Tag Archives: identity

An Apology

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LOTR MenI have seen the “more LOTR men, please” post shared several times, and most often it comes in form of a lament from women – young ones especially – that there are no men like this.  (I am sorry to confess that there have been moments of despair where I have mourned the same.)  Or the sharing includes derogatory comments about the character of men and their inability to meet this standard in the real world.

But as a woman, and a young one at that, I am saying that I know these men.  I know young men of such gracious honor and steady valor.  I know men whose gentle hearts are their keenest strength, whose gentleness makes others great (Ps. 18:35).  Men of strong arms, strong minds, strong convictions, and strong dreams.  Men who are faithful beyond the point of pain because they know no other way to be.  Men who are as quick to weep over deep sorrows as to step boldly to the defense of others.  Men who are humble leaders.  Men who pursue what is right over what is easy, what is just over what is safe.  Men who live out the reality of “greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13).  Men with wild hearts full of all the adventure for which they are created, that siren-call of the Wilderlove deep within them.  Students, soldiers, doctors, musicians, pilots, athletes, politicians, businessmen, waiters, leaders, engineers, educators – many titles they hold, and in many places they are found.  I have had some of these men in my life and heart for always, some I have met in the past few years, and some I met even this summer.

As a young woman, this is my apology to you, my brave hearts, for the times when women have not called out your gifts, honored your strengths, treasured your gentleness.  This is my apology for the women who were faithless and shattered your freely-given hearts.  I know you would never have let go, never left, never turned wandering eyes elsewhere.  This is my apology for the mean girls who were willing to degrade your masculinity even while feeling entitled to your best attentions.  This is my apology for the times when my self-beliefs of “too much” and “not enough” overcame my kindness and caused me to push you away.  This is my apology for the ways we knock you down or watch you in your weakest moments and turn away rather than place our hands in yours and forge ahead faithfully.  This is my apology for the toxic femininity that we at times embrace because we don’t know our own gifts – a false femininity that steals from your masculine strength to bolster our own sense of identity.  My brave hearts, of these lies and wrongs I repent on behalf of women and on behalf of my generation.

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You need never adventure alone, brave heart. Credit: imgrumweb.com

My mighty men of valor, you are seen.  I watch the paths of honor you walk, far from the public eye.  I weep with your cries of confusion when the faithfulness of humankind has failed you utterly, and I rejoice as you draw on the deepest wells of strength within you to rise again.  I see the wounds of loss that have ravaged your gentle hearts – and the healing you find beyond the pain.  I watch as you rebuild precious things that have been broken, as you wrestle with your anger over the evils you have witnessed.  I notice as you fight for peace when all around you crumbles violently, when you are shuddering with the shock.  I look on with pride as you pioneer into the unknown, compelled by the belief that the best is always yet to come.  Wild ones, you are seen.

To women, it would be an easy route to simply say that, if you do not known these men, you need to fill your life with better men.  That would be ridiculously easy to say, but I refuse to make that proclamation.  Rather, I will say this, both to women and to men needing other men of valor surrounding them:

If you do not know these men, you need to start looking at the men around you differently.

Are you expecting these men to reveal themselves upon white steeds, clad in shining armor?  Are you expecting them to find you?  Are you expecting them to offer the vulnerable wilds of their adventuresome hearts for your initial inspection?  There may be signs – there usually are – of these mighty men of valor.  But you need to learn how to see them, beyond your assumptions and expectations.  My mind conjures in an instant the gentle-hearted men of honor I know – and the people who have dismissed them, left them behind, refused to come alongside in their pursuit of the dreams burning within them, selfishly used and crushed their amazingly wild hearts.  There is scarcely a fury more fierce that I have known than that of seeing mighty men of valor ready to rise then crushed by those around them, reduced through word or deed or faithless selfishness to lost boys, stripped of the honor and strength they rightly carried.

It must be added, in the spirit of true repentance, that if women are seeking these mighty men of valor in their lives, they must become the mighty women of valor who raise these men up and stand alongside them.  My brave-hearted sisters, if you would seek Samwise, Eomer, Aragorn, Faramir, and Gandalf to stand with in this life, you must be bold enough to be Rosie; to be Arwen, Eowyn, Galadriel.  You must be the type of woman who knows and operates in your own strengths and gifts – and raises those around you to standards of excellence in all they are created to be.  If you cannot be Arwen, do not expect to see Aragorn waiting for you.  If you cannot be a mighty woman of valor, do not expect you will suddenly find yourself surrounded by mighty men of valor (or such women, for that matter).  If you cannot hold your joy in the waiting, cannot remain in faithfulness, cannot be fiercely gentle and love in kindness, cannot make any and every sacrifice on behalf of another, cannot stand in the gap where the need is greatest – if you possess not these traits, you will not be prepared to see men of such valor.  For Christian women, the ideal of being a “Proverbs 31 woman” is pressed often.  Do you know the literal translation of the idea of a virtuous woman or wife, of this amazing feminine standard of grace and glory?  In Proverbs 31 (and in 12:4), this is most correctly translated “a woman or wife of valor; a woman of excellence.”  This exemplary woman is wise and fierce, ensuring that the needs are met — and then reaches farther to meet more.  A relentless, passionate woman of strength and dignity, honor and faithfulness.  A woman who knows the worth of others because she knows her own.  Being daughters of the Most-High King, we are designed as mighty women of valor and excellence – this should be an exciting revelation and an encouraging mandate!  We are designed in this fashion to complement and sustain the mighty men – and to do the same for one another.

