It was Friday, February 23rd 2018, the day before my wedding.
I was driving down the same winding road I took every day, leaving my parents' house where I lived.
But this time was different. My car was stuffed to the brim with all my possessions. My bags packed. My room empty.
I was bawling. It didn't take more than 30 seconds from the time I left my parents' house before tears were rolling down my face. I shook my head as I cried, wondering why in the world I was even crying and why I couldn't stop.
As I tried to make sense of my emotions I realized that it was the (hopefully) last time I would ever live with my parents. I remembered the verse, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24).
It was a symbolic moment — leaving my parents house to move in with my wife, whom I would marry the very next day. A Biblical moment.
It was also a moment of coming of age. Taking a step of manhood.
And I'll tell you, it was scary.
Scary because I felt unprepared.
Scary because I felt like a fraud.
Scary because I felt alone.
But not alone in the physical sense. Alone in the sense of, why does this seem so foreign? So hush hush? So not talked about?
The imposter syndrome was real. Here I am — I have a great job, I've secured a great place to live, I'm marrying the woman of my dreams, I have great friends and family — and yet I still don't feel like a real man.
I was taking on the identity of a husband, a provider, a future father, and the second half of my wife. How does one learn to be these things?
And more importantly, what does it really mean to be a man?
Does it mean to get a cushy job? Does it mean to grow a ferocious beard and get jacked? Does it mean to be able to beat up any guy who looks at you wrong?
After all, we've been told (literally or indirectly) all our lives to "man up" or "be a man!" To hide our feelings. To deal with the pain in secrecy. To never show any sign of weakness.
And our current culture has an opinion on the other end of the spectrum for men to become more feminine, more submissive, or more sexually liberal.
Then I remembered that I was advised to read Wild At Heart before I got married but I only got a couple pages through before getting distracted and left it forgotten. I had tried reading it back when I was in high school but didn't take it very seriously.
So I picked it up again. And God spoke through it to me.
“Why does God create Adam? What is a man for? If you know what something is designed to do, then you know it’s purpose in life. A retriever loves the water; a lion loves the hunt; a hawk loves to soar. It’s what they’re made for. Desire reveals design, and design reveals destiny. In the case of human beings, our design is also revealed by our desires. Let’s take adventure. Adam and all his sons after him are given an incredible mission: rule and subdue, be fruitful and multiply. ‘Here is the entire earth, Adam. Explore it, cultivate it, care for it—it is your kingdom.’ Whoa… talk about an invitation. This is permission to do a heck of a lot more than cross the street. It’s a charter to find the equator, it’s a commission to build Camelot. Only Eden is a garden at that point, everything else is wild, so far as we know. No river has been charted, no ocean crossed, no mountain climbed. No ones discovered the molecule, or fuel injection, or Beethoven’s Fifth. It’s a blank page, waiting to be written. A clean canvas, waiting to be painted. Most men think they are here simply to kill time—and it’s killing them. But the truth is precisely the opposite. The secret longing of your heart, whether it’s to build a boat or sail it, to write a symphony and play it, to plant a field and care for it—those are the things you were made to do. That’s what you’re here for. Explore, build, conquer—you don’t have to tell a boy to do those things for the simple reason that it is his purpose.”
Out of curiosity, I decided to go back and look for the verse John Eldredge was paraphrasing in this paragraph and I found Genesis 2:15:
“Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.”
To be a man doesn't have as much to do with the things that you do and the titles that you hold, so much as it is about the person God designed you to be, and the mission he has for you in your life.
One of God's first commandments to man is to cultivate and keep. And this is no ordinary command. He gives that command not out of obligation or convention, but out of design. It wasn’t just a literal instruction, it was a calling.
Everything that God has created, in all of its wilderness and beauty, is placed into man's hands and he is told to take responsibility for it. To take God's creation — all of God's creation — and bring Him glory with it. To be the vessels in which God's plans come into fruition. To bring Heaven to Earth.
And man is given chief responsibility to lead in the initiative for God's plans, with the help and guidance of woman. To cultivate (prepare, grow, develop, invest, enrich, refine, improve) and keep (retain, protect, store, honor, continue, obey, provide, be a stronghold for) what God has given him.
Being a man manifests in a vast variety of different ways, but they can all be traced back to an original mission to lead the way in cultivating and keeping what God has given us.
Sadly, the quintessential image of a man in the world we live in today comes in the form of a tired, distant, balding, overweight, and slouched man, yelling at the TV while his kids and wife play elsewhere, struggling every day to find the motivation to get up for work and spend yet another meaningless day in life.
Maybe even sadder is that many Christian men resemble this quintessential "worldly man."
Pornography, addiction, emotional distance, perversion, depression, lust, greed, idolatry, gluttony, and anger — just to name a few — are more common than they should be.
But I don't say that to guilt or shame anyone. I say it for sobriety.
When will we lead our culture and society in God's way?
Who will step up to be an example as a man and lead the way to cultivate and keep their:
- Relationship with Jesus
- Spiritual, mental, and physical talents
- Family; Wife and children
- Job and career
- Church, community, and friends
- Finances and spending habits
I'll be the first to say that I don't have it all figured out. I'm not the perfect example of a man. But what the Lord has been showing me and teaching me has been profound.
I want to become the person God created me to be, to be an example for the world, and to live out the talents and desires God has placed inside of me in accordance with His will.
I want to be a man. A real man. The man God created me to be.