The Key to Healthy, Godly Masculinity
Jacob was a liar and scoundrel. He cheated his older brother out of his birthright. He lied to his father to steal the family blessing. His mother had to tell him to leave home and travel to a faraway land. “If Jacob ever comes home,” swore his brother, “I’ll kill him dead!”
What kind of man was Jacob at this point in his life? He wasn’t a healthy role model. His actions were shady. His relationships were in tatters. He was fleeing for his life.
Jacob was a man without a dream.
It’s not that Jacob was somehow soft or incompetent. Some readers of the ancient narratives get this mistaken impression. They conclude that his brother Esau was a man’s man while Jacob was a mama’s boy. This depiction is hardly fair or true.
Yes, it’s true that Jacob’s mother liked him best. And yes, Jacob’s brother Esau liked to spend his days hunting wild game. But while Esau was running around in the back country, Jacob was running the family business. He managed the livestock and the herds. He made sure that the family servants and workers were cared for and that things operated smoothly.
Meanwhile, Esau hated responsibility. He tended to show up only when he needed something. The biblical narrators made it clear that Esau’s kind of masculinity didn’t fit the plans or promises of God.
Yet Jacob was a man without a dream.
Healthy, godly men need dreams. They need a purpose bigger than themselves. They need to believe that life has meaning and that their actions count for something.
Everyone needs some kind of dream to propel their life. Young women should have the ability to dream. African Americans need dreams. Immigrants ought to have the right to dream. The oppressed, the marginalized, and the outcast all deserve the chance to dream.
Those who have been previously been excluded from power and influence need a fair shake. In the midst of such empowerment, however, men sometimes feel lost. Look, I’m not feeling sorry for us guys. Whatever problems we face tend to be of our own making. We don’t deserve privilege just because we’re men.
But there’s a real problem with many men in today’s world. It doesn’t take a genius to see that countless men are flailing about looking for answers. They’re often looking in the wrong places.
Just listen to the horrendously non-funny “humor” of Louis C. K. To “repent” of his own sexual misconduct, he is once again degrading Asian Americans, nine-year-old girls, and the Parkland High School shooting victims in front of sold-out audiences. This isn’t my idea of masculinity.
Or pay attention to the backlash against Gillette’s advertising campaign. In their viral video, they turn their old slogan on its head and ask, “Is this the best a man can get?” Their message is that men ought to behave better than what we see in the #metoo movement. They are correct, but many men hate the campaign because they feel preached at instead of inspired.
Some churches have stepped into the void by offering free guns and steaks as a draw for men’s events. Some preachers berate gay people and snowflakes perhaps in the misguided belief that this will help men feel better about themselves. Others celebrate “real men” who are athletes, duck hunters, and the like. Is this all there is to masculinity?
I believe the key to healthy, godly masculinity is for men to have a dream. A real dream. A God-given dream that brings purpose and meaning to life. Like Jacob, men often act lost without a dream. Like Jacob, we make major blunders when our motives are poorly defined or when we don’t understand our reason for living.
As he was fleeing, Jacob had to stop because of darkness. He lay down to sleep. There in the wilderness, while on the run for his very life, he was stripped of all that previously defined him.
As Jacob slept, God spoke to him in a dream. Without knowing how, he found himself in a thin place where heaven and earth came together. Jacob saw and heard the plans God had for him. That night of dreaming—along with a similar dream years later—altered the course of his life. Although he would at times struggle with his calling, this dream gave Jacob purpose and meaning. He went on to mend relations with Esau and became the father of a great nation.
Nighttime in the wilderness is in fact a wake-up call. Most men need such a moment. We need a metaphorical night, stripped of all that has previously defined us, where we wait for a God-given dream. When’s the last time you admitted the uncertainty of who you are?
Sadly, many men are resisting such a moment of uncertainty and possible renewal. Society’s pre-conceived stereotypes of masculinity are crumbling around us. It’s a real crisis, but it’s also an opportunity. It’s a chance to sit quietly before the Lord and ask for a new vision.
Grasping for the wrong ideals of Esau is not the answer. Avoiding the struggle is not the answer either. Jacob became a healthy, godly man only in so much as he admitted his weakness and lay prostrate before the Lord. There in that thin place, God spoke.
Men need a purpose in life. While I should continue this article with practical steps about how to find your dream, I can’t in fact tell you what it should be. I believe that God can use you in wonderful ways, but only you can put yourself in the right place to find your meaning in life. Because having such a dream is the key to healthy, godly masculinity.