Have you ever had the experience in which you have done or said something and the reaction of those around you was expressed by an awkward silence? It’s much like when I feebly attempt to be funny. The only thing more awkward than my ability to tell jokes is the silence that follows them. Or as one editorial cartoon said, “As you can tell by the awkward silence, everyone loved your joke.” I often wonder if this is how Adam felt when after he awoke from that deep, supernatural, divinely induced slumber, and saw Eve for the first time. He cried aloud in ecstasy and delight, “This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” Eve’s response: silence. Perhaps Adam was thinking, “Well, this is uncomfortable.” Although Eve’s awkward silence is somewhat troubling and disconcerting, it can also be comforting: “Well, Adam, at least I’m not the only one who has received this kind of reaction from a woman.” Perhaps it is true that sometimes woman is not all that impressed with us men; perhaps she is looking for someone or something different. As the joke goes, “Why did God create the man before the woman? Because God didn’t want the woman telling him how to make Adam.” Which raises a question: What type of man does a woman really desire? Deep down, she desires the man that God intended him to be. Which raises another question: What type of man did God create us to be? The answer to these questions should be simple and direct because men appear to be simple and direct. Men are typically conveyed as straight forward creatures while women are typified as highly complex creatures. As one young boy said to his father, “Dad, did you know that in some parts of Africa, men do not know their wives until after they get married?” To which the dad responded, “Son, that happens everywhere.” Yes, women are complicated creatures. But are men as simple as people convey them to be? The focus of today’s message is about us men, who we are, what our essence is. Today it is my hope to tap into the mystery and meaning of man: who he is created to be for God, who he is for woman, and how he ultimately fulfills his manhood.
The Mysterious Other
We men may be more mysterious than we think. We first encounter man in the creation account, when the “Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth and breathed into his face the breath of life and man became a living soul. And the Lord God had planted a paradise of pleasure from the beginning, wherein he placed man whom He had formed” (Gen. 2:7-8). The text indicates that man was created “outside” the context of the garden, of paradise, and yet, God places him within the garden. Recall that the garden is symbolic of delight, pleasure, comfort, and the mystery of woman herself. This indicates that man has the difficult task of harmonizing the outside, hostile world with the inside world of the garden—woman’s world. Man continually lives in the tension between the comfort and delight of the garden—that is, woman, marriage, family, and home life—and the ever-competitive, challenging world. Man has been created by God to have a certain strength, resilience, and capacity to confront the dangerous outside, while also being given the duty to cherish, cultivate, and tenderly love the garden inside. “It is commonly thought that women are more capable than men of paying attention to another person and that motherhood develops this predisposition even more. The man—even with his sharing in parenthood—always remains “outside” the process of pregnancy and the baby’s birth; in many ways he has to learn his own “fatherhood” from the mother . . .” (Mulieris Dignitatem). As men, we are continually faced with the reality of being an “outsider,” or being “other.” This may at first appear to be a great deficiency on the part of the male, but keep in mind that God revealed Himself in the Old Testament as the almighty Creator, the utterly transcendent being, the wholly Other. “The relationship of otherness is not well expressed by the child’s relationship to its mother because she is more same than other, since her children develop within her body and are nourished at her heart. On the contrary, the relation of the child to its father is more a relationship to the Other, but an Other who is still caring”(William E. May, Revealing and Reliving the Fatherhood of God). Because we are “other” in the image of the eternal “Other,” we men have a certain mystery that instills awe, fear, and respect in woman and the child, and that also enables us to live on the horizon between the hostile world and the garden of home life—to become warriors who fight for our families in the hostile world, but also warriors of love in the context of the garden, the family. As Professor S. says, “Woman does not need a ‘nice,’ cooperative, manageable, domesticated, politically correct man. She longs for the love of the eternal “Other” that is transmitted through her husband, the mysterious other. The ‘Other’ is most appealing and also most difficult to define.” Woman are attracted to the mystery of the man who is both “outside” and “other.”
The Duty of Responsibility
Notice also that the Lord gave Adam, the first man, the fundamental duties of tilling and keeping the garden, which is ultimately expressed by God in the command, “Of every tree of paradise thou shalt eat; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat. For in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death” (Gen. 3:16-17). This indicates several important insights: that man is given the task to be the protector of the garden; to provide for the garden, that is, to cherish it; and third, to transmit and teach the truths he has received from the Lord to the woman. In a certain sense, man derives his life directly from God and woman derives her life from God, through man. Man is responsible for woman to God, while woman is responsible to God through man. This is emphasized when after the fall of Adam and Eve, and their act of committing the original sin, God did not immediately address the woman, but spoke initially and directly to the man. Why? Because the man has responsibility for the garden. He has been given the task of standing in the breech between the hostile world and the garden and be the protector, provider, and teacher on behalf of God to woman and the family. Man stands before God as His representative to woman and the family. This is how he fundamentally relates to God—by means of responsibility, claiming as his own what is God’s, to ensure that it remains God’s possession. The Hebrew words for till and keep are abad and shamar, respectively. Abad literally means “to cherish” and shamar means “to protect.” Adam was given the noble duty to be a warrior who protects the bride, the garden, from the hostile world, while also tenderly entering the “garden,” cherishing her and delighting in her. Adam’s body indicates his mission, his vocation: he is called to go forth from himself, to initiate, to generate self-giving love. Man is called to sow the seed of sacrificial love in the garden. Woman’s body speaks of her reciprocity to this mission of man. A man is “a human being who both gives in a receiving way and receives in a giving way, but is so structured in his being that he is emphatically inclined toward giving in a receiving way,” whereas a woman “is a human being who both gives in a receiving way and receives in a giving way, but is so structured in her being that she is emphatically inclined toward receiving in a giving way” (Robert Joyce, Human Sexual Ecology: A Philosophy and Ethics of Man and Woman, pp 67-68). In fact, woman’s spiritual, physical, emotional, and intellectual beauty all summon the man to step outside of himself and become a warrior of self-giving love. To paraphrase Sister Helena Burns, Woman desires a warrior of love. She draws man out to become a warrior. Women desire a man who will be the sacrificial protector—a man she can trust.
