This year, I have decided to write a tribute to every one of my siblings to commemorate their birthday. Today, is the birthday of my eldest brother. I really struggled to identify one aspect of his character to emphasize. As I reflected on his qualities, I suddenly had an epiphany. There are so many characteristics that I appreciate in him that only one overarching category summarizes. He is a man.
My friend once suggested that I read John Eldridge’s book Wild at Heart. In that book, the author struggles with the identity of manhood. This question still plagues the male consciousness. From the website “The Art of Manliness” to the Man of Steel and Velvet, from The Man in the Mirror to Manvotionals, from the masculinity of Buble to the UFC arena, men struggle for a coherent identity that expresses masculinity. What does it mean to be a man?
Manliness is not a monolithic trait, but a collection of attributes that encompass the biblical description of manhood. It means loving your wife and children. (Eph.5-6) It means a willingness to work relentlessly to provide for your family. (I Tim. 5:8) It takes the courage to try new things in order to bring joy to your family. It means fidelity and integrity. It means putting a priority on family life.
Last week, I enjoyed spending time with my brother. While I am convinced that he struggles with these same issues that plague every man, I also perceive that he is farther along resolving them than I. My brother shows strength, responsibility, and patience in all aspects of life. He proves himself as a caring father, loving husband, strong leader, tireless provider, giving brother, devoted son, and faithful man of integrity. He can seamlessly transition from discussing the philosophy of Derrida to fixing a toilet. We may have actually discussed philosophy once while replacing my parents faucets. You begin to see why I struggled in picking one attribute to laud over the others.
Perhaps we need to stop reading books or blogs on how to be a man. Perhaps we need to stop thinking of manhood in monolithic terms. Perhaps manhood is more complex than one idea. Perhaps true manhood, as most living elements, requires growth, a lifetime to apprehend. Perhaps the only true man died for man 2000 years ago. Perhaps balancing life in all its beauty, strength, and suffering, marks the true man.
I thank God that He blessed me with brothers who challenge me to grow and adapt. I thank God for my brother who celebrates his birthday today. He challenges me to grow into the full complex of manhood. He challenges me to be made more like Christ, and thus to be truly, a man.