Manhood & Mister Rogers

I obviously did not know Mister Rogers personally. But by all accounts, it seems like he was a meek, kind, compassionate, and humble man.

I wonder if men’s ministries in our churches would accept him as a leader.

Over Thanksgiving break, I went to see A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood with Jamie and her family. Personally, I loved it.

Back at OBU, I had the opportunity to be a part of leading the men’s ministry on campus for several years. While in Phoenix, I sat in on a men’s ministry. I’ve read many books on the topic. It’s something I’m passionate about.

And with all of these experiences and lessons learned, I think that we need more men in our churches like Mister Rogers.

There’s a passage in Colossians that I came across that has me thinking more and more along those lines. At this point in the letter, Paul is encouraging the followers of Jesus at Colosse to put their sin to death, replacing those sinful behaviors with that which is in accordance with Christlikeness. He says this:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. – Colossians 3:12-14

So, in summary, according to Paul a follower of Jesus (men included) should be:

  • compassionate
  • kind
  • humble
  • meek
  • patient
  • forgiving
  • loving

Somewhere along the way, in American churches, strength and courage, bravado and bravery have taken the lead when it comes to what men should be like. I wrestle with that a lot, because those things wouldn’t exactly be on my epitaph.

I know a ton of godly men, in my church, in my community, and in my past. Men who have and are pouring into me. This is obviously not an indictment against all men everywhere.

I just want to push back against the idea that a godly man must be aggressive, strong, boisterous, etc. I would in fact make the argument that the godly man should look more like the list above. And I will tell you from firsthand experience that the men who have been the most impactful in my life have some or all of those characteristics.

I have nothing at all against hunting or home improvement. But if I’m being real candid I have felt some (possibly self-induced) feelings of being ‘less than’ at different times in my life for not enjoying the prototypical male activities. I have wrestled with the way that God designed me to be, the gifts He’s given me.

I used to be an extremely loud, obnoxious, flirtatious, annoying, braggadocios, vulgar turd. As I’ve grown closer to the Lord, He has been pulling me away from those things. Well, maybe not the obnoxious part (as I wear a sequin-infested, dinosaur Christmas sweater while typing this).

I want to invest in younger men (something that both my full-time job as a pastor and part-time job with FCA allows me to do, praise God), and show them that manhood isn’t obscene and vulgar and loud. Manhood is service, meekness (the characteristic some say is ‘wussifying’ masculinity in our country), and humility. I want them to get that a lot earlier than I did.

I’ve read, listened to, and heard from men that masculinity is mostly strength and courage. But I’ve also seen many of these same men fall from grace. Hard. Private sexual sins and vulgarities and obscenities are ripped into the light. Anger and misogyny and domineering behaviors uncovered.

Why is it that so many men who have talked about manhood have had great public charisma and strength but little Christlikeness in private? Could it be because we’ve been teaching men the wrong things?

Have we focused so much on the man’s role in leading the family that we have forgot to talk about serving the family? Have we focused so much on outward strength that we’ve missed inward fruits of the Spirit?

Have we allowed Braveheart, Gladiator, and Saving Private Ryan to outshine Christ?

This past semester at the church I work at, we walked through the book of 1 Samuel with our youth and children. Jonathan leaps off the page.

Here you have a man who singlehandedly wins a battle for the people of God. Talk about strength and courage. These are not bad things. But he also was willing to relinquish his genetic right to the throne, giving it to David instead. Not only that, he wept over David, cherished his relationship with David, and saved him again and again. Here’s a man who had strength and courage, but that wasn’t all. He also was an empathetic, compassionate, humble, and kind man.

What a great example of what I personally believe manhood should look like.

I have another great example.

My dad.

My dad is strong. My dad is brave. My dad is courageous.

But my dad is also humble. My dad is kind. My dad is a servant.

And all the time, I mean all the time, he tells me one simple phrase. It’s not “be loud and proud”. It’s not “be rude and crude”. It’s not even “work hard and go hunt”.

It’s this.

“Be God’s man.”

And I want to tell younger men the same thing.

Be God’s man. 

