Chapter 7… Man Up Spiritually

Good evening and happy Monday. Tomorrow is Halloween. I don’t know. I think I’m going to go as Thor or something like that. I don’t know. What do you guys think? Actually, I’m not going as anything.

Tonight is my chance to … For those of you who don’t know, each week now for the past, this is week number seven, but for the past six weeks, I’ve read a part of each of the chapters. We’re on chapter seven. What this does is hopefully gives you an insight, a little bit of insight, into what the book’s about and whether or not it’s a good buy for you. Hopefully when you hear this, you say, “Hmm. It’s interesting enough. I might try that.”

Tonight is chapter seven. Chapter seven, if you look at the title, is “Man Up Spiritually”. Here’s one thing that I don’t do in the book. What I don’t do in the book is I don’t tell you what to believe. I’m not a preacher. My faith is very strong and my convictions are strong, but what the book does is it tells a story. It tells a story of where I was, what happened, what happened in between, and where I am now. It’s hopefully going to, like the rest of the book, encourage you to look deeper. I’m not going to tell you what to do or how to think. That’s not the piece or the importance of any of this book. The importance of this book and the meaning in this book is to get you to think, is to get men to think a little bit deeper.

In this chapter, I talk about as kids … I encourage my kids to ask questions about their faith, to question it because if they don’t question it and they don’t seek out answers at this age, and they don’t … At the end of the day, I want them to know why they believe what they believe, not just believe it because dad said so and that’s what dad did. I want them to have a faith of their own, just like I needed a faith of my own and everybody out there who believes in a “higher power”. Mine is God, and I won’t apologize for that, but I’m certainly not going to … What’s the word I’m looking for? I’m not going to hold myself and think I’m a better person because of it. The book is not me telling you what to do. It’s just telling you to think and to look a little closer. If you’ve got questions, I’m happy to answer them about that. Let’s get to a little bit of a part of the chapter here.

Even as recent as seven years ago, I was still dealing internally with the failings of churches we attended. However, my view was beginning to change ever so slowly. A man I respect greatly pulled me aside and questioned me about my resistance to church. Evidently, I wasn’t hiding it as well as I thought. His simple statement still rings true in my ears. “How long are you going to let the failure of a man-run church dictate your love for God and his love for you?” Don’t get me wrong. The first time I heard this, I wasn’t thinking very Christian-like words in my head. I was ready to tell him where to go and how fast to get there.

Close to that time, my wife had her eye on another church. The next Sunday, we packed up the kids and went out to “try out” another one. Much to my surprise, this one was different. I actually listened a little, and I could feel a tinge of conviction after the sermon, conviction that caused me to think about what I was doing or saying outside of church. There was no way I was going to let on to Brenda about that though. Of course, as always, she saw right through my façade right away. Again, evidently, not very good at hiding things. I was interested enough though to try this church again.

Find your place. It has now been seven years since that first reluctant visit. I can truthfully and happily say we have found our church home, a place where we are loved and accepted, warts and all. In fact, I love our church. I call it the Church of Misfit Toys. You see, church shouldn’t be a place for those who are perfect believers in God. The purpose of the church is to embrace the broken, lonely, fallen, and hurting, and lead them to Christ in his hope, forgiveness, and healing. Even for someone like me who went way astray, no matter what anyone has done, the church should receive them with open arms. It should be like a hospital for wounded souls, a safe place for those who are hurt, broken, and looking to heal.

Do I realize that some day, at some point, someone in the church, even in a leadership position, may hurt me again or someone I love? Yes, I do. And I will make it my mission to help them understand in a much shorter time what it took me 20 plus years to understand. I have answered the call to man up in this area, to make sure to the best of my ability that what happened to me doesn’t happen to anyone else on my watch. So much so, I’ve allowed myself to be put into positions of leadership within the church. Will there be that piece of me that wants to rise up and absolutely crush whoever did the hurting? If you only knew. Those of you who know me, know.

Let me say that Moses gets an absolute hall pass from me for defending his Jewish brother. If you don’t know the story, it’s in Exodus 2. Passion and pain reveal to us our purpose. Part of manning up means understanding that men, people, will always have the capacity to hurt and disappoint us, even those supposedly representing God. We can’t put our faith in people. However, if you look past the frailty of mankind and place your faith in God, there’s nothing that man can do or that God can’t heal. I am living proof of that.

This is something that, again, it’s my story. It’s why I am who I am today. You know what? I wouldn’t change any piece. I wouldn’t change it at all because the things that I’ve done, the decisions I’ve made, the things that I’ve been put through has modeled me into who I am today. Without those, I wouldn’t be exactly who I am. It sounds kind of weird and kind of contradictory to say this, but I’m grateful for everything that’s happened. Now it’s taken a long time to get to that point where I can actually say that and actually mean it and feel it.

Bethany, you say, “Yes. Church has hurt me too and it’s hard to trust again.” It sure is. The number of people … That’s one thing, when I say we found our church and I love our church, it’s because the number of people in our church that I talk to that have been hurt by the church, it’s just maddening. But I also know this, that if those of us who have been hurt don’t step up, stand up, and watch out for those who have yet to be hurt and do something about it, nothing will ever change. If we poke our heads in the sand and we don’t stand and watch over these other people, then the chances of it happening again are exponentially higher.

