I enjoyed Elisabeth Elliot’s book The Mark of a Man. It is a series of letters she wrote to her nephew about what it means to be a man. She was a “mother in Israel” and therefore the book is filled with Christian wisdom, as well as what used to be common sense. She knows the man is the head and leader, but she also knows this means sacrifice and service. I love this quote from a chapter titled, “Leadership Through Suffering:”
To suffer simply means “to bear under.” A leader is a man who does not groan under burdens, but takes them as a matter of course, allows them, tolerates them-and with a dash of humor. He knows how to keep his mouth shut about his difficulties and how to live a day at a time, doing quietly what needs doing at the moment. People will follow that sort of man.
For the men of my generation, few things are as hard as this. We have been raised to think we are really important and to believe that the world owes us. Our burdens should be few. Life should not be hard. We live for entertainment, down time, and hobbies. We groan at the dishes and complain about changing a tire. We are easily distracted. Our reading is rarely deep. Our ability to shoulder physical burdens is low. We push off marriage and children as long as we can to pursue degrees we won’t use and cheap sex, usually with the Internet. It is difficult to put our hand to the plow day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year. Our grandfathers could go twenty years and not miss a day of work. We have hard time going a month. Sometimes I wonder what those men from the Depression era would have thought of me complaining about my TV not working when they worked 60 hours a week just to get milk? Or that man who stood behind the counter at the corner store for five decades and stayed with his wife for six until they laid him in the grave? I wonder what my pastor fathers would have thought of a generation of ministers whose average time in a church is three to five years? We are a generation of men in name only.
Men, forget what you have been told by the world that you deserve better and that it is supposed to be easier. Stop complaining about your lot in life and the cards you have been dealt. Your life is no worse than any other man’s. You have not been ripped off by God. Get up and do what you are supposed to. Do the dishes. Mow the lawn. Rock the crying child. Help your daughter with her math or your son with his literature. Do your work well, no matter what it is. Read that book you have been putting off. Make that phone call you don’t want to make. Pour your wife a bath and watch the kids. Fix the sink. Go to the store at 9 pm to get that medicine. Do the hard thing first instead of the easy one. Keep your word. Do what God has put in front of you. Be a good employee, employer, husband, father, student, parishioner, and citizen. Be the kind of man you would look up to and respect. Work hard. Don’t whine. Take a beating and keep going without grumbling. Expect things to be hard, but attack them anyway with “a dash of humor” as Mrs. Elliot puts it. Learn to laugh at yourself. If we do this day in and day out, decade after decade without fanfare maybe we will have earned the right to be called “men.”
Photo Credit: The Smithsonian Institute