THE QUESTION THAT HAUNTS EVERY MAN
The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives.
He begins to die, that quits his desires.
Are you there?
Say a prayer for the Pretender
Who started out so young and strong Only to surrender.
((D 1976 by Swallow Turn Music)
Our local zoo had for years one of the biggest African lions I’ve ever seen. A huge male,
nearly five hundred pounds, with a wonderful mane and absolutely enormous paws. Panthera
leo. The King of the Beasts. Sure, he was caged, but I’m telling you the bars offered small
comfort when you stood within six feet of something that in any other situation saw you as an
easy lunch. Honestly, I felt I ought to shepherd my boys past him at a safe distance, as if he
could pounce on us if he really wanted to. Yet he was my favorite, and whenever the others
would wander on to the monkey house or the tigers, I’d double back just for a few more
minutes in the presence of someone so powerful and noble and deadly. Perhaps it was fear
mingled with admiration; perhaps it was simply that my heart broke for the big old cat.
This wonderful, terrible creature should have been out roaming the savanna, ruling his pride,
striking fear into the heart of every wildebeest, bringing down zebras and gazelles whenever
the urge seized him. Instead, he spent every hour of every day and every night of every year
alone, in a cage smaller than your bedroom, his food served to him through a little metal door.
Sometimes late at night, after the city had gone to sleep, I would hear his roar come down
from the hills. It sounded not so much fierce, but rather mournful. During all of my visits, he
never looked me in the eye. I desperately wanted him to, wanted for his sake the chance to
stare me down, would have loved it if he took a swipe at me. But he just lay there, weary with
that deep weariness that comes from boredom, taking shallow breaths, rolling now and then
from side to side.
For after years of living in a cage, a lion no longer even believes it is a lion … and a man no
longer believes he is a man.
THE LION OF JUDAH??
A man is fierce … passionate … wild at heart? You wouldn’t know it from what normally
walks around in a pair of trousers. If a man is the image of the Lion of Judah, how come there
are so many lonely women, so many fatherless children, so few men around? Why is it that
the world seems filled with “caricatures” of masculinity? There’s the guy who lives behind us.
He spends his entire weekend in front of the tube watching sports while his sons play outside-
-without him. We’ve lived here nine years and I think I’ve seen him play with his boys maybe
twice. What’s with that? Why won’t he engage? And the guy the next street over, who races
motorcycles and drives a huge truck and wears a leather jacket and sort of swaggers when he
walks. I thought James Dean died years ago. What’s with him? It looks manly, but it seems
How come when men look in their hearts they don’t discover something valiant and
dangerous, but instead find anger, lust, and fear? Most of the time, I feel more fearful than I
do fierce. Why is that? It was one hundred and fifty years ago that Thoreau wrote, “The mass
of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” and it seems nothing has changed. As the line from
Braveheart has it, “All men die; few men ever really live.” And so most women lead lives of
quiet resignation, having given up on their hope for a true man.
The real life of the average man seems a universe away from the desires of his heart. There is
no battle to fight, unless it’s traffic and meetings and hassles and bills. The guys who meet for
coffee every Thursday morning down at the local coffee shop and share a few Bible verses
with each other–where is their great battle? And the guys who hang out down at the bowling
alley, smoking and having a few too many–they’re in the exact same place. The swords and
castles of their boyhood have long been replaced with pencils and cubicles; the six-shooters
and cowboy hats laid aside for minivans and mortgages. The poet Edwin Robinson captured
the quiet desperation this way:
Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
Grew lean while he assailed the seasons;
He wept that he was ever born,
And he had reasons.
