Week 50 in the year of our Lord 2021

The right way to man up

14 minutes to read

The state of your life might not be entirely, or even mostly, your fault—but it is entirely your responsibility. That is what it means to be given dominion. Whatever you have dominion over—the state of that thing is on you. So you must choose to exercise dominion. You must decide that you will not be passive, you will not be a victim.

Our collective mission as Christians is to disciple the nations into obedience to all of God’s laws (Matthew 28:19–20). How can we do that without first discipling ourselves in the same way? God did not err when he wrote the book of your life. He made you for this time, He prepared the good works for you to walk in, and He fashioned your life to fit them (Eph 2:10). Just as He made Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other, He made you to face down this wicked and perverse generation. Whatever your setbacks, there is still work that you can do—if you can keep faith, maintain hope, and let all that you do be done in love.

It is up to you to accept your God-given duty. It is up to you to “man up.” Many callous feminists and manipulative pastors use “man up” as an incantation to get men to do what they want. We are using it as a call to do what God wants: the work of exercising dominion.

You must man up, not out of some misplaced nobility about taking on a raw deal for the sake of women or society, but in order to image God himself and play some part in correcting the raw deal.

—Excerpted from It’s Good to Be a Man Chapter 11 (How to Bear the Weight).

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So God, in His grace, woke you up. You see your need to grow in practical holiness.

Now what?

Where do you start?

Here is a simple approach to get you moving:

First, get your frame right by internalizing 2 Timothy 2:22:

Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

The Christian must both flee and pursue.

Fleeing seems cowardly. We should stand firm and fight boldly, right?

Sure—but fleeing here is a preventive strategy. The word in Greek can also be translated as shun or escape. So, for example, one of the best ways to fight obesity is to shun gluttony.

Escape common pitfalls by staying off the paths that lead to them.

Fleeing is preventive, whereas pursuing is proactive. The Greek word means to earnestly endeavor to acquire. Acquiring the virtue and skills intrinsic to mature manhood takes effort. Hence, idleness and passivity are the enemy of Christian maturity.

As usual, the key to success is keeping it between the ditches. Many books, ministries, or speakers are either all about fleeing, or all about pursuing.

  • Nothing but fleeing results in a morality that is detached from any practical reality;
  • Nothing but pursuing results in a pragmatism that is detached from moral principles.

Scripture wisely pairs them together to prevent oversteering in either direction. Flee “youthful lusts” and “pursue righteousness.”

We find more specific examples of flee/pursue in Proverbs:

  • Flee foolishness; pursue wisdom.
  • Flee immoral gangs of men; pursue wise counselors.
  • Flee flatterers; pursue truth-tellers.
  • Flee slothfulness; pursue productivity.
  • Flee immoral women; pursue a godly helpmeet.

Every man should study Proverbs: the inspired wisdom of a father to a son.

What do you need to flee?

What do you need to pursue?

Write a few down.

Then be intentional. Heed how 1 Timothy 2:22 ends: “…pursue…with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

Find some likeminded Christians, ideally within your church, who want to join you, and start encouraging and helping each other in fleeing and pursuing.

One of the chief ways a man develops practical holiness is by throwing himself into work. And in the process of figuring out how to navigate the difficulties of doing this, the concept of “work-life” balance is bound to come up.

This is a concept you should reject. Not because it is completely wrong, but because it is wrong in a very important way. We must be more reflective and discerning about the terms we use.

In Scripture, work and life are not set at odds. They are not compared or contrasted.

Work and rest are.

In terms of our creational design, there is no such thing as a “work-life” balance—and if you are treating work and life as being in tension, or at odds with each other, you will have a low and defective view of both.

Work is what man was made to do with his life.

What we need is not a work-life balance, but a work-rest balance.

There needs to be a time in every day, a time in every week, a time in every year, that we are resting.

A man’s life is a fractal cycle of work and rest. He works in the morning, and he rests for lunch. He works in the afternoon, and he rests at night. He works for six days, and he rests the seventh. He works for a season, and he rests for a celebration. He works during his life, and he rests with the Lord.

If we think that we can continue to work without honoring God’s design for rest, we are depriving ourselves of God’s blessing. We are not honoring God in the work we are doing, but acting faithlessly.

Faithfulness issues in grateful rest that trusts God to bless our work.

Faithlessness issues in vain striving that trusts only in our own strength.

Take time out to rest in God, trusting him to provision and enable you for your next cycle of work. A man who is continually working, and feels guilty about resting, is a man who does not know God or his design well.

The issue of work-life balance also raises another difficult topic that a man must navigate.

“Work-life” balance is generally an imprecise way of saying “vocation-family” balance.

But the idea of having to balance vocation and family would have made no more sense to the authors of Scripture than the idea of having to balance work and life. In fact, before the industrial revolution, it would have made little sense to anyone at all—because vocation and family were unified under the concept of household.

It is part of God’s creational design that the work of a man is primarily oriented toward building his own house. (The Hebrew term beth means both a physical structure, and the society it shelters, because Hebrews knew something that we have largely forgotten about the symbolic nature of reality: a physical house is an expression of a spiritual house.)

Building a house is how a man participates in the work given to Adam of exercising dominion: over himself and over his world. But note that “it is not good for the man to be alone” in this work; he needs a help who is meet to him.

