“Let’s Be Men”
First, I want to talk to the men. Men, we have our work cut out for us, and we need to take it very seriously. What business do we have pursuing a relationship with a girl when we still haven’t figured out what it means to be a MAN?
We owe it to the women in our lives, our future wives, and to God to figure this out.
Elisabeth Elliot, a woman I deeply respect, wrote to her nephew Pete, “the world cries for men who are strong — strong in conviction, strong to lead, to stand, to suffer. I pray that you will be that kind of man – glad that god made you a man, glad to shoulder the burden of manliness in a time when to do so will often bring contempt.”
I want to be that kind of man. I have a long way to go. I fail more often than I succeed. I let my sin, my fear, my laziness get the best of me. But I want to change. I know that God has made me a man for a reason. No matter what culture says, or even what some women say, I want to gladly “shoulder the burden of manliness.”
It’s not the easiest path. Earlier I told you about a book that encouraged men to be passive in relationships. According to the author, the only alternative to passivity is being aggressive and overbearing. Sadly, these are the two courses many men take. But God wants us to reject both of them. Biblical masculinity is neither passive nor rudely aggressive. God calls us to be servant initiators —- firm, but gentle, masculine, yet caring; leaders, yet servants. We’re called to be protectors, not seducers.
Here are four practical ways you can do these things in your relationships with women.
Assume the responsibility of leading and initiating in your relationship with women.
Leading is a form of serving. When you provide direction, suggest ideas, and initiates conversation or activities, you are serving your sisters.
This doesn’t mean that you treat women as if you were their husband and the one to lead them in important life decisions. Even during the season of courtship, this isn’t your place. Until you’re a woman’s husband, she is under no obligation to submit to your leadership. If she has a Christian father, that protection and oversight should come from him. But while you shouldn’t overstep your bounds, you can serve a woman (and win her trust for the future) by leading and initiating in small ways.
For example, you can serve your sisters by being the one to plan times together. This applies to a courtship with women. My single friends Jacob and Ryan frequently plan get together at their apartment. They do the work of organizing activities and inviting other guys and girls to participate.
One woman told me what a burden it is when her male friends sit around waiting for the women to plan everything. ‘I don’t like it when a men sits there asking ‘So what do you want to do?’” she said. “I want them to make decision!”
The same principle applies in your courtship. Do you initiate conversations? Do you carefully plan your dates? Are you thinking ahead and directing the course of the courtship? It’s your job to make sure that it’s continuing to grow at a healthy rate. It’s your responsibility to make sure you’re both guarding your hearts.
As you can see, servant leadership requires work. It means sacrifice. It means going out on a limb and proposing ideas, setting direction, and inviting others to follow. It means listening, taking others’ interests and needs into account, and adjusting as necessary. It means deferring to others at times. Leadership isn’t tyranny; it’s service rendered. It’s difficult, but it’s a big part of what it means to be a MAN.
Men, we should set the spiritual pace in our relationships with women. We should be the ones to make sure our relations aren’t merely superficial and entertainment oriented, but deep, God focused, and Characterized by biblical fellowship.
The first important step is to make your own personal growth in godliness a priority. Don’t be content to be spiritually lukewarm — strive to set an example of passion for God.
My friend Joseph sets a terrific example in this area. When he’s with a group of friends, at some point in the conversation he’ll ask a question like “So what did you think of the sermon Sunday?” or “Can I share something God is showing me?” Or what’s an area God is helping you to grow in?”
Do you know what Joseph is doing? He’s initiating biblical fellowship. He’s asking questions that help him and his friends share the new life they have because of Jesus. He’s leading them in talking about the reality of God in their lives.
Joseph isn’t a spiritual show-off. That should never be our motive. His goal is to serve his friends and enrich his own life. He knows how easy it is to let a whole night go without having a serious, God focused conversation. He knows that in fellowship he and his friends are truly growing closer.
