imagination of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World where children are “created, ‘decanted’ and raised in hatcheries.”

If you are reading this, take heart, for you weren’t born in a hatchery.  Memories of family past might be isolated to pain but it’s a human pain because you are human and have a family.

The idea of family instigates a whole host of emotions, ranging from nostalgic to ambivalent to bitter.  That fact alone testifies to the sheer power and influence of our families.

Although it’s tempting to do so, I’m not writing to reignite the Moral Majority’s argument for defining a family.  That definition is far more contextually and culturally defined than most Southern Evangelical’s are willing to admit.

I am writing to affirm one truth: that the family unit is the seed-bed and proving ground for our understanding of life itself.  The story starts with family.

Yeah…it’s that big of a deal.

So who came first?  The family did.  The Trinity itself testifies to a familial pattern: Father, Son & Holy Spirit.  Argue with that.

SO WHAT IS THE (IN)VISIBLE KINGDOM?
Renovatus Church recently started a new series based on Paul’s letter to the Colossians.  This new series is called (in)Visible Kingdom.

Paul wrote to a group of Christians who were living in an empire where Caesar was exalted to godhood.  They lived in a tension where faith in Caesar was as justified as faith in Christ.

We live in a similar culture where faith in state, government and even church are tempting replacements for our faith in Christ.  Welfare, social security and gym memberships are our society’s new sacraments or means of grace.

Our families live in a tension between the visible kingdoms of this world and the invisible kingdom of the world to come.  That invisible kingdom is sometimes hard to see while in the 9-5 rat-race, the toy section of Wal-Mart, listening to the top 40 Billboard hits, studying divorce rates, affected by the epidemic of pornography, etc.

We need an alternative to what’s visible…

HOW DO WE MOVE FROM VISIBLE TO (IN)VISIBLE?
Paul’s task wasn’t to remove the families of Colossae from the Roman Empire.  There was no Branch Davidian or Kool-Aid to drink.  There was no scarlet letters and no Christian Broadcasting Network.

Instead, Paul set out to help the Colossians re-imagine alternative ways of being/doing “family”.   He did this in three basic ways:

  1. He sought to move them from faith in Caesar to faith in Christ.  Tell your children “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.
  2. He sought to move them from a religion about Jesus to a relationship with Jesus.  Remind your family, “human commands and teachings…have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value…”
  3. He sought to bind the family in love: “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Moving from visible to (in)visible isn’t easy.  The chips are stacked against you.  Hollow and deceptive philosophies wait to take you captive.  Caesar’s still around.

To help you over the next few weeks, devotions will be available to the families of Renovatus.  These devotions will help families dive deeper into Paul’s letter to the Colossians.

Lean into these devotions, lean onto each other and trust in the sovereignty of Christ.  The visible pain of family past will soon be transformed into the (in)visible witness of God’s faithfulness.