Friday, April 20, 2012

The True Man - King

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
-          Henry V, William Shakespeare

A king rallies his troops. He draws around himself a “band of brothers.” He has entered the season of the King!

The king is a leader. He’s a mentor. He is in a position to pass along what he has learned in all the previous seasons.

The Season of the King will be successful – as all the previous seasons – as we soak in what the other seasons give us. We cannot skip over to the Season of the King as it is a time to pass on what we know and have learned. If we haven’t learned it, then we can’t really pass it on.

Some thoughts on a “Band of Brothers.”

The HBO mini-series “Band of Brothers” is a great example of men in the Season of Warrior. However, the film Henry V fits so very well to exemplify this Season of the King. But having mentioned “Band of Brothers” I must say some more about it. If you’ve seen the series or read the book, you know that the men of E Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division were truly a “Band of Brothers” brought together by war. As Stephen Ambrose writes, they “came from different backgrounds, different parts of the country. They were farmers and coal miners, mountain men and sons of the Deep South. Some were desperately poor, others from the middle class. One came from Harvard, one from Yale, a couple from UCLA…. They came together in the summer of 1942, by which time the Europeans had been at war for three years. By the late spring of 1944, they had become an elite company of airborne light infantry.” When the war ended in Europe in 1945, they anticipated being shipped to the Pacific Theater, but in August of 1945, the war came to an end. “The job completed, the company disbanded, the men went home.”

This “band of brothers” was made of up officers and enlisted men, certainly, but they were equals. They were not really “mentored” in the way that we are talking about in the Season of the King. And I use Easy Company to illustrate that the concept of a “band of brothers” must be understood as temporary. Vitally important, but still temporary. A “band of brothers” is formed to get a job done, to complete a quest. It isn’t meant to be a life-long fellowship like marriage is. Easy Company went through terrible times together. But when the war ended, they went their separate ways, for the most part.

In Henry V, King Harry calls his men a “band of brothers.” Again, this was a temporary group. They were together to fight a battle. Only as a band of brothers would they have any hope of survival (and even then it wasn’t guaranteed). Only as a band of brothers would they have any hope of victory – which is exactly what happened at Agincourt.

But those men, those happy few, that “band of brothers” illustrate the important point of the Season of the King. Mentoring. The man who enters the Season of the King enters to mentor. The Season of the King brings together a “band of brothers.” The man in the Season of the King passes on vitally important information and advice.

A King leads. It’s as simple as that. But there’s nothing simple about it. As Americans, we have no direct experience of a king. Truly there haven’t been real kings for a long time. Our examples today now come from movies and history. Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, David in 1 & 2 Samuel. But those are two very good examples of the Season of the King.

When I was a fourth-year seminary student, I thought I knew it all, I thought I was ready for it all. The summer I was ordained, I was installed as a pastor in a very small parish in rural Michigan. I knew it was temporary, as I told my friends that I would be District President by the time I was 35 and Synodical President by the time I was 50. I was cautioned, however, that “a man should not seek the office, but the office should seek the man.” Now, 17 years later, I have no aspirations for either of those two offices or any others. I am content with being an Assistant Pastor on a wonderful ministry team. I am content with being a husband and father. God has a way of putting you in the positions where you will have the most influence!

It is said that when Augustine was made Bishop of Hippo he wept because he felt so inadequate for the job.

The Season of the King must be lived before it can be reached. By that I mean that we must live the character of a king before we can actually be a king. If by some freak accident of nature I had become District President at age 35, I would have destroyed that district! As it is, I’m so very thankful that God doesn’t let me damage the parishes I served as pastor too much simply because I was still learning about this Season of the King.

If young men are going to have any hope of becoming a True Man of God in this world, they will need a mentor.

Howard Hendricks’ classic speech, “A Mandate for Mentoring” makes the point that every man needs a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy. In other words, a man to mentor him, a man to encourage him, and a man whom he can mentor. Any man who becomes a father automatically has a “Timothy” given to him. It’s a ready-made, God-made, mentoring relationship.