Men, in marriage we’ll be called to be the spiritual leaders of our homes. Before marriage, let’s practice leading in biblical fellowship with friends and during courtship. Then we’ll be that much more prepared to do so with our wives and children.
Do little things in your relationships with women that communicate your care, respect, and desire to protect.
This doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply be a gentleman to the woman in your life. Your goal is to show through your actions that their status as a woman is a noble one.
Let them feel your concern and respect in as many ways as you possibly can. You can do this through small actions; open the door for them, pull out their chair, escort them to their car at the end of the night. If you need more guidance, ask a few Christian women for pointers. You’ll be amazed how willing they’ll be to help educate you!
In courtship (this is dating with a purpose) , remember that you’re not doing these merely to impress or to win a woman’s heart. You do these things for God’s glory. You do them to serve a sister in Christ and honor her as a woman.
(A brief aside for women: If you’re just friends with a man, and he’s trying to treat you like a lady, don’t assume he has romantic interest in you. One of the fastest ways to derail a man’s attempts to practice servant leadership is to interpret his actions as romantic overtures. As my friends Jen put it, “Girls should assume that UNTIL A GUY EXPRESSES INTEREST, they are just plain friends”.)
Encourage women to embrace godly femininity.
Look for ways to encourage your sisters to godly femininity. When they make room for you to practice leadership, thank them. When they are humble and gentle, encourage them. Femininity is not weakness. It requires great strength of character for a woman to be gentle in an age that screams for her to do otherwise.
When you see a women going against the grain of culture by cultivating a skill that will serve her family someday, compliment her. When a girl is pursuing a demanding career, but is still being feminine, let her know that you notice. Let know you respect her.
We men should be the biggest encouragers and prayer warriors for women who are seeking to glorify God by practicing godly femininity.
You can encourage men to be men by refusing to do the work of leading for them. What you want to avoid is developing a habit of initiating in your relationships with men. This doesn’t mean that you never do so, but this mean that it’s not normal pattern in your life. Neither does this mean that when you’re single, you’re supposed to submit to every man you meet.God asks a woman to submit only to her husband. But a single woman can, with men whose character warrants it, encourage servant leadership and respond to their initiative.
So, if you’re in courtship, make room for him to lead. Step back and let him be the one to take charge. How else will he learn to lead? How else can you practice for the the time when you will follow a husband? Sylvia, who is in her thirties, gave me one example of how women can let men lead. "We ladies can be too quick to fill the silence in a conversation," she said.We’re like ‘Oh no, he’s not talking! I need to say something.’ But I think it’s important for us to let there be awkward moments of silence so the men can step up and lead the conversation."
Want some more examples? Don’t plan your times together. Don’t be too quick to be the one who "clarifies" the relationship — "What is our status?" If at all possible, make him do it.
And finally, be patient. Most of us men are pretty new at this. We usually aren’t as skilled as you at expressing our feelings. For a lot of us, courtship is the first time we’ve been expected to lead, communicate, and interact on an emotional basis or level with a woman. Give us time. I’m grateful that with my courtship with Shannon, she gave me time to grow in my leadership skills.I made a lot of mistakes. (I still do) I was Often uncertain. But she didn’t undermine my role or try to take over. Instead, she looked for ways to encourage me.
With God’s help, you can do the same. When a man does lead, let him know you appreciate it. When he takes initiative in conversation, in activities, in fellowship — in any area– cheer him on.
2. Be a sister to the men of your life.What are the categories you have for Christian men in your life — potential boyfriend, potential husband, no potential whatsoever? I encourage you to drop these categories.The first way you should view a Christian guy is a brother. Be a sister to the men in your life.Pray for them. Be yourself! Don’t put up a front. Be a friend.
And remember, encouraging men to lead and to initiate doesn’t mean that girls never start a conversation or have ideas for activities. My co-worker Dawn and her three roommates make a practice of inviting a group of guys over for dinner every two weeks. They use these times to reach out to new people in their singles ministry and to develop friendships. Dawn and her roommates are being sisters to their brothers in the Lord.
