I really want to continue to write about masculinity, because true manhood is one of the most beautiful forces in nature. Anyone can be male, just like anyone can produce a child; all that’s needed is the equipment, arousal and a fertile vessel to impregnate. Poof, there’s a kid. But it’s only Christ indwelling a man that can display true masculinity. Jesus is the only one who can truly father, and only He can be a real man in us. Apart from our Creator, we’re only role-playing manhood. Literally, His Life is the only presence of Life and His masculinity is the only evidence of genuine maleness.
Let me tell you about my experience with a man named Peter Farrant who was a missionary. I had gone down to Guatemala on a short-term mission trip. I was a children’s pastor, so my job was the daily outreach to the children in a widows and orphans village. I can’t tell you how many kids were there, but it felt like a sea of little dirty faces. It melted me!
After days of sweating and drinking only coffee and sodas, I needed something truly hydrating. I felt like I was wasting away. So when we went out to a small restaurant, I ordered a salad. Yep, a cold, fresh vegetable salad—just what I was craving. What I didn’t know was that every bite was tainted with what could potentially be an emergency bathroom stop waiting to happen. I didn’t realize that in the third world they fertilize with human excrement, so I was ingesting all kinds of boogies just yearning to find a new host. My sad little American digestive system was no match. I went down hard. I was taken out for the duration of the mission; thankfully it was close to the end of the trip.
The rest of the team went off to shop and sightsee and I was relegated to a bed and a bathroom. Unbeknownst to me, Peter had stayed behind. I thought everyone was gone until Peter came into the bunkhouse and said, “You want to go ride with me on my motorcycle?” I thought, this could be a problem, but I felt the Lord nudge me to go, so I agreed. The next few hours became the best part of my trip. Peter drove me throughout the countryside and into the markets. I was able to get gifts for my supporters, and even some mementos for myself. That was all well and good, but the delight of that time was being with Peter. I just held onto him as we maneuvered the crazy pothole-ridden roads. We were gone for hours and my bowels behaved for the whole encounter.
Here was a man, surrendered and yielded to God, who just loved me and valued me. There was no need for caveats; he was secure and able to express affection. He was seasoned. He knew the ropes of mission life, and though I made some blunders during the trip, he never condemned me. Simple statements sufficed. One such occasion was when I left a handful of teenage girls trailing behind as we all ran rickshaw down a mountain to an awaiting boat. This was prior to my shepherding days, and he just gently mentioned that that probably wasn’t the coolest thing, all the while being a shepherd to cover my mistake. I wanted to please him, so his simple word was enough to course-correct me.
His love made mine that much more forceful. I remember one word he spoke to me that I have never recovered from: “John, just smell the roses.” I lived hysterically in a frenzy to BE, and his word checked me and put me on a path from that day forth to see God’s beauty in people and situations. Actually, until I just wrote this, I had forgot how impacting that simple word was.
So all this to say: manhood isn’t found in gender appendages. It’s not in performance of my male duties. And it certainly isn’t in towing a pop-culture line of stereotypical maleness. True manhood is found in the virility of Christ’s life lived through me. Who I experienced in Peter was Christ. His love for me didn’t need the caveats of self-protection; he was secure in Christ’s living expression towards me. Peter was Jesus expressing Himself to me and I loved him as this vessel of Christ. I received and loved Peter as well as Christ in Peter. They came as a package, and I received them as a whole.
Oh, that man would live unarmored and fearless in His expressions of Life and Love! We could change the world around us. The amazing thing I’m seeing is the responsibility we bear in this. If Peter had resisted Christ’s life or was self-conscious of the love he expressed, he would now be answering for why he withheld Christ’s Life and Love for me. WHOA! Thank you, Peter, I love and miss you!