But we can also mentor in other ways:
            Being a Bible class leader for young men or teens
            Being a little league coach
            At work with your staff or even less-experienced co-workers

Keys to being a mentor:
-          Don’t just assume that you can be a mentor because you’ve had experience in some area. A mentor relationship is based on trust and trust has to be earned.
-          Don’t skip over the other seasons of life to become a mentor. You could be a mentor to a cowboy if you are in a later season, but the best mentor will be one who has successfully navigated life to get to the Season of the King.
-          Know that a mentor is a temporary thing. As a mentor, you are guiding someone younger or less experienced than you through seasons that you yourself have already gone through. But once they are ready to move on to a new season, you’re role as mentor can come to an end.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

True Man - Lover

The lover stage is set up by the Warrior stage because in love we also must “fight” – work hard, not think of ourselves, put effort (a lot of effort) in our relationship with our wives.
If we’ve gone through the stages as God intended, by the time we get to the “lover” stage, we should be ready for this unique and challenging season.
To be a lover as God intends us to be, we need to have soaked in all that God would have us in both the Cowboy stage (read about that here) and the Warrior stage (read about that here).
In the season of the Cowboy we learn to take risks, have fun and adventures that will help us grow spiritually as well as physically. In the season of the Warrior, we are trained to fight the battles that come our way because we are threats to the “prince of this world” (Satan).
There are many men who rush to the lover stage right out of boyhood. They are prepared physically but not even close to being prepared mentally or emotionally. That kind of preparation only comes with going through the seasons of cowboy and warrior.
John Eldredge makes a great point in Wild at Heart:
Just as every little boy is asking one question, every little girl is, as well. But her question isn’t so much about her strength. No, the deep cry of a little girl’s heart is am I lovely? Every woman needs to know that she is exquisite and exotic and chosen. This is core to her identity, the way she bears the image of God. Will you pursue me? Do you delight in me? Will you fight for me? And like every little boy, she has taken a wound as well…. A little girl looks to her father to know if she is lovely…. So many unloved women turn to boys to try to hear what they never heard from their father. [Wild at Heart, John Eldredge, page 183]
He talks about wounds that are received by boys and girls from their fathers. The wound for a boy is “You don’t have what it takes to be a man.” The wound for a girl is “You are not captivating enough for my love.” When a girl doesn’t get that question answered by her own father, then she goes looking for the answer in another male.
She will go to another man and give anything she can to hear that she is loved. And a man who has not soaked in the cowboy and warrior seasons will take advantage of that – perhaps thinking, naively enough, that it is his right.
To help understand this, let me tell you a little bit about two girls that I once taught in a seventh and eighth grade religion class.
One is abused by her mother. Grandmother is suing for custody but they don’t get along (because she is too strict).
One doesn’t know who her biological father is. Her step-father is gay, was incarcerated for several years but is now out of jail and wanting to get back into his step-daughter’s life.
Both were dating guys in a True Young Men’s group I was leading at the time. I worked with them to try to help them understand that these girls were taking their question to them and the distinct possibility is that they would do anything for these guys to get a positive answer to “Am I lovely? Am I worth fighting for?” Anything.
The Season of the Lover demands us to fight for love. To be a lover-warrior. We’ll need to know how to be a warrior from the Season of the Warrior. We will seek the adventure of love within the boundaries that God intended (marriage) because we have been trained for adventure in the Season of the Cowboy.
For men who are not married (but hope to be someday): Your future spouse has been chosen for you by God. From the day she was born, she was intended by God for you. This is His daughter. He will present her to you when you are ready – that is what He intends. As such – the daughter of God – she deserves your purity, your integrity, and your love and desire. Develop all that by living through the Seasons as God intends.
For those who are married: your wife – again as a daughter of God – deserves your protection. Her honor is in your hands. Fight for her. Don’t let anything get in the way, don’t let anything take her away. Which includes: work. The internet. Drink. Sports. “The guys.” You get the picture.
The Season of the Lover is important because it is through love that we truly begin to understand our God. 1 John 4:16 tells us that “God is love.” One of the most popular ways to express love is through poetry. However, poetry isn’t exactly the most masculine of things – at least the way we think of poetry in this day and age. But if we can just get beyond the strange cadence and all that rhyming and get to the meat that lies underneath, we’ll begin to understand the language of this season.
Now, I’m not saying we all need to go out and buy a book of poems and make that our evening reading assignments. Some guys get poetry and some don’t. God knows I’ve tried but I just haven’t found it yet (however, I’m limited in my experience at this point).
But think about this for a moment. In the Old Testament, who would you consider to be the epitome of a man – a real man’s man? If you said King David you’re tuned right in to me. Here was a guy who could kill a lion or bear with his hands, maybe a sling at the most. He faced a nine-foot-tall warrior with just a sling and a stone. He spent fourteen years on the run from a king he loved but who wanted to kill him. He was the successful soldier of who it was said, “Saul kills his thousands, but David his tens of thousands.” This is a man.
But he would be more accurately called Israel’s Warrior-Poet. He wrote poetry! And do you know what his favorite subject was? His love of God!
Take a few minutes to reflect on some of the poetry of David and as you read through these, jot down some notes about the relationship with God that David’s poetry presents.