In this last post on Christ’s presence, I want to explore how He is the source of a man’s strength. In my years as a high school teacher and coach, I saw the search for strength acted out every day by young men. And the paths they pursued were legion: gaining status as an athletic star, getting bulked in the weight room, winning arguments in the classroom, chasing the prettiest girls, becoming top dog in the social group, taking up alcohol, acting the class clown.
But when they enter college and the work world, the search only becomes more sophisticated: finding the showpiece wife, climbing the executive ladder, buying the hot sports car, gaining expert status in some field. But the incessant search only demonstrates it is doomed from the start. For a man can never find his strength by attaching to something exterior. Instead, it has to be felt in his interior soul. The wonder of Jesus is that He does this very thing. His presence is a man’s strength. Here are two ways.
Recently I led a group of men through a time of structured silence on the topic of fear. As we discussed what had happened to us in the silence, I was struck by the ubiquity of fear: fear of failure, fear of shame, fear of rejection, fear of not being enough, fear of being destitute, fear of world catastrophes. The list is endless. But the answer is the same: it’s Jesus. In the iconic story of Jesus walking on the water (Mark 6:47-50), he steps into the boat of terrified disciples and pronounces this: “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.” That’s it. No treatise on the negative impact of fear. No admonitions to try harder. But when Jesus is there, everything is OK. It’s not by chance that His pronouncement became the watchword for early Christian martyrs. His presence became their strength in the worst possible situation.
This can be the felt experience for any man. My wife Heidi often prays that others would feel His breath on their cheek. For that’s how close He really is. He will walk with anyone who opens himself and asks. Christ’s presence is a man’s strength.
Moving Us Toward The Ideal Self
In my work as a spiritual director, I often hear men commenting on how they wish they were better in some relationship or had more of this positive character trait. Every man has some vague image of an ideal self toward which they are pressing.
We experience the magnetic force of this ideal when we experience a story or movie and long to emulate the hero portrayed. It may be the warrior or the pioneer image n that character. Perhaps it’s the willingness to sacrifice for the good of others. Or a clear sense of mission driving the hero through relentless trials. Whatever the case, the longing surfaces as an inconsolable desire to be what we know we are not. This ideal portrait of a man acts as a beacon calling us home to what we were meant to be. But after the story is over, we return to our usual ways of being. We do not know how to come home.
But Jesus has lived the life of the ideal man, the hero. And He beckons men to follow Him into that ideal self. I do not write this as some vague, moralistic pep talk. The presence of Christ is here and now. And His whole aim is to turn us into men like Himself.
But first we have to stop the inner scrambling to try harder and become still. In the quiet that follows, a man will become aware of the living presence of Christ, who has always been there. The silence becomes a portal to enter that presence. He sees Jesus seeing him. He knows Jesus knows him. This repeated communion moves him imperceptibly toward that ideal self in a way he could have never comprehended. He knows he is changing and feels grounded as a man. He feels empowered and emboldened. Christ’s presence is becoming his strength.
How do you start all of this? You start where you are and enter the silence. Expect Jesus to meet you there. What happens after that is always a surprise. If you would like help in entering the silence, here are a few simple ideas:
- A group of men meets with me in the Covenant Presbyterian sanctuary on Tuesdays in March from 6:30-7:30 am to hear Scripture and enter silence.
- Come to the next Day of Silence on Mar. 27. There is one opening left.
- Try a complementary session of spiritual direction.
- Email me for other ideas. I would love to help you find your strength as a man in Christ’s presence.
Photo by olivierbxl on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND