For the past 25+ years I have been involved in the building and real estate development industries. For years I have seen a direct correlation between my business ventures and my christian walk. Let me explain. As a developer, I regularly assess raw land as potential sites for development. Once I have determined the demographic viability of a site the work shifts to assessing the issues associated with the real property itself. I start with an environmental study by an environmental engineer, known as a 3rd party service provider, to help determine the known hazards and toxins that may have accumulated on the site over its' history. It is critical to know what hazards the property has been exposed to, or worse yet, what may have been buried on the property in that past, in order to know how to re-mediate it in order to render the site clean.
Assuming I am able to get past the environmental history of the property I then move on to have the soil tested by a soils engineer, another 3rd party provider, to determine what work needs to be done to the land in order for it to support what is intended to be built on it. Typically, this process entails drilling multiple investigative holes deep into the ground to depths of as much 50'. The purpose of this testing is to identify the integrity of the soil and potential inconsistencies that may create weaknesses in the ground if left unaddressed. Almost always there is the need to process the soil whereby you remove it to depths of 5-10' with an excavator and replace it as you simultaneously compact the soil to an even consistency so it will be able to bear the load of the building improvements it will be supporting. The entire process is designed to greatly reduce the risk of soft spots which could eventually settle and fail, putting the entire structure at jeopardy.
Do you see the correlation between the christian walk and the practical issues of the world in which we live. For too many of us we think we can circumvent the hard work of assessing our pasts in order to determine what toxins and environmental hazards we have been exposed to thereby providing an honest assessment of the condition of our spiritual soil we are building our lives upon. I totally understand how it is seems easier just to "suck it up" as a man and think you can overcome these issues on your own justifying you don't need help from someone else. Of course not, we are men and that would be a clear sign of weakness or at least that is what the enemy of our souls wants us to believe. Too often we convince ourselves that proceeding on our own is a good strategy but in real life it is often a recipe for disaster.
“I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house right on the ground, without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.” Luke 6:47-49 (NLT)
How many men "chose to build their house right on the ground?" We go down this path and find ourselves years into our christian walk only to be tested to the core and falling apart because we are completely exhausted from "sucking it up" on our own. The thin veneer of manliness is ground through exposing the raw nerves of the "man now down". The pressures of life, unmet expectations and the "everyone else's grass is greener" mentality is hard to overcome on your own because your perspective is distorted and blurred at best.
The unfortunate result of such manly pride, which our society portrays and the enemy wants us to perceive as strength is actually a weakness waiting to fail like a soft spot in the soil. When you are isolated it is just you against the enemy and he is nothing if not patient. Knowing our humanity, we as men, all have our limits when cut away from the herd. The enemy will just linger in your background knowing of your buried weaknesses and toxic history which may manifest itself through an anger problem, an alcohol or drug dependency, a foul mouth and toxic attitude, pornography and/or other sexual and moral failures. The enemy is patient, constantly adding down pressure on you until the cracks begin to surface. Once the weaknesses surface from their hiding places the enemy doesn't relent. Instead he knows your fall from grace will get even harder as the cover up efforts increase. The greater our moral failure the greater his victory.
It is precisely because of this horrendous war the enemy wages against us men that I consistently bring up the subject of not being men who are isolated and susceptible to the enemy's attacks. I am thoroughly convinced and a living testimony that as men we are greater in numbers than on our own.
Matthew 18:20 says "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
In my above dialogue about property assessment one might think that after 25 years of experience I should be capable of making these assessments on my own. The truth is that over the years I have only gained more respect for the professional third party services I utilize in order to move forward with confidence that my end product will stand the test of time. Are these outside services cheap? Absolutely not, but I would rather not participate in a project than circumvent the required work and produce a shoddy end result. Why then as men do we avoid the costly work of being real and honest about the issues that hold us captive?