3. Cultivate the attitude that motherhood is a noble and fulfilling calling. Today many people scorn motherhood and the skills associated with managing a home. In our culture children are viewed as a nuisance, and motherhood is considered a waste of a woman’s talents. A college counselor once told me that the majority of the female students she worked with secretly longed to get married and have kids, but they were too ashamed to admit it. What a tragedy!
Please don’t believe our culture’s lies about motherhood. If God has placed that desire in your heart, don’t be embarrassed about it. The bible encourages younger women to learn homemaking skills from older women. Learning to keep a home and love a husband and children is part of God’s plan for the complete training of young women (see Titus 23). Don’t hesitate to learn the practical skills that will one day allow you to serve a family. Search out godly mothers in your local church from whom you can learn.
You can possess biblical femininity without being married or having children. As a single woman, you can also honor God’s plan for womanhood by agreeing that motherhood is a high and noble calling.
4. Cultivate Godliness and inward beauty in your life. A girl once wrote to tell me how God had used Proverbs 15 to convict her of being like the wayward woman who led men astray. "I don’t want to be a seductress like her," she wrote. "I don’t want flirtatious or immodest clothing to keep guys from seeing me as a sister in Christ."
Is your wardrobe an expression of your love for God? Shannon often says to women, "There’s a big difference between dressing attractively and dressing to attract." What’s your motive? Have you ever asked your father and mother or anther Christian woman to honestly evaluate your clothing? Are you willing to sacrifice fashion to be obedient to God?
In the Scripture, Peter tells Christian women that beauty should be that of their inner selves –"the unfading beauty of a gentle and quite spirit, which of great worth in God’s sight" (1Peter 3:4). In commenting on this verse, John Stott writes:
The church should be a veritable beauty parlor, because it encourages its women members to adorn themselves with good deeds. Women need to remember that if nature has made them plain, grace can make them beautiful, and if nature has made them beautiful, good deeds can add to their beauty.
Grace will make you beautiful and will attract truly godly men to you. Make godliness and inward beauty your priority.
A Matter of Attitude
I quoted Elizabeth Eliot for the men. Let me share another quote from her for the ladies."A real women, " she writes,"understands that man was created to be initiator,and she operate on that premise. This is primarily a matter of attitude. I am convinced that the woman who understands and accepts with gladness the difference between masculine and feminine will be, without pretense or self-consciousness, womanly."
My prayer is that you’ll be this kind of woman — a woman who uses her gifts, develops her mind, and is passionate about God, and yet who is, without question, womanly. I realize that the attitude Elizabeth Eliot describes runs against the grain of our culture. In many ways women today are encourages to be anything and everything they can dream of — except feminine and womanly.
But don’t take your cues from our culture. Don’t base your dreams or definitions of success on a world that has rejected God. Instead,let God’s word define success.Your father in heaven made you to be a woman for His glory. You’ll find that His plan is more beautiful than anything this world has to offer.
FOR HIM AND HIS STORY
iF YOU’RE LIKE ME, YOU’RE AWARE THAT YOU DESPERATELY NEED GOD’S HELP TO BE WHO HAS YOU TO BE AS A MAN OR WOMAN. It’s true. We can’t do it in our own strength. we need His grace. Being faithful to His plan will require faith, great courage and constant awareness that God, not you,is the central figure of the plot — the story of human history is all about Him.
God is the center of the universe.
He created you for Himself.
If you’re a man, God made you a man for His glory.
If you’re a woman,God made you a woman for His glory.
He gave each of you a sexual identity so that you could express your manhood or womanhood for Him, His way — and in so doing, point to His greatness and reflect His goodness. This is what it means to glorify God as a man or woman. If boys would be men, would girls be ladies?
We can answer that question only if we strike out together on the adventure of obeying God’s Word.
You & I will travel far together. .. We’ll pursue a little star forever…
We’ll be happy as we are… together!