ManLaws (I): Menergy: The Return of the Real Man

The following is the transcript from the May 22, 2016 service at Little Brown Church, Nashua, Iowa. 

Gen. 1:24-31

Someone sent me a copy of a new sign in a bank lobby. And I thought it contained such deep spiritual truth and reality, that I had to share it with you. 

Here’s what it said: 

“Please note that this bank is installing new drive-through ATM machines. 
Customers using this new facility are requested to use the procedures outlined below when accessing their accounts. After months of careful research, male and female procedures have been developed. Please follow the appropriate steps for your gender. 

First, the process for men: 
1. Drive up to the cash machine. 
2. Put down your car window. 
3. Insert card into machine and enter PIN. 
4. Enter amount of cash required and withdraw. 
5. Retrieve card, cash and receipt. 
6. Put window up. 
7. Drive off. 

Now, here was the procedure for women. You smell this coming, don’t you? 

1. Drive up to the cash machine. 
2. Reverse and back up the required amount to align car window with the machine. 
3. Set parking brake, and put the window down. 
4. Find handbag, remove all contents on to the passenger seat to locate card. 
5. Tell person on cell phone you will call them back and hang up. 
6. Attempt to insert card into machine. 
7. Open car door to allow easier access to machine due to its excessive distance from the car. 
8. Insert card. 
9. Re-insert card the right way. 
10. Dig through handbag to find diary with your PIN written on the inside back page. 
11. Enter PIN. 
12. Press cancel and re-enter correct PIN. 
13. Enter amount of cash required. 
14. Check makeup in rear view mirror. 
15. Retrieve cash and receipt. 
16. Empty handbag again to locate wallet and place cash inside. 
17. Write debit amount in check register and place receipt in back of checkbook. 
18. Re-check makeup. 
19. Drive forward 2 feet. 
20. Reverse back to cash machine. 
21. Retrieve card. 
22. Re-empty hand bag, locate card holder, and place card into the slot provided. 
23. Give dirty look to irate male driver waiting behind you. 
24. Restart stalled engine and pull off. 
25. Redial person on cell phone. 
26. Drive for 2 to 3 miles. 
27. Release parking brake. 

Well now that I’ve alienated half of you, good morning! 

But men and women are different, aren’t they? From the very start! 
For example, 
We mature at different rates – 
A seventeen year old girl can function as an adult. They’re mature, wise, composed. 
A seventeen year old guy is still giving his friends wedgies. 

We are different emotionally. 
This past Wednesday actually meant something to you. (Survivor Finale Night)

And then there are those things about men you’ll never understand. 
Like our emotional attachment to the remote control
The sacred nature of Monday Night Football
The memorized lines from the Godfather
Why we never lift the lid, or if we do lift the lid, it never enters our mind to put it back down. 
Why we don’t ask for directions – or why we speed up when some other guy tries to pass. 

I think we can own the fact that we’re different – and right now, those differences are making a huge comeback. It’s being called the return of “Menergy.” 

Have you heard that word? It was coined by a reporter for the New York Times last year to try and get at the cultural return of men wanting to be men. Because being metrosexual is so five minutes ago. 

That guy’s gone. Real men are back. In terms of looks, attitude and behavior, testosterone is on the rise. Even down to beards – with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Bono, Johnny Depp, David Letterman, and I can’t even begin to count the number of athletes retiring the razor. 

Of course some of us were ahead of the curve. But it’s too hard to pat myself on the back. I mean, even Rambo is back! 

But what does it mean to be a man? What are we really returning to? 
What is the heart of real menergy? Because if there is such a thing as manhood, I think we all want it to be more than just fashion, and more than playing rugby. 

And according to the Bible, it is. 

In fact, the Bible says that our sexuality is rooted in creation itself. Just look at the foundational creation text. In Genesis 1:26, it says: 

“… God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (1:27, NIV). 

Now in that one, simple verse, we find three amazing statements about whom we, as human beings, are. 

First, the Bible says that we were made. We were created, personally, by God – which means that we didn’t come from nothingness, or by chance. We can have debates on HOW God did it all day long, but the headline from the Bible is THAT God did it - we were fashioned, designed, crafted. 

There is intentionality about each and every one of us. We’re not accidents. We were meant to be. 

Then the Bible throws out a second idea. It says that we weren’t just made – we were made in the image of God; which means that when God made us, He put something of Himself in us, gave us a spark of the eternal, the divine. That’s more than just intelligence, or consciousness, or the ability to think and reason or grow and develop.

Being made in the image of God means that we have a soul, and that soul is what allows us to do what only humans can do: which is to be in a relationship with God. 

Third, the Bible says that human beings were not only made, and made in the image of God, but were made male and female. The Bible says that when God created human beings, He intentionally created diversity. 

He purposefully made us a race of men and a race of women.

And those differences are real, and not just biologically. I’ve had something of a living laboratory on this one as the father of two girls, and a boy. 