A wife is bound up in her husband’s work, so that the two naturally participate in the mutual building of their house—each in their own way, and each filling in what the other lacks. The most significant way that a woman contributes to the building of her house is by providing children to her husband, for that fundamentally is what “extending” the house means.

And thus, children too are bound up in house-building.

All of the work of the family is naturally oriented toward the same end.

Today, we have not merely forgotten this to a great extent, but actually come to structure our culture in a way that makes it impossible for most people to live this way. We have abstracted vocation into making money, separated it from the household, relocated it to another place entirely, and assigned it to the man alone. If the woman is involved, she is on a separate mission to her husband—a mission for another man, which they justify because they need the money. And often they do. But it is still not the natural design for the household.

This is why we can get questions from intelligent men, seeking to apply biblical principles in their own lives, asking things like, “What if I don’t work on Saturdays? Does work around the house count as work?”

Yes—work around the house is the work God wants you doing! It sucks that there is such a strong distinction now between that, and “work work.” There shouldn’t be.

We don’t have all the answers for solving this problem. It has been generations in the making, and it will take generations to solve. But I do know what direction we should be heading. If solving this problem interests you too, start with our article on Who Does The Dishes?

Our ministry has led to lots of men opening up to us about the reality of their lives. It has been a difficult privilege.

We have talked to…

  • men who were being beaten by their wives
  • men (not a few pastors) whose wives were serial adulterers
  • men who found out that their kids were actually another man’s kids
  • men who are severely disfigured and trying to find a wife
  • men who were raped as children and, on a few occasions, as adults
  • men who were raised by neurotic and manipulative single mothers
  • men who were unable to leave their parents’ homes and start living independently
  • men whose children wanted to leave the faith
  • etc etc etc

There are a lot of hurting men out there in need of brothers and fathers who will walk with them through the dark valleys. So these men have our heart. We do not resent them. We hope we’ve been able to feed the fires of their courage to push forward with their eyes set on Jesus Christ.

That being said, a lot of these men we have initially talked to via email, phone, messenger, etc—and then eventually met “in real life.” And many of the claims they make take a different shape when you met them and their families.

They tell you that they can’t find any attractive, virtuous Christian woman as potential wife material. The women in their lives all are “tramps” or feminists.

And yet when you get to know these men, you discover they are very unfit, dress like slobs, have an ongoing porn addiction, have a joke of a job, are socially awkward, etc.

They tell you that their wife won’t follow their lead and submit to this or that thing. They want her to wear head-coverings, they want more frequent sex, they want more children, they want her to quit her job. Etc.

And yet they don’t have a steady employment history, or vocational skills. They have burned through their savings. They have run up debt and have zero assets. But they still have time for video games, binging YouTube/Netflix, and/or online theological debates.

This happens over and over again.

Some of these guys are just lying about the reality of their lives.

But mostly, in our estimation, the problem is simply that these men lack any self-awareness.

All this to say, we know there are a lot of men with problems that were thrust upon them. But there are even more who thrust problems upon themselves, and the latter group is a massive excuse-making hoard plaguing society.

These men cannot be helped merely by online or distance discourse.

They need flesh and blood relationships with other men, who will lovingly point out just how deluded they are, and call them to responsibility for the outcome of their actions—or, in many cases, inactions.

There is, of course, an equally clueless hoard of blame-shifting women that need the same thing. But this isn’t about that.

With what we have said in this email, some of our readers will be staring down the barrel of a long series of regrets.

Let me relate a story from Michael to help you deal with that:

A few years ago, I had a powerful recurring dream that has shaped the way I think about regrets. I was 37 at the time. I had the dream around 4 times in the span of six weeks.

In the dream, I awake in my 19 year old self. It was a good time. I was in excellent shape. I had no debt. I was teaching bible studies and dating my now wife, Emily.

But I had all the knowledge of my 37 year old self.

I knew all my mistakes…

Accumulating student debt, delaying children, putting off seminary, aligning myself with the wrong churches, not buying that stock, wasting money on dumb stuff, letting my health slip, etc.

And now I could avoid it all for my family, and give us an even brighter future.

Or could I?

In my dream, I realized I could do it for a family…but not for the family I have now.

If we got married sooner and immediately had kids, it wouldn’t be the kids we have now. A different sperm would find its way to a different ovum and a different child would be conceived.

No doubt we would love that child—but it wouldn’t be our first born son, Hudson. And we wouldn’t have Athanasius, Caedmon, Nicaea, etc either. To have them, I would have to perfectly recreate my life.

And that’s where this dream became a nightmare.

Every little decision. Every little word spoken. Every little—and big—mistake. I would have to recreate them all to have the family I now love.

At this point, fear would overwhelm me, and I’d usually wake up.

But this dream freed me from the tyranny of regrets.

Many mistakes were made. Many sins were committed. I do regret things in my past. But I’ve also repent of those sins. Christ has forgiven me.

And somehow Christ has worked through all those things, both good and bad, to give me the blessed life I have now.

I can’t change the past. And if I could, I’d still screw things up.

So I simply repent of sin, and trust in God’s perfect providence.
These days I mostly enjoy the present, and dream about the future.

God is good.

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Talk again next week,

Bnonn & Michael

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