There’s never … Here’s the thing. Unless the church is a church of robots, machines that are programmed to do a certain thing and don’t fail, there’s always going to be failings because we’re human. We make mistakes. We’ve all fallen and we’ve come short. The biggest lesson that I learned going through everything I went through is that I can’t blame God for the failings of man, for man hurting me. I just can’t do it. It took me a long time to get to that point. It took a lot of patience from my wife to walk me through that.

It took … I can’t imagine what my mom and dad went through when I left and went the other way because I think about my sons doing that, and it just … It would kill me. For them to have the never ending patience, never ending love … They talk about something, and mom has said it before. Bless her heart. She says, “You hate the sin, but you love the sinner.” I know that’s what they did for me. I do, and I’m grateful for it. When you have people like that in your life that don’t give up on you, that continue to pray for you, continue to hold you to a standard that you’re not even holding yourself to, it’s invaluable.

Even if you have someone who “goes astray”, someone who walks away from it, don’t write them off. If people would have written me off … I joke about it, but it’s true. We talk about Brenda and what she means to me and what she’s done for me, my wife. I say, “If it wasn’t for her, I’d be dead or in jail.” It’s true. You need people in your life that don’t write you off. You need people in your life that hold you up to this piece, this piece of accountability in all areas, and one of them is faith.

I talk about this in the beginning of the chapter, that I actually for a period of time struggled with putting this in the book, this chapter, because I know it can be … I talked the other day about how being a man is tough because you have to be strong yet gentle, decisive yet thoughtful, protective yet empowering. This piece is no different. This faith piece can bring people together immensely or it can divide people incredibly. My intent with the chapter, number one, I put it in there because it’s my book. It’s my story, so it has to be there because it’s part of who I am. I also put it in there so people could understand that it’s not always what they think it is and to maybe look a little deeper, to look a little closer, into what it can be, not what it is on the surface.

I tell you what. I know a lot of “heathens” that are a lot nicer people than “Christians”. That’s kind of sad, but I also know a lot of Christians who are really, really good people and helped make me who I am today. There’s going to be bad apples in every cart, people. It’s what you do with those apples that matters.

That’s it. I’m hoping people see and get to read this chapter. Here, I’m going to read you what I put in the beginning of it. Okay, so here it is.

We all have faith in something. You have faith that when you turn your car on in the morning, it will start. You have faith in a motor car company run by people you’ve never seen. You had faith in the chair you’re on before you sat down on it, assuming you’re sitting. Manning up spiritually means evaluating what or who you’re faith is in and why. It’s being open to make changes to your life based on what you believe. If you’re solid on what you believe, the man up question then becomes, “Are you living authentically and according to your beliefs, or are you faking it? Are you playing church?”If you aren’t living according to the beliefs you profess, there’s a good chance you really don’t believe them. How did you arrive at your belief system? Is it something your parents instilled in you? Was it something your wife chose for you?

I actually contemplated for a second about whether or not I wanted to put this chapter in the book. Matters of faith and spirituality can be deeply personal and controversial. We’ve gotten along so well up to this point. I certainly don’t want to start something. Don’t worry. There’s not a chapter on politics.

Here it is. If this information is not your cup of tea, well, you’re the one reading the book and you have the power to skip this chapter if you’d like. But remember, part of manning up is being willing to explore this area and not shy away from what might be a different viewpoint than yours. Yeah, I just dared you to read this chapter. I promise that reading this chapter won’t hurt, and you may very well read some things that surprise you.

That’s what I hope. That’s what I hope people read some things that surprised them. This hierarchy that people, and sometimes pastors themselves, pastors, clergy, priests, whatever it is, they put themselves on this pedestal, that they’re so much higher, so much better than everybody else. That’s why I love our pastor. That’s why I put our pastor … He’s the man that I interviewed for this piece in the book. Again, trying to find men that are doing well in this area of their life. He’s doing well. The thing I love about him and his wife is the fact that they are real. They talk about their issues as a couple, as pastors, as men and as a woman, they’re failings. They’re not here. Their responsibility is higher than the rest of ours, but they’re here with us. They’re making mistakes. They’re doing their best to move forward in life making imperfect progress. That’s all it is.

To be exactly like God is an impossible standard, but it doesn’t say we have to be exactly like him. We have to strive to be like him. That’s it, imperfect progress, because we’re going to fail.

That was a little bit longer one tonight. Let me see if I got any other questions up here before I sign off for the night. [inaudible 00:17:53] clever like that. Yeah, they are.

Anyway, I hope you all have a great rest of the night, a great rest of the week. I got a couple other things that I’m going to talk about this week. One of them is I’m going to talk about dancing, and no, I’m not going to show a dance, but I’m going to talk about how dancing relates to man up. We’ll talk about that a little later this week. I hope you all have a great rest of the night. Catch you later.