By Tim Scheidler | Staff Writer
Yesterday in Part One, we discussed two challenges facing the modern man: identity and pornography. Today we continue with three additional battles we all face…
Providing. Most men are called to be a breadwinner for their families, whether they are married or not. We are establishing ourselves in our careers, building a steady foundation in order to buy a home, throw a wedding reception, finance education, the list goes on and on. And what is our thanks? A crappy boss, a moderately-fulfilling job, a 401(k) account that seems to grow slower than the cobwebs in our garages. Welcome to the rat race…
How can the daily grind, and the angst it produces, be a good thing? How can it help us find holiness in our lives? If the faith is so central to our lives, is it ok to spend so much time focusing on other things? St. Thérèse of Lisieux and Mother Teresa (two of the biggest Catholic heavy-hitters ever) give us the answer. St. Thérèse wrote, “My vocation is love!” and Mother Teresa tells us, “…I have an opportunity to love others as he loves me, not in big things, but in small things with great love…” Seeing our labors with this new perspective, we can see that the key to life is not so much what we are doing, but how we are doing it.
A crappy boss is an opportunity to pray for someone who needs it. A moderately-fulfilling job is an opportunity to realize there is more to life than work. A small 401(k) account is an opportunity to be grateful that you even have one when so many others don’t.
I have to tell these things to myself every single day. Some of the time my job is great. Some of the time my job is terrible. Most of the time it’s simply ok, and I’m just breaking rocks, living that daily grind. That’s exactly where most of us are at. And that’s exactly where most of us should be: doing our daily work, earning our daily bread. Seeking holiness in the small things, living the Little Way, is the path to sanctification.
Openness. We have a problem. Whether it is nature or nurture, as men, we are disadvantaged in our ability to be emotionally open with others. This is very unfortunate because the glue that holds all relationships together – with friends, with spouses, with God – is true, open, honest communication. The sharing of our deepest inner hearts is what creates personal bonds with another.
Of the three types of relationships listed above, I believe that the one we struggle with the most is actually friendship. You may be incredulous, but I ask you to answer for yourself the following questions: How often have you been completely honest with Christ in prayer? How often have you opened up about your problems/temptations with your wife? How often have you been vulnerable with one of your best buds?
I’d be willing to bet that a majority of men open up the least with our friends. This puts us at a huge disadvantage. Women constantly call their girlfriends when they need help. They create baby play dates. Ladies Night is far more common than Guys Night. And when they get together, they actually communicate about their lives. We just watch the game and talk about fantasy football. (Go Peyton!)
In the last three years, one of the biggest themes in my life has been the development of an openness within my Sunday morning men’s group. This weekly meeting of misfits has become the foundation of my spiritual life, and I’ve become closer to these people than nearly anyone in my life. Words fail to express what a gift it has been to be able to give and receive the help we need to keep fighting the good fight.
One of my closest friends told me, “You can’t find holiness in a vacuum.” Truer words haven’t been spoken. Gents, we can’t do it alone.
So seek out the company of a few men you can trust. Start with monthly meetings at someone’s house. Open up about your struggles. You’ll find you’re not alone… and a strength you never knew you had.
(Check this out: http://www.catholicity.com/mccloskey/friendship.html)
Control. My will or Thy will? Which one will we choose? Men want to be in control: of our lives, decisions, careers, the list goes on. But control is a just an illusion. We cannot control if our parents get cancer, if we receive a bad performance review, if our children experiment with drugs or sex. We can – and should – do our best to influence all of those things, but truly, we do not make those decisions.
Letting go of the illusion is incredibly difficult. However, is letting go of control the same as losing control? Absolutely not.
Let go, let God.
He gave us free will. He will let us hold on tighter and tighter, year after year, building up more frustration, more stress, more difficulty, if we want to. But we can’t let God guide our lives if we don’t let go and let Him.
Who reading this hasn’t been surprised by serendipity before? If we knew how every single day in our lives would turn out, wouldn’t that take away from the adventure? God has a path for us, so much grander and more beautiful than any we could have imagined on our own! But if we don’t let Christ work in our lives, if we can’t give Him the freedom to guide us, then we are separating ourselves from His plan.
This step will involve loss. There is no way around it. C.S. Lewis writes that, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” To do that we have to abandon the things we are grasping. Because if we don’t drop what we are holding on to, our hands won’t be free to receive what God wants to give us.
What is it that you are holding on to? What is it that you refuse to let go of? Pray today for the strength to give those burdens to God. Carrying the weight of our entire lives is a heavy load. Instead of carrying it ourselves, carry it to the cross. Nail it there and leave it. Only He has the strength to carry us all.
Identity, porn, providing, openness, and control are merely the first five struggles that came to mind as I look at my own life and those of many people I know. I have personally dealt with all of them, but there are so many more. I have grappled with these five and spent considerable time in prayer/dialogue seeking to understand them better. And I started to overcome them through recognizing my own weakness and relying on the strength of Christ instead.
Our individual battles vary as much as we do as people. Every person reading these words has a thorn in their side, uniquely their own. What isn’t unique is that we, as men, all have problems. That is the overall message I felt compelled to share.
We all want to create an appearance of perfection. But without question, we all have crosses to bear. Some are understated, but ever-present; some are huge and in our faces every day. God is the key to conquering them all.