Miniver loved the days of old
When swords were bright and steeds were prancing; The vision of a warrior bold Would set
Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
Scratched his head and kept on thinking; Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
And kept on drinking. (“Miniver Cheevy”)
Without a great battle in which a man can live and die, the fierce part of his nature goes
underground and sort of simmers there in a sullen anger that seems to have no reason. A few
weeks ago I was on a flight to the West Coast. It was dinnertime, and right in the middle of
the meal the guy in front of me drops his seat back as far as it can go, with a couple of hard
shoves back at me to make sure. I wanted to knock him into First Class. A friend of mine is
having trouble with his toy shop, because the kids who come in “tick him off” and he’s
snapping at them. Not exactly good for business. So many men, good men, confess to losing it
at their own children regularly.
Then there’s the guy in front of me at a stoplight yesterday. It turned green, but he didn’t
move; I guess he wasn’t paying attention. I gave a little toot on my horn to draw his attention
to the fact that now there were twenty-plus cars piling up behind us. The guy was out of his
car in a flash, yelling threats, ready for a fight. Truth be told, I wanted desperately to meet
him there. Men are angry, and we really don’t know why.
And how come there are so many “sports widows,” losing their husbands each weekend to the
golf course or the TV? Why are so many men addicted to sports?
It’s the biggest adventure many of them ever taste. Why do so many others lose themselves in
their careers? Same reason. I noticed the other day that the Wall Street Journal advertises
itself to men as “adventures in capitalism.” I know guys who spend hours on-line, e-trading
stocks. There’s a taste of excitement and risk to it, no question. And who’s to blame them? The
rest of their life is chores and tedious routine. It’s no coincidence that many men fall into an
affair not for love, not even for sex, but, by their own admission, for adventure. So many guys
have been told to put that adventurous spirit behind them and “be responsible,” meaning, live
only for duty. All that’s left are pictures on the wall of days gone by, and maybe some gear
piled in the garage.
Ed Sissman writes,
Men past forty
Get up nights, Look out at city lights And wonder
Where they made the wrong turn And why life is so long.
I hope you’re getting the picture by now. If a man does not find those things for which his
heart is made, if he is never even invited to live for them from his deep heart, he will look for
them in some other way. Why is pornography the number one snare for men? He longs for the
beauty, but without his fierce and passionate heart he cannot find her or win her or keep her.
Though he is powerfully drawn to the woman, he does not know how to fight for her or even
that he is to fight for her. Rather, he finds her mostly a mystery that he knows he cannot solve
and so at a soul level he keeps his distance.
And privately, secretly, he turns to the imitation. What makes pornography so addictive is that
more than anything else in a lost man’s life, it makes him feel like a man without ever
requiring a thing of him. The less a guy feels like a real man in the presence of a real woman,
the more vulnerable he is to porn.
And so a man’s heart, driven into the darker regions of the soul, denied the very things he
most deeply desires, comes out in darker places. Now, a man’s struggles, his wounds and
addictions, are a bit more involved than that, but those are the core reasons. As the poet
George Herbert warned, “he begins to die, that quits his desires.” And you know what? We all
know it. Every man knows that something’s happened, something’s gone wrong … we just
don’t know what it is.
I spent ten years of my life in the theater, as an actor and director. They were, for the most
part, joyful years. I was young and energetic and pretty good at what I did. My wife was part
of the theater company I managed, and we had many close friends there. I tell you this so that
you will understand what I am about to reveal. In spite of the fact that my memories of theater
are nearly all happy ones, I keep having this recurring nightmare. This is how it goes: I
suddenly find myself in a theater–a large, Broadway-style playhouse, the kind every actor
aspires to play. The house lights are low and the stage lights full, so from my position onstage
I can barely make out the audience, but I sense it is a full house. Standing room only. So far,
so good. Actors love playing to a full house. But I am not loving the moment at all. I am
paralyzed with fear. A play is under way and I’ve got a crucial part. But I have no idea what
play it is. I don’t know what part I’m supposed to be playing; I don’t know my lines; I don’t
even know my cues.