Culturally, the generation of men before me simply did not discuss the real personal issues they struggled with. It wasn't acceptable for a man to admit he needed help because he would be perceived as weak. The result I observed as a kid was everyone's dad had alcohol related issues. It was just the norm that the family unit was intact as viewed from the outside but from the inside they were dysfunctional messes. Maybe the term midlife crisis evolved out of the error of men bottling up the junk of their past until the internal pressure became so unmanageable that crisis and moral failure were the inevitable outcome. That certainly is what I experienced growing up.
So is there another way to have victory over the issues the enemy wants to drag us down with. There is, and this re-building process has practical steps to take to help insure you are building your spiritual life on a solid foundation? I am not saying overcoming personal shortcomings and deep wounds of the past is an easy process. But by contrast, when you consider the cost of personal isolation and facing the enemy alone the cost is relatively cheap. What are the costs? They are time, commitment, foregoing your pride, and extending sincere care for other men. The tools to get there are accountability, honesty, vulnerability and confession. Obviously, I can't do justice to address these major issues in a few short paragraphs so let me highlight what I believe are essential starting points that any man can commit to.
Freedom starts with accountability and accountability starts by building relationships with 1 or more other men. Trust me this isn't rocket science and the main attribute each man needs to bring to the equation is that they care. You don't need experience, you don't need training, you just need to care and be willing to listen without having to have all the answers. Freedom comes from exposing the darkness in our lives to light and not someone else shining the light for us. It requires you to break away from your isolation and rejoin the herd where there can be strength in numbers. I say "can be", because shear numbers won't save you by themselves but joining up with other men who are there to have your back, respect the need for strict confidentiality, and are committed to keeping you on the right track while not standing in judgement over you is a crucial starting point. As Jeff Voth talks at length about in his book "CaveTime" as men we are to be accountable to each other and that requires commitment and that starts by "showing up". Showing up means to be there, be committed, invest in each other and not just for a moment but over time.
Proverbs 27:17 goes onto to say "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another."
We are to join together as men in the name of the Lord to keep each other sharp and fend off the enemy's onslaught.
Once you are committed to showing up what advances your victory over the enemy is honesty about yourself and cutting through the thin veneer you have learned to hide behind. John 8:32 says "the truth will set you free." I have always held to idea that you don't need a good memory if you are honest. Think about it. How much extra effort does it take to cover up a lie than it does to expose it. Once it is exposed, it is exposed and you can resolve the issue and eventually move on but when you cover up these toxic issues, as the enemy wants you to, you have to expend a tremendous amount of energy to keep private your little dark corners of life. It takes constant effort to live the lie. Of course the enemy doesn't want you to expose these dark places because lies and deception are the tools of his trade. Be honest and shine a light into those dark private corners you have been hiding for years.
Being honest means you must become vulnerable and that requires an atmosphere of trust, confidentiality and no judgement. As men, most of us are convinced we are the only ones dealing with our dark issues so we certainly don't want to look like a wimp by admitting what is really going on in our lives........the lie lives on. It also means that when you a part of a small group of trusted men someone has to be willing to "die first," That may sound overstated but it really isn't. What I mean is that to create a safe environment where you can expose all the crap in your life, someone has to be willing to wade into the water first and demonstrate that it is safe. There can be no sharks lurking to devour you. Vulnerability isn't weakness, it actually takes great strength and courage to be the first one to die. You will be surprised that once someone is willing to openly share it tends to open the flood gates as other guys realize they don't need to hide any longer behind their shame and guilt.
The last issue I want to touch on is the importance of grace, forgiveness and mercy that is needed for Confession to take place and the chains that bind can be fully broken. Let's be honest, we can become free from our sins and the pasts that haunt us but we are also human and prone to set backs. When and if the set backs occur give yourself and others grace that the old man is dying. One of the greatest weapons we have against the enemy is the power of confession because it brings into the light the issues the enemy wants you to continue to work so hard to keep private. If you expose them to the light he can no longer hold them over your head and the victory belongs to the lord and there lies freedom.
"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it." James 5:16
You will be changed and others will notice the change in you. As men I challenge you to not just talk the talk but walk the walk.
Let me close with a little levity to help offset the heaviness of the above blog: