“What is wanted in a man is kindness,” says Proverbs. Doesn’t that seem like a strange thing? You’d think the writer and collector of some of the world’s best known and most studied axioms of wisdom might say, “What is wanted in a man is strength … or aggression … or courage.” Something fierce and warrior-like, seemingly more representative of a man filled with testosterone, called to fight and forage and conquer the world. Kindness seems kind of wimpy, almost non-masculine and old lady-like.
This is what I love about the Bible and partly how I know my faith is true and absolute. I serve a God who turns everything upside down and inside out and does the exact opposite of what is expected and desires the same from us.
Kindness. The Hebrew word for kindness [chesed] is better defined by these three English words: kindness, goodness and faithfulness. Noah Webster was a contemporary of James Strong, author of Strong’s Concordance (the most widely used Bible translation tool). Since English is a living language and in a constant state of flux (think of how the definition of the word gay has changed in the last 20 years), it is helpful to look at Webster’s 1828 Dictionary to get a closer idea of what James Strong meant when he chose those words for his translation.
Kindness means good will; benevolence; that temper or disposition which delights in contributing to the happiness of others, which is exercised cheerfully in gratifying their wishes, supplying their wants or alleviating their distresses; benignity of nature. Kindness ever accompanies love. Goodness, according to Webster, is the state of being good; the physical qualities which constitute value, excellence or perfection; and the moral qualities which constitute Christian excellence; moral virtue; religion. Faithfulness is defined as fidelity; loyalty; firm adherence to allegiance and duty; as the faithfulness of a subject; Truth; veracity; as the faithfulness of God.
Stitching these together, Proverbs says, “What is wanted in a man is having the character qualities of benevolence (desiring good will for others and wishing for their happiness, supplying their wants or alleviating their distresses) of moral excellence and of virtue, loyalty, truth, and firm adherence to belief. Does that not conjure up a completely different picture? This is why it is so helpful to dig deeper into the Scriptures.
My friend Todd V is a walking, talking Proverbs 19:22 guy. Though he would probably vigorously deny it, eschewing public praise, to me he is a man’s man, steeped in kindness, goodness and faithfulness. Although life has not dealt him an easy hand, He plays his cards with the grace and humility of someone who has been touched by Jesus. He puts the needs of others first, always has a kind and encouraging word, a welcoming smile and a heart to serve. And he never calls attention to himself or to what he is doing or how he is helping others. But if you watch him, he is always about God’s business.
Immersion is blessed to have men like Todd and the so many other great men- men of faith and virtue and excellence- who are taking the lead in Immersion, in their homes, churches, businesses and communities. How desperately the world needs them! And how desperately do we women need to see and applaud these great men as they step up and into their destinies. According to Webster, kindness ever accompanies love. I do not suppose it an easy task being a “kind” man in today’s harsh, demanding and unforgiving world. But as I said in the beginning, God doesn’t do things the normal or easy way, does He? And neither does He expect different from us.
This post will hopefully encourage those of you who are exploring Christianity, but it is geared more to challenge those who have been regular church goers and who...well...need a little kick in the pants.
I so often hear church goers say something to this affect, “My church just does not meet my needs...the worship music is too loud or too boring, the pastor doesn’t preach in a style I like, there is no community, my friends no longer attend, I just don’t fit in, etc...” The complaints usually go on and on. I am often guilty of this myself when sometimes I leave church feeling like I didn’t get anything out of it and it didn’t meet my needs in the way I wanted it to.
Over the past few weeks, God kindly reminded me that I am the church. We...the people...are the church. The church is not the building, the worship music, the programs, the lights, the fancy bells and whistles...it is simply you and me.
We are the church and rather than ask “What did the church do for me?” maybe we need to ask “What did I do for the church?”
What did I do for the person sitting next to me or the new person I have not seen there before? Did I say hi, did I show them Christ’s love, was I acting as the church should act? Even more importantly, how do I act as the church when I leave the building I call “church”?
It seems all too many church goers are completely content to stand on the sidelines and criticize those who are in the game. Sure...it is easy to sit back and say the “church should do this or that” or the “church doesn’t do this or that” when you are just watching from the sidelines. Are you in the game making plays or are you standing on the sidelines? Not everyone will play the same position, but I urge you to get in the game. Yes, you may get bruised and beaten a little but it is so rewarding knowing victory is ours through Christ.
How are you using the gifts and talents God has given you?
Are you watching life from the sidelines or are you living life...seizing every moment and living the life God has called you to live?
What kind of church are you?
This is something I am humbly asking even of myself.
I need to be a better church.
So there I was last night, enjoying some hot chocolate and a few online conversations with some good friends, when something rather concerning popped up in my little Facebook chat.
“I think I’m too jaded to ever let anyone into my life anymore,” she said without blinking, as if it were a common way to start a conversation.
I inquired for an explanation, and she proceeded to tell me a story of her work life involving the second-level CEO of her company. To the casual observer, he’s got it all. He’s a faithful man with a heart for God. He’s young, but managed to land a very successful job. He has a beautiful wife who loves him to no end. The road was paved smooth for both him and the silver spoon in his mouth. She described him as the person that people 20 years older look at in awe and think, “Wow, I wish I had that!”
But no one else in the company knew him the way she did. My friend proceeded to tell me stories of him grabbing at her underwear when she wasn’t expecting it, or how earlier in the day he obviously and intentionally staring down her shirt to make her feel uncomfortable, then trying to make light of his behavior with a joke. She had confronted him about how inappropriate and degrading it was to her, but her words fell on deaf ears.
Of course, because she’s a close friend of mine, my first instinct was to become disgusted with her CEO’s actions. The way he treats her is absolutely inexcusable by any measure, especially given that he’s married. But, while I definitely felt for her, I wouldn’t have been able to sleep had I not asked her about things she may have been doing to provoke his behavior towards her specifically.
I asked what she chose to wear to work that day, and she showed me a picture. To her, it was a nice sweater that she got a good deal on. “I just got a sweater for $15!” she said. But I explained to her that, as a guy, it was pure potential. It was a low-cut sweater that could turn virtually any upper-body movement into an unsolicited Victoria’s Secret commercial.
As our conversation continued, it revealed an attitude in her that I’d heard from numerous young women before:
“I had no idea he would look at me like that!”
“I just thought it was a cute shirt!”
“I can’t believe men really think that way!”
I’m not out to get on my soapbox about the fashion industry being a horrible influence on the minds of young women, or about men for being irresponsible with their sexual desires, or about women for being naïve regarding how men view them (though, I think all three are equally to blame). Frankly, I’m not a clothier, nor am I a woman, so it would be hard for me to objectively speak about many of the arguments and counter-arguments around this subject.
But, I am a man. I know full well what it’s like to have my eyes closed in prayer to God one minute, and open my eyes to find them straying onto the body of a young woman the next. I am all too familiar with wanting nothing more than to be a good friend to a young woman, but still struggling to not think of her inappropriately because of how undeniably beautiful she is.
So, with that, I aim to lay some hard truths out into the open for the young women who care to read this blog (especially those that are single), in hopes that they will have a better understanding of how men struggle with the things they do, and how they as women can present themselves in a way that’s honoring to both themselves as creations of God, and to God himself.
Truth Number 1: Men Are Dogs
It’s true. Every last one of us. We all struggle with lustful thoughts. If you meet a man who tells you otherwise, then he’s a dog AND a liar. It’s the reason that the verse in Matthew 5 talks about MEN committing adultery in their hearts after having a lustful thought.
The cliché that says men are visual beings is absolutely true. God created us to appreciate beauty, and he created women to be beautiful. It’s one of the many ways that God has perfectly designed us. Yet, it’s also something that can cause a great deal of pain to men and women alike when the appropriate appreciation of beauty isn’t embraced.
It’s difficult to accurately explain this struggle because it’s unlike most others. This isn’t a struggle like swearing or gluttony that are bad habits we learn from the world and can eventually learn not to do; this is a struggle that is built into our very core because of how God made us. It’s a struggle to use what we were given in a proper, God-honoring way. Women are always going to be beautiful, and we’re always going to want to admire them. That part of our brain never shuts off.
And on the subject of brains, I think it serves to make an important distinction here. A man who is being tempted and drawn into lusting after a woman can very well have NO emotional connection to her whatsoever. It is entirely possible (and entirely common, I fear) for a man to indulge himself in careless thoughts about a woman’s physical beauty when he doesn’t even know her name.