This is every man’s deepest fear: to be exposed, to be found out, to be discovered as an
impostor, and not really a man. The dream has nothing to do with acting; that’s just the
context for my fear. You have yours. A man bears the image of God in his strength, not so
much physically but soulfully. Regardless of whether or not he knows the biblical account, if
there’s one thing a man does know he knows he is made to come through. Yet he wonders …
Can I? Will I? When the going gets rough, when it really matters, will he pull it off? For years
my soul lived in this turmoil. I’d often wake in the morning with an anxiousness that had no
immediate source. My stomach was frequently tied in knots. One day my dear friend Brent
asked, “What do you do now that you don’t act anymore?” I realized at that moment that my
whole life felt like a performance, like I am always “on.” I felt in every situation that I must
prove myself again. After I spoke or taught a class, I’d hang on what others would say, hoping
they would say it went well. Each counseling session felt like a new test: Can I come through,
again? Was my last success all that I had?
One of my clients got a great promotion and a raise. He came in depressed. Good grief, I
thought. Why? Every man longs to be praised, and paid well on top of it. He confessed that
although the applause felt great, he knew it only set him up for a bigger fall. Tomorrow, he’d
have to do it all over, hit the ball out of the park again. Every man feels that the world is
asking him to be something he doubts very much he has it in him to be. This is universal;
I have yet to meet an honest man who won’t admit it. Yes, there are many dense men who are
wondering what I’m talking about; for them, life is fine and they are doing great. Just wait.
Unless it’s really and truly a reflection of genuine strength, it’s a house of cards, and it’ll come
down sooner or later.
Anger will surface, or an addiction. Headaches, an ulcer, or maybe an affair.
Honestly–how do you see yourself as a man? Are words like strong, passionate, and
dangerous words you would choose? Do you have the courage to ask those in your life what
they think of you as a man? What words do you fear they would choose? I mentioned the film
Legends of the Fall, how every man who’s seen it wants to be Tristan. But most see
themselves as Alfred or Samuel. I’ve talked to many men about the film Braveheart and
though every single one of them would love to be William Wallace, the dangerous warriorhero,
most see themselves as Robert the Bruce, the weak, intimidated guy who keeps folding
under pressure. I’d love to think of myself as Indiana Jones; I’m afraid I’m more like Woody
The comedian Garrison Keillor wrote a very funny essay on this in his The Book of Guys.
Realizing one day that he was not being honest about himself as a man, he sat down to make a
list of his strengths and weaknesses:
USEFUL THINGS I CAN DO:
Make a bed.
Dig a hole.
Sing alto or bass.
Read a map.
Drive a car.
USEFUL THINGS I CAN’T DO:
Chop down big trees and cut them into lumber or firewood. Handle a horse, train a dog, or
tend a herd of animals.
Handle a boat without panicking the others.
Throw a fastball, curve, or slider.
Load, shoot, and clean a gun.
Or bow and arrow.
Or use either of them, or a spear, net, snare, boomerang, or blowgun, to obtain meat.
Defend myself with my bare hands.
Keillor confesses: “Maybe it’s an okay report card for a person but I don’t know any persons .
. . For a guy, it’s not good. A woman would go down the list and say, ‘What does it matter if a
guy can handle a boat? Throw a curveball? Bag a deer? Throw a left hook? This is 1993.’ But
that’s a womanly view of manhood.” Craig and I were joking about this as we hacked our way
through grizzly-infested woods in Alaska. The only other guys we met all day were a group of
locals on their way out. They looked like something out of Soldier of Fortune magazine–
sawed-off shotguns, pistols, bandoleers of ammo slung across their chests, huge knives. They
were ready. They had what it takes. And we? We had a whistle. I’m serious. That’s what we
brought for our dangerous trek through the wild: a whistle. Talk about a couple of pansies.
Craig confessed, “Me–what can I really do? I mean really? I know how to operate a fax
That’s how most men feel about their readiness to fight, to live with risk, to capture the
beauty. We have a whistle. You see, even though the desires are there for a battle to fight, an
adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue, even though our boyhood dreams once were filled
with those things, we don’t think we’re up to it. Why don’t men play the man? Why don’t they
offer their strength to a world desperately in need of it? For two simple reasons: We doubt
very much that we have any real strength to offer, and we’re pretty certain that if we did offer
what we have it wouldn’t be enough. Something has gone wrong and we know it.
What’s happened to us? The answer is partly back in the story of mankind, and partly in the
details of each man’s story.
WHAT IS A MAN FOR?
Why does God create Adam? What is a man for? If you know what something is designed to
do, then you know its purpose in life. A retriever loves the water; a lion loves the hunt; a
hawk loves to soar. It’s what they’re made for. Desire reveals design, and design reveals
destiny. In the case of human beings, our design is also revealed by our desires. Let’s take
adventure. Adam and all his sons after him are given an incredible mission: rule and subdue,
be fruitful and multiply. “Here is the entire earth, Adam. Explore it, cultivate it, care for it–it
is your kingdom.” Whoa … talk about an invitation.
This is permission to do a heck of a lot more than cross the street. It’s a charter to find the
equator; it’s a commission to build Camelot. Only Eden is a garden at that point; everything
else is wild, so far as we know. No river has been charted, no ocean crossed, no mountain
climbed. No one’s discovered the molecule, or fuel injection, or Beethoven’s Fifth.
It’s a blank page, waiting to be written. A clean canvas, waiting to be painted.
Most men think they are simply here on earth to kill time–and it’s killing them. But the truth
is precisely the opposite. The secret longing of your heart, whether it’s to build a boat and sail
it, to write a symphony and play it, to plant a field and care for it–those are the things you
were made to do.
That’s what you’re here for. Explore, build, conquer–you don’t have to tell a boy to do those
things for the simple reason that it is his purpose. But it’s going to take risk, and danger, and
there’s the catch. Are we willing to live with the level of risk God invites us to? Something
inside us hesitates.
Let’s take another desire–why does a man long for a battle to fight? Because when we enter
the story in Genesis, we step into a world at war. The lines have already been drawn. Evil is
waiting to make its next move. Somewhere back before Eden, in the mystery of eternity past,
there was a coup, a rebellion, an assassination attempt. Lucifer, the prince of angels, the
captain of the guard, rebelled against the Trinity. He tried to take the throne of heaven by
force, assisted by a third of the angelic army, in whom he instilled his own malice. They
failed, and were hurled from the presence of the Trinity.
But they were not destroyed, and the battle is not over. God now has an enemy … and so do
we. Man is not born into a sitcom or a soap opera; he is born into a world at war. This is not
Home Improvement; it’s Saving Private Ryan. There will be many, many battles to fight on
many different battlefields.
And finally, why does Adam long for a beauty to rescue?
Because there is Eve. He is going to need her, and she is going to need him. In fact, Adam’s
first and greatest battle is just about to break out, as a battle for Eve. But let me set the stage a
bit more. Before Eve is drawn from Adam’s side and leaves that ache that never goes away
until he is with her, God gives Adam some instructions on the care of creation, and his role in
the unfolding story. It’s pretty basic, and very generous. “You may freely eat any fruit in the
garden except fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:16-17 NLT).
Okay, most of us have heard about that. But notice what God doesn’t tell Adam.
There is no warning or instruction over what is about to occur: the Temptation of Eve. This is
just staggering. Notably missing from the dialogue between Adam and God is something like
this: “Adam, one more thing. A week from Tuesday, about four in the afternoon, you and Eve
are going to be down in the orchard and something dangerous is going to happen. Adam, are
you listening? The eternal destiny of the human race hangs on this moment. Now, here’s what
I want you to do . ..” he doesn’t tell him. He doesn’t even mention it, so far as we know. Good
grief–why not?! Because God believes in Adam. This is what he’s designed to do–to come
through in a pinch. Adam doesn’t need play-by-play instructions because this is what Adam is
for. It’s already there, everything he needs, in his design, in his heart.
Needless to say, the story doesn’t go well. Adam fails, he fails Eve, and the rest of humanity.
