figments, intimacies, creation, men
written by Trevor Olson
Last time we left off with the thought that the church does not have her own sexuality.
The sexuality in her midst is that of another. The embodiment of her sexuality is rarely to be seen.
Advantage to the believer in the sexuality of the age. Insofar as a believer in the ‘self’ knows of what he speaks – he has a compelling experience of it - his knowledge is a completely different kind than most men who believe in the Lord. The believer in the self’s sexual knowledge is personal, and the believer in the Lord’s sexuality is as we like to politely say ‘aspirational’ – it’s abstract. It's a figment.
Reality from figments is challenging. Knowledge must become personal to be formative. Knowledge become personal is formative. Always. By this I mean where the man’s liturgy who believes in a sexuality of self is having an effective impact on him and his people, the Christian’s is not. The self man’s sexuality looks exactly the way the self man says it should, and the man of Christ's rarely does. The self man’s sexuality is true – it is strong – and the Christian’s is often weak. Which if so betrays that it is false. The church’s lack of heart knowledge about men’s identities and formation is one of the reasons she is unable to incarnate much more than half-baked men. Your son’s friend at school and the guys at the bar and the people on TV and Instagram may be doing a much better job of teaching your son and your loved ones and yourself who to desire and who women and girls and men are, perhaps for no other reason than those people draw from the always transformative well of personal experience.
We the Body need men to get into more than their intellectualizations and we need to help them do it. First off we have to start pointing men in the one direction capable of actually getting them somewhere. The male identity, as an Image of God, is formed in relationship, particularly with God and other men. ‘Salvation has come from no one else’ than a relational God who created men into immediate, determinative, life-long relationship with Him and one another. Both of the two commandments to we have been given from which to live the entirety of our lives are fundamentally, ultimately and especially relational. This characteristic stands above all others.
'Let Us make mankind in our Image.'
We need men to get this. Having a relationship of the heart with God and men is the genesis, and yes the exodus, and the advent and death and resurrection, and eventually too the final revelation of the male identity. It is one of the basic experiences of the Gospel. Up where I used to work there is a well-loved saying that 'we aren’t really men until we have known and been known by them.' Masculinity is spoken into us, and then we speak it into each other. The near unanimous practice of this in traditional cultures, most of who have never had any way of knowing anything about each other, is I think a witness to this mandate. We as the Body need to regain a sense of being our brother’s keeper in the worst kind of way. Only in intimacy is it possible to hear ‘deep crying out to deep’ and give a just response. The deep creations God and men create in us and we in them. Women, particularly mothers and sisters and spouses and friends who know how to call men into being, do too. The relationship of the development and expression of masculinity within and between men and between men and women is amazing. Done rightly, each supports the other. Each refines the other. Each celebrates the other. Each is a gripping part of God working things together for good. Taste and see.
The freedom to live this kind of powerful life comes through the obedience to be faithful to the calling with which we were called – loving God, and one’s neighbor as oneself. The freedom is the chance to finally take our place in the story. Which is to say it is daunting and arduous and humbling and painful, and wonderful. Don’t expect it to be otherwise. From the outside looking in it’s noxiously relational and overly repetitive/simplistic and pie-in-the-sky and difficult to understand and creepy or just weird. The felt understanding of masculinity, the joy from deep within of being a living breathing ‘man’, and the thrill of knowing oneself to be in some very real way ‘who’ God wants us to be, is the reward of obedience, not the starting point. Being and becoming masculine is an action of the mind and the will and the heart. Which is to say it is a full-blooded sport. The living of a relational life in Christ is one of men’s great challenges – it’s a splendidly masculine thing, for which it almost never gets its due. Any man who thinks deep relationship with God and men and women isn’t masculine the way starting a business and building a house is and fighting a war or cultivating the land is has obviously never had them.
‘Troubled sexuality syndrome’, then, is made right with the glad assumption of responsibility – the life of love. Masculinity finds its mark when communities of boys and un-affirmed men are ‘kept’ so they will one day ‘become’ the kinds of men they are with. They become these kinds of men by being men with men in the most personal kinds of ways. Men find their place in life when they have been given and gladly assume the best of others as their abiding concern. At this point the man’s life is well on it’s way to changing from one thing to the other.
Thanks for reading quite an earful about masculinity. Next time it’s on to something else. A very good first week to you all.