So women, please do not make the mistake of believing that because a man is gazing your way more frequently than others that he feels something for you. A lustful gaze is NOT the first sign of love; it’s the first step off a slippery slope of him approaching you for the wrong reasons.
Truth Number 2: You ARE Beautiful
What is somewhat troubling as a guy is that while it’s easy to spot women who are trying very hard to attract attention with their physical features, there are ten times as many women on the opposite end of the spectrum who somehow believe that they are simply unappealing to men in general. Every time I have a conversation with a young woman about modesty and the struggles of men, some sort of self-deprecating belief inevitably rears its ugly head in the form of a phrase like, “I guess I just never thought I was much to look at.”
Let me set the record straight. It’s a lie. It just is.
I can’t count the number of times I have heard a young woman I’ve thought was stunningly beautiful talk about how unattractive she was, and it is always disheartening on so many levels. Obviously it breaks my heart because the undying truth that God created every one of us perfectly has somehow escaped her. But it’s also dangerous because it’s that kind of thinking that leads a young woman to think a discussion of being careful about what she wears is wasted on her. Or even worse, that when a man finally does pay attention to her, he must be the one.
Don’t kid yourself into thinking that you have no need to dress modestly because no one is looking anyway – think again. DO NOT think that just because you find it difficult to see the beauty in yourself that it somehow doesn’t exist, or worse yet, that no one else thinks you’re beautiful.
And if my ramblings don’t get you to reconsider your stance on how you dress, maybe this will:
“For a woman, a great motivation for dressing and looking properly should be that she is jealous for her husband. First Corinthians 7:4 says, "The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband." The Bible says my wife belongs to me. She is my property. I own her. That is really not "politically correct," is it? But it is true. The Bible says it, and I would not want another man to be taking possession, even if only in his mind, of my property. I'm very territorial. There is only one man in the world who has the right to lust after my wife, and that is Me. And when a woman dresses in such a way where she shows her form, she shows her figure, shows her nakedness, what she is doing is taking something that belongs to her husband and giving it to another man. So you may say, "Well, I didn't go to bed with him." No, lady, but you showed him something that didn't belong to him. You showed him something he had no right to see.”
“So a woman, for the love of her husband, should want to be modest. She should want to be dressed appropriately. And by the way, if you are not married, your body still belongs to your husband, whoever he will turn out to be. Therefore, if you go showing it all off because you are not married, you are robbing your future husband. You are taking something that will belong to him and giving it to someone else, and that is not right. So you may say, "Well, I have to show it off to get a husband." You do that, and there is a good chance that you will wind up with the wrong kind of husband.”
“If you dress shamefacedly, then the only thing a man could be attracted to would be your countenance, your face, your character and your personality. It would take quite a man to become attracted to that, because men are not naturally attracted to those things at first. Naturally, the man is attracted to the flesh first, and the rest comes later. So if you can find a man who, without first having seen your body, is attracted to you, you have attracted the right kind of man.”
Truth Number 3: You Have a Part to Play Too!
As I said before, there are multiple factors that play into this particular struggle for men. I’ll never deny that men should take every positive step that they possibly can to keep their eyes, minds, and hearts where they belong. But, as the beautiful women that God made you to be, there are things that you can do to both help your brothers in their struggles, as well as command that you be respected and loved in the way God intended.
For starters, if you are still having a hard time choking down the fact that you are beautiful and can be physically desirable, figure out why. Figure out who or what taught you to think less of yourself, label it as a lie, and start telling yourself the truth. This is of the utmost importance because until you believe this about yourself as a daughter of God, taking steps to help young men see you as more than an object of desire will never make sense.
Secondly, challenge what you believe about the way you dress and present yourself. Take a long, hard look at your wardrobe and ask yourself, “Does this present me and my body in a way that honors God and leads young men to appreciate me properly?” If you’re on the fence about a particular piece of clothing, try phrasing the question differently. “Am I comfortable exposing this much of my [body part] to complete strangers?” Because, trust me, if there is something to be seen, men will see it.