Be a servant. Be someone who helps others in need. I’m not good at this one, but I’m working on it.

Be compassionate. When I see men tear up, I don’t think “what a pansy”. I think, “what a Christlike heart”.

Be kind. Sexism, sarcasm, rudeness and crudeness are not the way of Jesus. Be kind.

Be humble. You’re not all that and a bag of chips.

Be meek. Again, our culture doesn’t really like men like this. But Jesus was meek and gentle. Strength is not violent and aggressive. Strength is gentle.

Be patient. This world doesn’t revolve around you.

Be forgiving.

Be loving. Are you known for your jump shot, your wit, your looks, your intelligence, or your loving nature? Are you known more for the power of the Spirit (public life) or the fruit of the Spirit (private life)?

I think the world needs more men like Mr. Rogers.

I think the world needs more men like Jesus.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

No copyright infringement is intended in using this picture of Mister Rogers

 

 

Butterflies In The Stomach

I know very little about marriage. This makes perfect sense since I’m not indeed married.  Thus you could throw this whole blog out. But, don’t. Give it a chance.

I may know absolutely nothing functionally speaking about being married, but I can say pretty definitively that the picture of marriage or relationships that we see in movies and tv shows is ridiculous and far-fetched and is ultimately setting up a generation to fail in marriage because it’s all about emotion.

I have been stuck at home for the last 48 hours due to my respiratory system being ravaged by the flu (this stuff does not mess around). This has given me ample time to read, and one such book I’ve been digging into is Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. This book was given to me by a dear friend shortly after I got engaged to my beautiful fiancee Jamie. I had every intention of putting it at the bottom of my to-read list but the tagline got me interested fast.

“What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”

That sucked me in fast. Now I’m only a handful of chapters in, but this book has provoked a lot of thought in me about my upcoming wedding and lifelong marriage to Jamie. There’s one such aspect of the book that I want to devote this blog to, and that’s the false idea that our relationships should be built upon emotional highs or that we should value the feeling of chemistry more than anything else.

Thomas will devote an entire chapter to this ploy that media has thrown our way, saying “the concept that marriage should involve passion and fulfillment and excitement is a relatively recent development on the scale of human history, making its popular entry towards the end of the eleventh century.” It’s fascinating to me that romance or an obsession with feelings and emotion has not been a constant in conversations about love and marriage but has slowly entered the equation to eventually take over and dominate our thoughts about love in our modern age.

I grew up pretty obsessed with finding love, with finding this spark of chemistry and electricity and excitement with a girl. I was so wrapped up in this that I declared a girl my girlfriend at the ripe old age of seven. The more I watched the Disney Channel, read books, and watched movies, the more I wanted to have this cute happenstance meeting with a girl and then overcome insecurities to find a forever love. Real life wasn’t that simple. I’ve heard (although I haven’t researched this, but it sounds about right) that infatuation lasts 18 months at the most. I went through elementary school, junior high, high school, and college, being infatuated with different girls but never finding lasting stability with one because I would question the relationship as soon as the feeling wore off.

Then I met Jamie, and it wasn’t love at first sight. But then after a D-Now weekend in Weatherford, we hit it off and were infatuated with one another. This helped us to get through a stint of long distance in Portland and then me taking off to the West to go to Phoenix. But then something happened at the start of 2017. It was inevitable, but I was no less prepared for it. The emotional high we got from speaking or seeing each other began to wane. The long distance lengthened the timeline for these feelings we had for one another, but sooner or later they were gone and we were faced with questions of why we should keep going.

IS THIS NOT INSANITY. In all honesty it is crazy to think that I was conditioned to put so much stock in my feelings. It’s hilarious to think that we should base the most intimate of human relationships on the least reliable thing in the world. I think that Scripture shows us that God made marriage for so much more than getting butterflies in the stomach.

I think Genesis 2:18 is about holiness not happiness.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

 

I genuinely believe that all human relationships are designed to make us grow more like Christ. This applies to friendships, co-workers, neighbors, etc. That being said, a marriage relationship has got to give you the greatest opportunity for growth in Christlikeness since you spend so much time with your spouse. In every other type of relationship, you can distance yourself (or at least try to) from situations that challenge your character or provoke you to change. There’s no such option in marriage (well I guess you can try to avoid it here too).