Let me tell you, I’ve never had my girls say, “Hey Daddy, let’s wrestle! Come on, fight me!” Bloody noses were never badges of honor.

At the age of two, they were not making “vrummmm” and “eeeeerrrrr” noises behind the wheel of the car. When my girls played a game, the goal wasn’t ultimate conquest and humiliation. 

They never made up games where everybody dies; over and over again. 
And they never entertained themselves for hours by making gas noises, gas jokes, and, of course, making gas itself. 

So if the Bible is right and we were made male, and that maleness is something intended for us by God, then the goal of life is to BE male. To not fight it, deny it, subvert it, or dishonor it. 

The goal isn’t to get in touch with our feminine side. The goal is to get in touch with what’s supposed to be going on with our masculine side; because it’s who we are. 

And we are strong. We are aggressive. We’re not meant to be soft and sweet. 

Now don’t misunderstand me – this isn’t some macho thing. As John Eldredge writes, it’s not about living to pump iron, or kicking sand in people’s face. 

But it is about our call to be men. But this is what is so confusing. We don’t know what that call is. 

Either we go the macho route and become violent, overbearing, and abusive; or we become passive and effeminate. 

In his book Wild at Heart, Eldredge talks about it this way: He says,

“We are to be men – wild, dangerous, strong. God made us that way. And the world needs us to be that way. It’s like a scalpel – it can wound or it can save your life. But don’t make it safe by making it dull; you just make sure that the one wielding it knows what it’s for.” 

So what is our manhood for? I like how James Dobson summarizes it in his book Straight Talk to Men. Dobson boils what the Bible says about being a man down to two things, and I think he’s absolutely right. 

And while he talks about it in ways that are in relation to a man’s position with his wife and children, they can really be applied across the cultural and relational board. 

So what are the bible’s two headlines? Being a man means being a protector, and being a provider. 

First, being a protector. This used to be a mark of our world. 

If you insulted a woman in previous eras, you could rest assured that you would have to deal with a husband, father, brother, or son. The men in the family would have gone to any and every length to defend the honor of that woman. That wife, that sister, that daughter, was under a blanket of protection. They would not have hesitated one second to lay down their life for hers. 

Being a man, and following Christ, is not about being a wimp. You turn the cheek yourself, but you don’t turn it when it comes to defending others – particularly those you have been charged to protect. We are hardwired into who God made us to be; that of protector. 

That’s one of the reasons we’re larger, stronger, more aggressive. Not better – this isn’t an anti-feminist rip. The Bible is for equality – but with distinctions. This is one of those distinctions.

Being a man means providing security. When they don’t, they become aggressors, abusers – or leave society vulnerable to those who are. And this protection isn’t just physical. It’s emotional, and relational. 

But there’s a second thing men are called to do and be. Being a man also means being a provider. Now women are to be providers too, but the ways they give best are different. 

For example, men do not tend to be, by nature, natural caregivers. We tend to be less empathetic, less comforting. 

I remember one time one of my kids came in the house, crying from some fall where they scraped a knee, and I looked at it, and told them to stop crying – it wasn’t that bad. 

And then they said they wanted to come in because it hurt. And I told them that it would hurt just as much outside as inside, and to get their butt back out. 

But it’s true - studies have shown that women are better in nurturing than men – in fact, studies show that they can recognize the cry of their newborn infant even a few hours after birth, while fathers rarely can. We are to some as nurturers but the kind of giving we are wired for is to provide, to do what it takes to ensure that those around us have the necessities of life; food, shelter, warmth, clothing. 

When a man is fulfilling that role, he has a sense of pride – of fulfillment – that comes in no other way. It’s one of the things women rarely understand about a man. But it’s why men have so much of their self-esteem tied up in their jobs, and the loss of a job is one of the most devastating things that can happen to a man’s ego. 

But being a provider is more than just food and rent. It’s also about providing loving leadership. 

In Ephesians, the Bible says this: 

"The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing...Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives...a love marked by giving, not getting” (Ephesians 5:22-25, MSG). 

The Bible calls men to lead their families in a way that is loving, selfless, giving. 

And that leadership is so needed in our day. For example, think about the increasing sexualization of young girls throughout the media – from ads and video games to clothing and cosmetics. 

It’s been well-documented that it’s led to damaging results. As they are led to obsess about their body image, young girls become more prone to eating disorders, low self-esteem, depression, and promiscuity. 

Columnist Kathleen Parker did an article on this, and then raised a question that surprised a lot of people: She asked, “Where are the fathers?” 

And it was the right question. If young girls don’t get their self-image grounded in a healthy way from their father early on, they will go out searching for it in ways that are not healthy, and will cheapen their womanhood. 

Fathers, she wrote, are the ones who tell their little girls that they are perfect just the way they are – or at least, they should. This is why fathers must be affectionate toward their daughters, and compliment them, and let them know that they truly are the princesses they long to be – for fathers are the most significant man in their life until marriage. 

And then, as they grow, they need to be there to lead, to guide, to serve, as they navigate the waters of relationships and romance, love and marriage.