While it was never my intention, I see that more than one post in this blog has been critical of women in one way or another. The thing is that what could loosely be called "gender issues" has been on my mind a lot lately; I'm not entirely sure why...but regardless of the why I want to set the record straight.
As I think about these issues, my most serious criticisms are directed at men, despite how previous entries might seem. In truth, many of my reflections on women are framed as I look at the manifold ways in which we men have failed our wives, our sisters, our daughters. What's more, in the last year or so I've had more than one opportunity to work with 'men's groups' as I see a movement inside the church where men are waking up to how badly we've botched things - usually through inaction. No small part of this rests on an evolving picture of what a genuine Christian male should be, what he should look like and how he should act. I've been trying to write this post now for about two weeks but find that I have so much to say that it gets unreadable. So instead, I'll focus this post on one thing - responsibility.
Gender roles are real.
Deeply real in fact. God-given even. As I say that I'm well aware of the hackles that kind of statement can raise. All the images of chest-beating, sloppy-joe eating "Men's Men" and the litany of evils that kind of man has foisted on the world through an abuse of power. But the fact that power can be misused is no excuse for neglecting to use it all. I'm talking about an honest look at what God says about men (and women) as well as what experience shows me. And I'm soundly convinced that it's no trivial detail that I am a male and not a female. That distinction is meaningful on many, many levels. Being a man, more particularly a husband (even more so for a father) includes a set of non-negotiable duties and responsibilities that we have mostly abandoned for the sake of avoiding conflict - all to the great harm of ourselves and our female counterparts.
We have let them down when they needed us most.
In the garden, Eve was sold a lie as Adam stood silent (Eve took the fruit, and gave some to Adam who was with her...). "Do this and you can be like God." was the pitch, which sounds pretty good. More recently, women were sold a far less interesting lie, "Do this and you can be like men." and for the most part we stood by again.
Guys - specifically Christian guys - it's become pretty "in" these days to say that a man is the head of his household (as if this were some fascinating new discovery), but what does that mean to you? Do you realize that according to God you are the head of your household whether you like it or not. You are leading your family whether you intend to or not, whether your wife is making all the decisions or not, whether you're any good at it or not. The role is granted not by merit, not by vote and not by committee. But solely by the fact that you are assigned those duties upon uttering “I do.”
Think about Strider (big LOTR metaphor ahead - reader beware) - here is a man afraid of his legacy. Fearful that the same weakness that lead to Isuldur's fall was in his own veins. So he chooses a self-imposed exile where he may do a little good, but not risk doing great harm. The thing is - he is Aragorn, the heir to the throne of Gondor - and there is nothing he can do about it. Walking away from his role only leaves Gondor without any king and creates a power vacuum to be filled by far less noble pretenders. The stewards of Gondor were not power hungry usurpers, they only stepped in when there was no one to occupy to throne and the bills had to be paid.
Gentlemen, when you hear "A husband is the head of his household" does that strike you as a burden? An opportunity? A club to beat your wife with? Maybe it rolls off you back like so many other Biblical statements that are plainly anachronisms. As a husband, this is your job description - and you cannot quit.
I truly believe that one day I will stand before our Lord and I'll be held accountable for how I lead, or failed to lead, my family. I won't be able to say, "But Lord, Rebekah was better at doing the bills." "But Lord, I wasn't cut out to be a leader." "But Lord, those kids are so willful."
There is saying that there is no such thing as a bad student – only a bad teacher. It’s a statement about leadership and the burden of authority. We men have so deeply screwed up the job we were given that we barley even recognize the position exists any more. We’ve so completely abandoned our own authority that we routinely disparage all authority. We’ve so utterly forsaken power that we can barely even say the word without feeling a twinge of guilt. And with these have gone loyalty, honor, duty and pride. We’ve become the worst kinds of teachers – those that don’t even bother to show up – and we’re bitching about the students.