Let me ask you a question: Where is Adam, while the serpent is tempting Eve? He’s standing
right there: “She also gave some to her husband, who was with her. Then he ate it, too” (Gen.
3:6 NLT). The Hebrew for “with her” means right there, elbow to elbow. Adam isn’t away in
another part of the forest; he has no alibi. He is standing right there, watching the whole thing
unravel. What does he do?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. He says not a word, doesn’t lift a finger.*
*I’m indebted to Crabb, Hudson, and Andrews for pointing this out in The Silence of Adam.
He won’t risk, he won’t fight, and he won’t rescue Eve. Our first father–the first real man–
gave in to paralysis. He denied his very nature and went passive.
And every man after him, every son of Adam, carries in his heart now the same failure. Every
man repeats the sin of Adam, every day. We won’t risk, we won’t fight, and we won’t rescue
Eve. We truly are a chip off the old block.
Lest we neglect Eve, I must point out that she fails her design as well. Eve is given to Adam
as his ezer kenegdo–or as many translations have it, his
“help meet” or “helper.” Doesn’t sound like much, does it? It makes me think of Hamburger
Helper. But Robert Alter says this is “a notoriously difficult word to translate.” It means
something far more powerful than just “helper”; it means “lifesaver.” The phrase is only used
elsewhere of God, when you need him to come through for you desperately. “There is no one
like the God of Jeshurun, who rides on the heavens to help you” (Deut. 33:26). Eve is a life
giver; she is Adam’s ally. It is to both of them that the charter for adventure is given. It will
take both of them to sustain life. And they will both need to fight together.
Eve is deceived … and rather easily, as my friend Jan Meyers points out. In The Allure of
Hope, Jan says, “Eve was convinced that God was withholding something from her.” Not
even the extravagance of Eden could convince her that God’s heart is good. “When Eve was
[deceived], the artistry of being a woman took a fateful dive into the barren places of control
and loneliness.” Now every daughter of Eve wants to “control her surrounding, her
relationships, her God.” No longer is she vulnerable; now she will be grasping. No longer
does she want simply to share in the adventure; now, she wants to control it.
And as for her beauty, she either hides it in fear and anger, or she uses it to secure her place in
the world. “In our fear that no one will speak on our behalf or protect us or fight for us, we
start to recreate both ourselves and our role in the story. We manipulate our surroundings so
we don’t feel so defenseless.” Fallen Eve either becomes rigid or clingy. Put simply, Eve is no
longer simply inviting. She is either hiding in busyness or demanding that Adam come
through for her; usually, an odd combination of both.
Adam knows now that he has blown it, that something has gone wrong within him, that he is
no longer what he was meant to be. Adam doesn’t just make a bad decision; he gives away
something essential to his nature. He is marred now, his strength is fallen, and he knows it.
Then what happens? Adam hides. “I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid” (Gen. 3:10).
You don’t need a course in psychology to understand men. Understand that verse, let its
implications sink in, and the men around you will suddenly come into focus. We are hiding,
every last one of us. Well aware that we, too, are not what we were meant to be, desperately
afraid of exposure, terrified of being seen for what we are and are not, we have run off into
the bushes. We hide in our office, at the gym, behind the newspaper and mostly behind our
personality. Most of what you encounter when you meet a man is a facade, an elaborate fig
leaf, a brilliant disguise.
Driving back from dinner one night, a friend and I were just sort of shooting the breeze about
life and marriage and work. As the conversation deepened, he began to admit some of the
struggles he was having. Then he came out with this confession: “The truth is, John, I feel like
I’m just [bluffing] my way through life … and that someday soon I’ll be exposed as an
impostor.” I was so surprised. This is a popular, successful guy who most people like the
moment they meet him. He’s bright, articulate, handsome, and athletic. He’s married to a
beautiful woman, has a great job, drives a new truck, and lives in a big house. There is
nothing on the outside that says, “not really a man.” But inside, it’s another story. It always is.