On this point, if you’re still coming up empty-handed, to those of you who have men in your lives that you know and trust to be honest with you, I would highly encourage you to consult them. As a guy, I can’t tell you how much it means to us knowing that you want to take positive steps towards being seen in a way that God desires for you. It helps us to stumble less, and it’s reassuring to know that you have the self-respect to demand that you be seen as more than a body. If most guys are anything like me, they would jump at the opportunity to help you present yourself in a God-honoring way.
Ok, this has gotten a lot longer than I intended, so I’ll wrap things up at this point. Just know that as brothers in Christ, it absolutely breaks our hearts to see our beloved sisters treated as anything less than the beautiful, perfect creations that we all know you are. So as we take steps to love you in a God-honoring way, I would lovingly challenge you to meet us halfway. Don’t settle for anything less than complete respect and love of who you are as a person and child of God first and foremost.
And one day, if Prince Charming sweeps you off your feet, rest assured knowing that when you’ve invited him to love you in the way you deserve to be loved above all else, the other aspects of your beauty will be fully appreciated as God intended in its appropriate time. And the relationship, having been built on solid rock instead of sand, will endure through thick and thin.
With that, I’ll leave you with the end of my conversation with my good friend who has since made some encouraging choices about how her beauty.
I like to think of myself as a present,
For someone super special to unwrap one day,
And I am careful not to wrap too tight to give away the shape ‘cause then IT’LL RUIN THE SURPRISE!
By design, man is a creature that seeks knowledge. When we are captivated by something, we desire to know more about it. What captivates each of us varies greatly, as do the degrees to which each of us pursues the respective knowledge of said captivators. Some of our desires for knowledge manifest as nothing more than a hobby or way to relieve stress. For others of us, our pursuit of knowledge earns us the label of “gifted” in that particular endeavor. Regardless of these details, the fact that we desire knowledge is undeniable:
- At a global level, the desire to answer the most difficult, timeless questions of “Where did we come from?” and “Why are we here?” have fueled countless years of scientific research and philosophical thought.
- At a national level, we’ve been enticed by the potential that modern technology contains, and have been led to create some of the most mind-blowing advances that the world has ever seen.
- And even at a personal level, our individual passions for knowledge can give us the drive to become an Olympic hurdler or an idol in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Our desire to know more, as well as the resulting benefits we obtain from following said desire, are both gifts from God. But like any gift, it must be harnessed and nurtured responsibly. Peter Parker would tell us that “With great power comes great responsibility,” and he would be right on.
Often times, it’s easy to let the fact that we are well-informed about a particular subject change our hearts for the worst. If our egos aren’t contained and our hearts kept in check, we can become highly critical of both ourselves and others, and we can likewise lose the ability to recognize achievement and experience joy in that subject:
- To an observer at the finish line, a marathon runner is a pinnacle of human physical achievement. To that same marathon runner, her own performance may have been deemed sub-standard due to her knowledge of other runners, previous race times, and the resulting unrealistic beliefs about herself that may have been in place because of it.
- A member of a crowd at a concert may be mesmerized by a guitarist’s performance. The experienced musician standing next to him in the crowd, watching the exact same performance, could be at a loss to find anything impressive about the guitarists work due to his own in-depth understanding of the instrument and music.
As followers of Christ, we must strive to remain humble in all walks of life. We must be humble about our gifts in the light of others, and even humble to ourselves. We must remember that the gifts we have been given are nothing more than that. They were given and can just as easily be taken away.
"A man who is eating or lying with his wife or preparing to go to sleep in humility, thankfulness and temperance, is, by Christian standards, in an infinitely higher state than one who is listening to Bach or reading Plato in a state of pride."
- CS Lewis
I have been reading the book Knowing God by J. I. Packer. It is a theology book about God and is rather deep...at least for me. (Please understand I am not the type to read such books regularly...especially to brag about the complex things I read...but I humbly admit I am only reading this book as I am fascinated in learning more about God.)
I often find myself reading paragraphs over and over again to soak in all the richness of the words as they help me grasp a new understanding of who God is. Much of the book is about how one can “know” God (hence the title), but the author made these few points about how much God knows us:
“What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it – the fact that he knows me. I am graven on the palms of his hands. I am never out of his mind. All my knowledge of him depends on his sustained initiative in knowing me. I know him because he first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore when his care falters.