It is not about perfection but about truly seeing one another in the glory and excellence for which we are created.

This is my apology to you, my mighty men of valor, and here is my promise.  For my brothers by blood and by heart, for my friends, for my father and uncles and cousins and grandfathers, for my students and colleagues, for the husband I will one day marry, for the sons I will raise and all the generations of sons to come: my promise to you is that I will see you, I will speak to your strengths, and I will release your wild hearts to adventure. 

To all my brave hearts: run wild, love fiercely, hold steady in faithfulness. As sons of the Most-High King, you were created for honor and valor – this is your inheritance, your right, and your mandate.  No one can strip this identity from you, mighty men of valor.  You are free to be relentless, to be full of adventure, to be faithful, to be men of honor because you know how you are created: “Brother” by Kodaline.  Hold on, brothers, my brave hearts.

Called By Name

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The concept of a name is so important.  Your name is your title; it is your label.  A name expresses who you are and who you will become.  (Or at least, it should.  I admit to having a pet peeve about parents who grace their child with the first “nice name” that occurs to them without paying attention to its meaning – but I’ll try to stay on track.)  Names can build you up – or they can tear you down.  They can declare and defend destiny, or they can reduce you to nothing more than a human parasite, existing only to take and offer nothing in return.  (Did I mention I also have a major issue with “name-calling”?)

Nobody likes a parasite.

Nobody likes a parasite.

I recently watched a video series about personal identity in Christ.  The pastor was talking about how, when we are made new in Christ, we get a “new name” that trumps every “old name” – every bad thing that was ever spoken to us or over us – and reveals who God created us to be.  In part, I think this pastor was right – we are certainly made new in Christ, and our true identity is revealed only in Him.

But we are not given new names.  Rather, we are given our old names – our first names, the names that only our Heavenly Father knows because they were forged in the depths of His heart and woven into the epic tale of His creation since before time began.  That is our true identity.  God does not give us each a “new” identity when we turn to Him in the sense that it did not exist before.  Instead He calls each one of us by the name that only He knows, that sweet outpouring of His love and life into us.

Sometimes our identities, our true names, become shrouded in the mire of false labels.  But God makes no mistakes; He gives no bad names and no wrong names. Before each one of us was born, our identities were in place, and they do not change.  When God calls you by name, He calls you by the name that He has given you, by who He has already created you to be.

When I think of God calling His children by name, I think of Gideon, whom most of us think of as a mighty man who rescued Israel from its enemies and ruled over the nation as judge.  However, that is the later part of his story; Judges 6 reveals a beginning very different from what we might expect of such a bold warrior.  Gideon, a young Israelite, is hiding in a winepress to thresh his grain because he is so terrified of having what little he has stolen by the enemies who have overrun his nation.  We get this brief glimpse of Gideon, and then the Angel of the Lord comes.  ‘“The Lord is with you, mighty man of valor!”’ says the Angel to Gideon (v. 12).  Wait, what?  I had to read that again.  Mighty man of valor?  Gideon is hiding!  I think I would have said something more like, “What are you doing, letting these enemies oppress you and your people?!  Don’t you know that you are my chosen people and that I am mighty on your behalf?  Quit being a coward and go make a difference!”  But when God looked at Gideon, He didn’t see a coward; He saw the man He created Gideon to be – a mighty man of valor – and called him by that name.  Does it strike you as interesting that Gideon ended up becoming a mighty man of valor?  I am awed by it every time I read it.  When God speaks your name, declaring and defending your destiny in Him, you grow into the person He has created you to be.  It may not be an easy way to go, but God longs for all of His children to live up to the names He has given them.  And remember, God looks at the inward things, not at outward appearances (1 Samuel 16:7).  He is your Father; don’t think He doesn’t know your true name.

It's sad but true that people can really be like this...

It’s sad but true that people can really be like this…

The thing about having this God-given name is that it means we are known and loved.  When I was small I had a friend named Zach.  One day I was at a pool, swimming with some older girls who weren’t very nice to me.  While we were there, these girls began oohing and aahing over some cute boy who had come to the pool.  This cute boy was my friend Zach, and when he spotted me, he ran to me, arms open wide, calling my name.  He picked me up and spun me around.  Those mean girls were angry and jealous, but it didn’t matter because I was safe in the arms of someone who knew and loved me.  They couldn’t hurt me or bother me anymore.  Just like the mean girls at the pool were angry at my knowing and being known by Zach, our enemy, Satan, is angry when God calls us by name.  He is angry because he is terrified of what will happen when we embrace our true identity and walk out the destiny that has been declared over our lives by God, the King of kings.

Other names try to impose themselves upon our identities, snaring us in a trap of deceit.  Some of these names might be “guilty” or “worthless,” “weak” or “impulsive.”  Maybe you have been called by names based on your appearance: “fat,” “skinny,” “too short,” “too tall” – I have never heard anyone call anyone else “just right.”  Maybe “angry” or “bitter” are names you have been known by, or perhaps “immature” or “unloved.”  All these names speak of your faults and failures, the things that are “wrong” with you.  None of them are your true identity, and you are not required to embrace a single one of them. 

The beautiful thing is that God calls you, “Mine.”  Because you are His and He knows and loves you, you can ask Him to tell you who He sees you as.  We are each created unique, and He has a name that He is whispering over you that is unique.  As a child of God you have the authority to declare and defend destiny in your own life and the lives of others by speaking truth over identity.

Keep Calm - You Are Mine