Before I ever mentioned my nightmare about being onstage with nothing to say, another
friend shared with me that he, too, is having a recurring nightmare.
It involves a murder, and the FBI. Apparently, in his dream, he has killed someone and buried
the body out back of his house. But the authorities are closing in, and he knows that any
moment they’ll discover the crime scene and he’ll be caught. The dream always ends just
before he is found out. He wakes in a cold sweat. “Any day now, I’ll be found out” is a pretty
common theme among us guys. Truth be told, most of us are faking our way through life. We
pick only those battles we are sure to win, only those adventures we are sure to handle, only
those beauties we are sure to rescue.
Let me ask the guys who don’t know much about cars: How do you talk to your mechanic? I
know a bit about fixing cars, but not much, and when I’m around my mechanic I feel like a
weenie. So what do I do? I fake it; I pose. I assume a sort of casual, laidback manner I
imagine “the guys” use when hanging around the lunch truck, and I wait for him to speak.
“Looks like it might be your fuel mixture,” he says. “Yeah, I thought it might be that.” “When
was the last time you had your carb rebuilt?” “Oh, I dunno … it’s probably been years.” (I’m
guessing he’s talking about my carburetor, and I have no idea if it’s ever been rebuilt.) “Well,
we’d better do it now or you’re going to end up on some country road miles from nowhere and
then you’ll have to do it yourself.” “Yeah,” I say casually, as if I don’t want to be bothered
having to rebuild that thing even though I know I wouldn’t have the slightest idea where to
begin. All I have is a whistle, remember? I tell him to go ahead, and he sticks out his hand, a
big, greasy hand that says I know tools real well and what am I supposed to do? I’m dressed in
a coat and tie because I’m supposed to give a talk at some women’s luncheon, but I can’t say,
“Gee, I’d rather not get my hands dirty,” so I take his hand and pump it extra hard.
Or how about you fellas who work in the corporate world: How do you act in the boardroom,
when the heat is on? What do you say when the Big Boss is riding you hard? “Jones, what the
devil is going on down there in your division? You guys are three weeks late on that
project!!” Do you try to pass the buck?
“Actually, sir, we got the plans over to McCormick’s department to bid the job weeks ago.”
Do you feign ignorance? “Really? I had no idea. I’ll get right on it.” Maybe you just weasel
your way out of it: “That job’s a slam dunk, sir … we’ll have it done this week.” Years ago I
did a tour of duty in the corporate world; the head man was a pretty intimidating guy. Many
heads rolled in his office. My plan was basically to try to avoid him at all costs; when I did
run into him in the hallway, even in “friendly” conversation, I always felt about ten years old.
How about sports? A few years ago I volunteered to coach for my son’s baseball team. There
was a mandatory meeting that all coaches needed to attend before the season, to pick up
equipment and listen to a “briefing.” Our recreation department brought in a retired
professional pitcher, a local boy, to give us all a pep talk. The posing that went on was
incredible. Here’s a bunch of balding dads with beer bellies sort of swaggering around, talking
about their own baseball days, throwing out comments about pro players like they knew them
personally, and spitting (I kid you not). Their “attitude” (that’s a tame word) was so thick I
needed waders. It was the biggest bunch of posers I’ve ever met … outside of church.
That same sort of thing goes on Sunday mornings, its just a different set of rules. Dave runs
into Bob in the church lobby. Both are wearing their happy faces, though neither is happy at
all. “Hey, Bob, how are ya?” Bob is actually furious at his wife and ready to leave her, but he
says, “Great, just great, Dave. The Lord is good!” Dave, on the other hand, hasn’t believed in
the goodness of God for years, ever since his daughter was killed. “Yep–God is good, all the
time. I’m just so glad to be here, praising the Lord.” “Me too. Well, I’ll be praying for you!” I
would love to see a tally of the number of prayers actually prayed against the number of
prayers promised. I bet its about one in a thousand. “And I’ll be praying for you too. Well,
gotta go! You take care.”