This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort – the sort of comfort that energizes, be it said, not enervates – in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that his love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench his determination to bless me.”
Did you catch all that?
Read it again. Take a deep breath. Let it soak in.
I just don’t know what captivates me the most. Maybe it is the fact I am never out of his mind.
Maybe it is the fact nothing I will ever do will “disillusion him about me” because he knows not only all my past failures but even the worst about me yet to happen...the terrible stuff I don’t even yet know.
Maybe it is simply he knows me as a friend and the God and Creator of this ever expanding universe...loves me.
Yes, the Immersion bloggers are human too. You know our big secret.
So, that said, I’m feeling the itch to follow Woman-of-Steele’s example and share my thoughts on a really encouraging movie I saw recently: Bella.
Before watching the movie, I was told that the director, Alejandro Gomez Monteverde, had a very specific motive in making the film. Being a Latino in America, he wanted to break the stereotype of Latinos in film. Commonly, they’re portrayed as lower-class citizens in poverty-stricken neighborhoods riddled with crime and “banditos.” In making Bella, he wanted to have the positive influence of the film be from Latinos, and have the person at the bottom of the barrel be who we commonly see as the heroes in movies: Caucasians.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, a young, single girl by the name of Nina is fired from her waitressing job after showing up late too many times in a row due to an unplanned pregnancy. The restaurant she was fired from was own by a very well-to-do Latino man named Manny, and the lead chef was his brother José. After Manny fires Nina, José walks out on his job and his brother to take care of Nina.
The movie follows the two of them as Nina struggles with the thought of having an abortion, finding a new job, and just generally getting her life in order. Through it all, José is there by her side. He even takes her to stay with his family who welcomes her with open arms. They give her a place to rest and a meal bigger than any she’s had in months.
Nina is simply blown away by their kindness. In one of the most powerful scenes, she tells José how lucky he is to have a family that loves him so much. It was in that moment that Monteverde accomplished turning the Latino stereotype on its head.
I won’t spoil the end, but I think there’s a bigger theme here. I don’t believe the movie won the plethora of awards that it did simply because it challenged racial stereotypes, although that certainly earns it a firm pat on the back for that fact alone. There’s a very simple, heart-warming quality about José that all of us long to be for another person, and long to feel when we’re in need.
It shows the power of love.
José ditches a great job, turns his back on his money-hungry brother, and puts all his priorities aside because he recognizes that Nina’s needs are far greater than his own. He shows her that even though she’s made countless mistakes and has been cast aside by everyone else in her life, he still sees her as a girl worthy of being loved and cared for, and he does just that.
If you haven’t taken time out to watch this film, I highly recommend you do so. It’s will challenge you boldly to think about your own priorities, the people in your life in need of your love, and what you’re doing [or not doing] about it.
Some friends and I went to the movie Seven Pounds last night. This movie is so spiritual (but honestly, what isn't?). So as to not give anything away if you haven't seen it, I'll try to be general. In one part, Will Smith gives a really big gift to a woman and her children. He chose her because of her circumstances and this would now allow her to get away from her abusive boyfriend. In the letter he had written to her explaining things, he says something like "When you feel like asking 'why me?', don't". She is instructed to start a new life, starting with this gift she's been given.
I can't tell you the number of times God has said this same thing to me lately. When I look at the huge gifts and blessings God has given me, I can be in awe of it, but I'm no longer going to try and figure out how or why He did it. I do know it's because He loves me THAT MUCH. But ultimately it's what I do with it that matters. Am I going to start a new life or continue to repeat past mistakes that took me away from God? For me, the answer is easy.
This gift of grace and mercy - it makes me responsible. I am responsible for showing others the love that God has shown me. I am responsible for taking lessons learned and share my story with others so that I am a model for how a relationship with Christ changes a person. I am excited for all the different ways He will have me do this in the coming year. I know as a Christian, it's what I'm supposed to do. It is what I want to do.
My prayer for all of us this new year is that we will feel a deeper responsibility and desire to act because of what God has done for us personally. I pray that you too have felt the power of God's love and grace and that it inspires you to reach out to the world in any way you can.
Happy New Year!