That’s what makes Gary Thomas’ tagline for his book so intriguing to me. Because I want to believe that marriage truly was made for something greater than our feelings, than companionship, than sex or happiness. I want to believe that my relationship with Jamie in the coming decades will make me more like Jesus. Right now I am able to do pretty much whatever I want outside of my work obligations. That’s going to change in 149 days. That’s going to force me to become more like Jesus in laying down my desires and wants for the sake of my spouse.

Jamie and I got through last Spring by realizing that a relationship built upon the feelings we have when we’re around each other is like building a house on the sand. We’re striving to build our relationship upon Jesus, upon spiritual growth, and I can tell you that has bonded us together much more than butterflies in the stomach (which I still get around her periodically).

I’m not anti-romance. I’m actually a schmuck when it comes to it.

But I know that a relationship built upon the lies of modern movies and television is not a stable one.

Build your marriage upon Jesus.

Build your life upon Jesus.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Worrying About Our Place In The Dirt

We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.wallup.net

That line has stuck with me since the first time I saw the movie Interstellar. In the sci-fi epic, Matthew McConaughey’s character is talking with his father about the state of humanity after monstrous dust storms and irresponsible land usage has destroyed the fabric of the world. McConaughey is acknowledging a sad fact that all the people are doing is worrying about what they’re going to eat, if the crops will come in.

Ever since I watched this movie for the first time and heard that line for the first time, the more I’ve wondered just how true that is in my own life. There was a day where I used to think about big things, my place in it all, and now it seems like all I can do is worry about my place in the dirt.

Don’t hear me talking about some sort of Lion King-esque belief that we will find our legacies in the stars. Not at all. The second part however is more what I’m focused on. All I seem to do on any given day is worry about earthly matters.

I’ve had a full-time job for like a month and a half and I can already tell how I can go days at a time without truly stopping to reflect on eternal matters.

Bills. Laundry. Cleaning my house. Preaching on Wednesday. Teaching on Sundays. Parents. Volunteers. E-mail. Seminary application. Girlfriend. The newest episode of This Is Us. Day after day every moment of down time seems to be consumed with the next thing on my schedule. I have done a heinous job of thinking about what truly matters in my day to day life.

This reality combined with this quote from this great movie leads me to think about Colossians 3.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. – Colossians 3:1-3 

Am I thinking about eternal things, or am I consumed with worry about my place here in the dirt?

There is a gospel reality that we don’t take to heart as often as we should. Christ is seated in glory, at the right hand of the Father, and we are raised to life with Him. We have been left on earth after our salvation in order to tell others about Him. That’s it. To bring Him glory by sharing his story. It is insane to me how often my heart and mind get sidetracked by other matters.

I’m not saying our every word should be evangelistic or that we should never enjoy the good gifts of God here on earth. I am saying that we have been given a singular purpose, to make His glory known through telling the gospel story to all who do not yet know Him. That’s it. That’s why you and I are here. To use the illustration from the movie, to ‘wonder about our place in the stars’ is to think about our higher calling, our higher purpose.

You were not put on this earth to get married and have a family.

You were not put on this earth to have a successful career, even if that career is vocational ministry (talking to you Nate).

You were not put on this earth to make a lot of fond memories.

You were put on this earth to glorify God through bringing other people to know Him.

Please, enjoy your family, get married, have a job that you love, make a ton of memories. But don’t let those things overshadow your real reason for life.

It’s funny to me how the very things that sidetrack me from my gospel purpose are the very same things that cause the most anxiety and worry in my mind and heart. Again, I’m not saying that good gifts of God in our lives are wrong. They’re not. But let’s be careful not to spend every waking moment worrying about our place in the dirt. There’s so much more to life.

I don’t know what recalibrating your mind and heart looks like to you. For me it means putting everything up and just sitting outside, often looking up into the night sky. I have to remind myself that my stressors, anxieties, worries, and fears are ultimately going to be hilariously small and insignificant in a million years.

Stop worrying about your place among the dirt.

Live for something more.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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The Church & Calling in Moana

I love stories in the form of TV shows, movies, and books. I love seeking out gospel truths or themes that are in play even in stories that have absolutely nothing to do with the gospel.

When watching Moana this past Saturday I could’t help but wrestle with some of those truths. Moana is about a girl who feels drawn to the ocean at a young age, yet she is slowly led away from her dream to explore such a vast sea and instead is encouraged to pursue a quiet life in the coconut-sustained village (albeit with the responsibilities of being the next chief). Would it have been a rewarding life? Surely. Would it have been a comfortable life? Definitely. Yet it wasn’t what she felt called to, rather it was what she was culturally assimilated into.

During one of the incredibly catchy songs towards the beginning of the movie, Moana’s grandma says the following to her:

You may hear a voice inside
And if the voice starts to whisper
To follow the farthest star
Moana, that voice inside is
Who you are

Now I would obviously argue that our identity is not found in the voice inside us per-say, yet we know the Holy Spirit guides us and leads us sometimes via the quiet whispers to our souls. Consider the words of Jesus about the Spirit:

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” – John 16:33

The Holy Spirit truly does speak to us and disclose to us that which we are to do. The call of the Holy Spirit is strong, for it led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4, Mark 1, Luke 4). Romans 8:14 says that those who allow themselves to be led by the Spirit are sons of God. Galatians 5 tells us to walk by the Spirit.

Yet in light of all this I can’t help but wonder how many of us (including me) silent that voice inside because it is culturally crazy. Sometimes as was the case in the movie it’s family pressure that prevents us from setting sail so to speak via the leading of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it’s the feeling that we have all we could ask for where we are (I do affirm that God will not call all of us to take geographically large leaps of faith, but He will call all of us to step out in faith in some manner). moana

One of the most powerful moments in the movie was when Moana was ‘called’ or ‘chosen’ by the weird sentient ocean deity thing. This happened when she was a toddler but was not acknowledged by her father as having happened and so she faced opposition each time she tried to ‘step out in faith’. After the death of her grandma, she went all in. Led by the weird and faceless sentient ocean deity she embarked on a grand journey where she restored light and life to the kingdom that had been tainted and destroyed by the darkness of death.

There is a darkness and death that plagues our world today as well. Yet unlike the movie this is due to humanity’s rebelling against the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The True God of the cosmos is calling some of us to abandon the comfort of what we know to fight against the darkness in the middle of the unknown.

As I was watching the movie I couldn’t help but see the church at work in the village of Motunui. How often do we find ourselves supporting those who are feeling called by God or encouraging them to stay with the status quo? How often do we feel a call to step out in step with the Spirit but we’re afraid to run too far ahead of the church as a whole?

Another powerful scene in the movie is when Moana as a teenager realizes that her people have been voyagers all along, and that only recently they had adopted this routine of life that kept them “safe and well provided”. Man how impactful and timely that could be for the present church. How many of our churches leave their members safe and well provided for, while abandoning the mission of God to reach the nations that are yet to be reached with the gospel of grace? How many of our churches have forgotten the original call of God and have settled for the safe and comfortable? In the movie, the darkness and death infiltrated the village in the end. Irregardless of the safe and comfortable lifestyle they curated for themselves, the curse of death still raged around them and ultimately in them. The curse of sin in the real world is at work all around the earth, may our churches not become bubbles where this is dis-acknowledged. Rather may our churches be places where we encourage the Moanas of our congregations to abandon comfort and safety to follow their call.

May there be more Moana-like men and women in our churches. Men and women who hear the still small voice of the Spirit and are willing to leave all they know for the sake of the gospel. May there be more churches that embrace the call of God on themselves as a whole.

The beauty of the gospel is that our God is not some weird ambiguous faceless sentient wave. Our God came in human flesh and left His Spirit in our hearts as the result of our faith in Him. His Spirit calls us into the ocean of abandonment for the sake of the gospel. Let’s step out in faith.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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