“Take care” is our way of saying, “I’m done with this conversation and I want to get out of
here but I don’t want to appear rude so I’ll say something that sounds meaningful and caring,”
but in truth, Dave doesn’t give a rip about Bob.
STRENGTH GONE BAD
Adam falls, and all his sons with him. After that, what do you see as the story unfolds?
Violent men, or passive men. Strength gone bad. Cain kills Abel;
Lamech threatens to kill everybody else. God finally floods the earth because of the violence
of men, but it’s still going on. Sometimes it gets physical; most of the time, it’s verbal. I know
Christian men who say the most awful things to their wives. Or they kill them with their
silence; a cold, deadly silence. I know pastors, warm and friendly guys in the pulpit, who
from the safety of their office send out blistering E-mails to their staff. It’s cowardice, all of it.
I was intrigued to read in the journals of civil war commanders how the men you thought
would be real heroes end up just the opposite. “Roughs that are always ready for street
fighting are cowards on the open battlefield,” declared one corporal. A sergeant from the same
division agreed: I don’t know of a single fist-fighting bully but what he makes a cowardly
soldier.” The violence, no matter what form, is a cover-up for fear.
What about the achievers, the men running hard at life, pressing their way ahead? Most of it is
fear–based as well. Not all of it, but most of it. For years, I was a driven, type A, hardcharging
perfectionist. I demanded a lot of myself and of those who worked for me. My wife
didn’t like to call me at work, for as she said, “You have your work voice on.” In other words,
your fig leaf is showing. All that swaggering and supposed confidence and hard charging
came out of fear–the fear that if I did not, I would be revealed to be less than a man. Never let
down, never drop your guard, give 150 percent. Achievers are a socially acceptable form of
violent men, overdoing it in one way or another. Their casualties tend to be their marriages,
their families, and their health. Until a man faces this honestly, and what’s really behind it,
he’ll do great damage.
Then there’s the passive men. Abraham is a good example. He’s always hiding behind his
wife’s skirt when the going gets rough. When he and his household are forced by a famine
down to Egypt, he tells Pharaoh that Sarah is his sister so that he won’t be killed; he
jeopardizes her in order to save his own skin. Pharaoh takes Sarah into his harem, but the
whole ruse is exposed when God strikes the Egyptians with diseases. You’d think Abraham
would have learned his lesson, but no–he does it again years later when he moves to the
Negev. In fact, his son Isaac carries on the tradition, jeopardizing Rebekah in the same way.
The sins of the father passed along. Abraham is a good man, a friend of God. But he’s also a
coward. I know many like him. Men who can’t commit to the women they’ve been dragging
along for years. Men who won’t stand up to the pastor and tell him what they really think.
Pastors and Christian leaders who hide behind the fig leaf of niceness and “spirituality” and
never, ever confront a difficult situation. Guys who organize their paper clips. Men who hide
behind the newspaper or the television and won’t really talk to their wives or children.
I’m like him too–a true son of Abraham. I mentioned that the early years of our life in the
theater were good ones–but that’s not the full story. I also had an affair … with my work. I
married my wife without ever resolving or even knowing the deeper questions of my own
soul. Suddenly, the day after our wedding, I am faced with the reality that I now have this
woman as my constant companion and I have no idea what it really means to love her, nor if I
have whatever it is she needs from me. What if I offer her all I have as a man and it’s not
enough? That’s a risk I was not willing to take. But I knew I had what it took at the theater,
and so slowly I began to spend more and more time there. Late nights, weekends, eventually
every waking moment. I was hiding, like Adam, running from the fact that my strength was
being called for and I really doubted I had any.
The evidence is clear: Adam and Eve’s fall sent a tremor through the human race. A fatal flaw
entered the original, and it’s been passed on to every son and daughter. Thus every little boy
and every little girl comes into the world set up for a loss of heart. Even if he can’t quite put it
into words, every man is haunted by the question, “Am I really a man? Have I got what it
takes … when it counts?” What follows is the story we are personally much, much more