What messages define your journey?
My heart’s desire these days is to live from a deeper, truer place. A place where many men, honestly don’t venture to go, myself included. I have loved the Word of God for many years now – it has been my daily bread and my instructions for life handbook – but honestly, I think it has been easier for me to read it that way than to allow it to read me. To really let it soak in beyond the letters on the page. I’m just guessing but I don’t think I’m alone in this. My larger question, or perhaps disappointment, is that it has taken me so long to realize this. To come to the understanding that there is so much more to a man’s life than the need for another instruction book – I mean, we don’t read them anyway, remember? At least not until we’ve made a mess of things and are forced to surrender.
Rather, men need a path – a journey – an adventure. Something that feels real, true to the heart and sometimes perhaps even a little scary; for some, a whole lot scary. Life offers this in multiple arenas but mostly they are counterfeits of what a man truly needs. They are designed to get the adrenaline going or prove our physical strength but feats of risk or strength don’t pull our heart to a confident and awakened reality. There is a deep hunger to be challenged at times, and even if we’re convinced that we don’t have what it takes to pull it off, it would be nice to try.
But then there’s my heart – eager to go – wanting to try but desperately not wanting to risk failure. I have enough of those – failures that is, not much room left at the bottom of the page to add too many more, and at my age, why would I risk it? Nothing left to prove really, to anyone, and yet my heart is still starving, unsettled, restless, sensing there is more, always more.
My journey has brought me many miles, but it's not over yet; there is distance still to cover. Jesus stills extends the invitation, one day at a time to “follow Me.” It's ok, I am eager to see what’s next. My new motto is, “If you’re not dead, you’re not done.”
But the one requirement for whatever is next at whatever age you are is simply this – you must bring your whole heart. This will be necessary in order to find true fulfillment. As Alcoholics Anonymous reminds us, “Half measures availed us nothing.”
This single requirement however is problematic because most men live in a country very distant from their heart. To them, the world of emotion exists on another planet, usually known as, their wife. Man after man sits in my counseling office and complains that “My wife is always talking about my feelings – wants me to talk about emotions – yeah, I don’t really do that.”
It usually takes me a while to convince them that yes, they actually DO have emotions and it would benefit both them and their wife to get in touch with them. You see, Jesus tells us in Mark 7:20-23“For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”
So, in other words, these are the things that come out of a man because these are the things that are in the man. These behaviors reveal the unreached places in a man – even many men who know their Bible. The behaviors are exposed as negative actions, the vital signs of wounding that many men carry and haven’t identified. My privilege is to journey with a man into the wounded places to discover the messages that the enemy has laid craftily in his soul, usually many years ago – when he was too young to even know it.
Once the messaging has been identified, the traps the enemy has laid to derail a man from his story - (take out his heart and his story tragically ends) - we can begin to repair the wounded places by replacing lies with truth.
Jesus said, in John 8:44, that Satan is a liar and the father of lies. In other words, lies are at the centrality of his being, and that is what flows out to us as his primary strategy to derail a man from God’s plan. As the father of lies – all lying began with him, and he is the master of his craft.
His strategy is all too common and yet most men are oblivious to the strategy and its destruction. Satan comes to insert lies into a man’s life – early enough for him to be unaware. As far as the man knows, its just the story of his life. Someone has said that children are great observers of life but poor interpreters.
As we live our young lives, we form messages that help us make sense of the things that have happened to us. Life isn’t simply about the events that have happened to us, but is rather about the messages attached to those events. The problem is that we were too young to properly interpret, we had no capacity to be big picture thinkers, so we became the centrality of our problem.
We attached a message to our situation – "I am the problem" – "I can’t do anything right" – "I am loved only when I do good things" – "I am on my own, no one is going to help me" – "I have to figure out my own life."
But those messages are there to derail us and the messages are masterfully frustrating and debilitating - so the primary emotions that flow from us when the heat gets turned up are negative. We don’t know where the powerful emotions originated but we can admit that often our responses outweigh the situation. That’s when we know there’s something else at work.
The only antidote to these messages is truth. The reality is that God has something He wants to tell us that will break those lies. The message is that only He, as the Good Father, gets to define us – not the story of our life or our circumstances no matter how unfair, or tragic. We are not to allow anyone or anything to determine our worth. The catch though is that God rarely breaks through to us in a startling moment of identity impartation – we unpack what God meant when He called us into existence, over a lifetime. That’s the journey we’re on. And everything we have lived through – our finest and worst hours - all contribute to the story God is writing through us and to the man He is calling us to be. Sons.
Jesus said that “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31a,32)
While there is theological truth to be learned in His word, there is more to this offer of truth than simply defining and refining our theology – so much more.
Truth becomes to us as the “belt of truth” in Ephesians 6 – it's not exactly a belt as we think of it but it was the piece that was first put on – that held all the other pieces together. If that vital piece wasn’t in place, the warrior wouldn’t be able to properly wield the shield defensively nor the sword offensively.
“Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth . . .” Without the truth – we won’t be able to stand. We will constantly be in conflict just trying to figure out which position is actually true. Being a man of truth means having the truth at the center of our being. That allows us to identify lies when they come and gives us a solid place from which we live and make the tough decisions of life. As with the belt of a Roman centurion, it becomes the piece of our lives that holds all the other pieces together. Without it, we fall apart in a hundred different ways.
The truth that sets us free is more than memorizing scripture (although that is certainly included.) Many men have memorized scriptures only to misuse them as weapons. The truth Jesus offers is found only in a place of relationship where I position myself before my true Father and receive His intimate instruction for my heart. It is the truth that overcomes the lies deep in my soul and sets me free to hear the Father’s voice in ways I never have before. He speaks beloved words of love, grace and sonship over us, freeing us from the lies so deeply implanted and spoken over us by others.
His words of truth, sometimes so foreign to us, even hard at times to receive, must be welcomed into the deepest places of our heart and given permission to redefine us. It is only the reassuring words of our true Father that can put us back on our feet and re-establish the trajectory of our destiny.
The truth that Jesus offers is a relationship – with the very Way, Truth and Life – allowing Him to take us to the Father’s heart. When we know Him, we know the Father – when we hear Him, we hear the Father. “And this is the way to have eternal life – to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the One You sent to earth.” (John 17:3)
As I get older, this I know – life is short. Men, don’t waste another minute thrashing in the foam and froth of life. Go deep. Develop the discipline of listening. Don’t allow yourself to get so busy with life’s details that you miss the essentials. Set aside time to listen and receive from the Father.
There is much to do and it is work that will require a free heart.
It’s time to allow God to heal the broken places. He wants us to live in the kind of truth that will unify us internally and bring a new reality to us externally. It will change the way we live, the way we love and the way to respond to others. It is this truth that will allow us to become compassionate, Kingdom-focused men. It is this truth that will unfold our greatest journey and adventure. For those men who love formulas, here’s the formula;
Stay close to Jesus – Do what He says.
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