What Makes A Man?
Dr. Jay Worth Allen
In my last weeks of High School I was given some well meaning recommendations about what it meant to be a man: “Go to a good college.” “Date a lot of girls.” “Be tough and fight anybody who insults your girlfriend.” “Don’t show your feelings.” “Drink lots of beer.” “Get a good job, work hard and make lots of money.” Et cetera.
I was sixteen at the time and my Soul-Mates and Kinfolk wanted me to be well equipped to go out into the world to become the man I was meant to be. My grandmother gave me a Bible and told me to, “Read this everyday . . . it will make you a man.”
With all this wide-ranging counsel, I knew I was destined to fail.
At sixteen, I didn’t drink, do drugs or swear. I was one of two boys who didn’t wear cowboy boots. I wasn’t an Early Bloomer, so I shaved only once a week and was always embarrassed in the locker room. I never lettered in Sports. I made the Student Counsel by the eighth grade. I played first-chair clarinet in the school band and piano in a Bush League Garage Band. To this day I avoid anyone from my High School class; especially old football heroes. I was a virgin and a Christian. The only thing that saved me from complete Geek-ness was that I owned a car and had girlfriends, although my car was an older six-cylinder Chevy and none of my girlfriends were cheerleaders.
Today I found an old picture of that sixteen year old boy. He is dressed in a cream colored sweater and jeans - not too lanky, hands on hips, the pose clearly adopted from some Rock-star poster. I can see hints in his clumsy adolescent body of the man he will become. In the awkwardness of his pose I see him trying to be suave for the occasion and play the man while he still feels himself to be a boy. I know he will feel boyish, not a man among men, well into his mature years.
It is his face which moved me. Open. Shinning. Filled with a strange power of innocence and strong dreams. His mask of sophistication hides a painful sensitivity he fears is a mark of inadequacy as a man. I don’t see, but remember, the loneliness, the uncertainty, the feeling of being both proud and embarrassed by the secrete life the boy was living.
His clandestine life included many diversions not on any list of requirements for being a man: writing and drawing in a diary; exploring the woods on his family farm; reading books and playing with ideas; imagining the woman of his dreams; wondering about the limits of his mind; loving his parents; going to Church; agonizing about poverty, injustice; wanting to do something meaningful - but what?
He did not know it, but hidden in his young heart was a craving to discover his own definition of manhood - he had already set out on a pilgrimage, a quest to find the Grail of being the man he was meant to be.
By 26 my life was coming apart at the seams. College, after college, hadn’t helped. Women hadn’t helped. Money hadn’t helped. By this time I had Degrees, Writing Awards, toured the US and Europe with Rock-Stars, shared the Grand ‘Ole Opry stage with Johnny Cash, written commercials for international Companies and ingested enough drugs and alcohol to kill the nastiest Hell’s Angel. I had lost that innocent boy while trying to become a man. I was a mess.
One day I went to talk with someone I had known from my early Church years, an older, Godly-wise woman, a true witness, philosopher, someone acquainted with the darkness of the soul. Through a long morning we talked about life, love, God, drank coffee and prayed.
The last thing she said before I left was one of the most important bits of advice I ever got about manhood. “Jay,” she said, “there are two questions a man must ask himself: The first is, ‘Where am I going?’ and the second is, ‘Who will go with me?’ If you ever get these questions in the wrong order you’re in trouble.”
When I left I knew my tide had turned. The rivulets of grief over my lost childhood, the ending of my life on the run, all flowed together and I found myself walking and weeping, knowing the time had finally come to sever the unbiblical cord that attached me to the false god of Success who was to be my salvation. I called out to God, my Father. For the first time in ten years I was free. The innocence had returned and I was on the road to becoming a man. I was a prodigal, and I had come home.
The task of turning this reckless boy into a man began by the disruption of the bond between the world, the flesh, the Devil and the boy. In the natural we had been one in the flesh. To fashion me back into shape required a wounding of, and a sacrifice of my natural fleshly endowments. God had to begin to refashion me by a process of subtractions, judgments - chopping off here, trimming there. He had to prune me, shape me. I was a stone in the quarry of the Lord, and He was reshaping me with His mighty Chisel. This was not a fun time. But the work was necessary.
Within a few months I had stopped my imprudent ways, married my beautiful bride and was living in Europe studying for a Th.D. And after fifteen years, I’ve never looked back.
What makes a man? God. God alone makes a man. And I am convinced that we could each touch something universal if we would speak personally to the silver of truth the Lord of Glory has refined from within each of our individual Believing lives.
Am I a man yet? Not really. But His refining continues.
What Makes A Man?
Published: 25 October 2010 on Freed In Christ! blogsite.
Published: 14 October 2010 in FAITH Column of The County Journal.
© 1998-2012 dr. jay & miss diana ministries, inc. all rights reserved
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© 2012 dr. jay & miss diana
all rights reserved