Vulnerability in Initiating
The dilemma for men is that woman’s beauty is constantly inviting us to initiate self-giving love, to be a sincere gift to her, but it is precisely in the moment of self-giving that we become vulnerable and risk rejection—and how that rejection stings. Recall that in Hebrew literature the word “garden” can often symbolize the inner mystery of woman. Recall also that the first garden that Adam was called to protect and keep was called Eden, that is, “delight.” The garden that Jesus, the New Adam, entered on the night of his betrayal, was Gethsemane, which literally means “oil press.” Oil, in the Old Testament, was often used to anoint the face to make one appear beautiful, joyful, youthful. It was also used to anoint kings.
What does this indicate? We men are called to become vulnerable by initiating self-giving love, by entering the garden with our gift of self, and sometimes we will encounter our wives’ receptivity to our gift of self, which brings forth delight, but also we may often encounter rejection, which acts like an oil press that squeezes and crushes our ego and pride. Woman, the one-flesh union, sexual attraction, and marriage have been created by God to bring delight, but also act as an oil press, a manner of purification that squeezes from us the love that can eventually allow our wives to become truly beautiful, joy-filled, spiritually youthful. A friend recently recounted that he and his wife were taking dance lessons, and in dancing the male initiates the dance—he leads. As they were practicing, his wife indicated to him that he was “doing it wrong.” In other words, he wasn’t leading correctly. The music stopped, the dancing stopped, and being internally angered he went into the other room to be by himself. He related how his wife’s criticism caused him to instinctively recoil and protect himself from being hurt. By doing so, he chose to cease to be vulnerable, to cease initiating. However, he admitted that this was somehow a denial of his manhood, and eventually regained his strength and initiated once again. We all have experienced the effects of such rejection, particularly those that occur in response to our sexual advances. Often my wife’s beauty is throwing a party to which I am not invited. It stings. However, we men must never stop initiating self-sacrificial love, because if we do, we are simply acting as the silent, nonprotecting, nonsacrificial Adam who neglected to set the pace of self-giving love. Why? Because if we are consistent in initiating self-giving love, even amidst rejection, woman will eventually learn to trust in our sincere gift of self. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” The antidote to fearful silence is being courageous enough to set the pace of self-giving lov—to initiate self-sacrifice on behalf of another. As Dr. Philip Mango said, “Masculinity is initiating a good on behalf of another and sustaining a good at the cost to yourself.” A friend, after discovering the concept of setting the pace of self-giving love, said, “For seventeen years my wife’s apparel was her apron. Every night she prepared and cooked dinner, and after my family ate, she silently cleaned the table, the dishes and the kitchen, while we went and did our own thing. One evening, after dinner, as she proceeded to clean the table, my eyes were suddenly opened. I realized I needed to set the pace of self-giving love. So, I told her to remove the apron and go relax. From now on I’m doing the dishes and cleaning up after dinner. But I didn’t stop there, I had all my boys help.” (Smart guy—don’t do it yourself. He may also have discovered that it took many of them to fill his wife’s shoes.) Woman is the garden of delight, but also the oil press that squeezes the oil of self-giving love from us—the oil of gladness that beatifies and anoints our wives and children with God’s blessing
The Differentiating Factor
Man’s “otherness” or mystery, combined with his mission to initiate, culminates in his ultimate essence, which is spiritual fatherhood—the begetting of spiritual life. Manhood discovers its fulfillment in fatherhood. Fatherhood is the pinnacle of manhood. Being a man is not enough. A real man is one who becomes a spiritual father. Perhaps a visual can explain this reality. The “real man” is often typified as the heroic solider who defends his country by laying down his life. Fatherhood, however, is defined as one who protects, sustains, and unites the family. It would appear that the warrior man, whose context is outside the home, has the greater mission, and the greater potential of saving more lives. To be a soldier seems to be more heroic than being a father. In other words, it appears that it is more important to be a “real man” than to be a father. However, if we combine the number of American deaths caused by the wars throughout the nation’s history with the number of abortions since Roe v. Wade, we discover that the deaths from the combined wars represent approximately 1.77% compared to 92.33% of deaths caused by abortions. Another way to understand this concept is that 108 million people were killed in the twentieth century, and since 1980 there have been nearly 1.5 billion abortions. A billion is one thousand million. In other words, the total killings of the twentieth century—the deadliest century in man’s history—are insignificant in comparison to the number of abortions. What’s the point? Why are there abortions? Because fathers have not defended their children. Because men are willing to kill in order to lust. The absence of fatherhood, as noted by these stats, testifies to its essential value. It is not enough to be a warrior outside of the home, though it is important. We men must become who we are ultimately created to be: fathers who beget and defend life within the home by living on the horizon between the hostile world and the garden. As Pope St. John Paul II said, “In revealing and reliving on earth the very fatherhood of God, a man is called upon to ensure the harmonious and united development of all members of the family.” William E. May, commenting on the pope’s words, says, “Here John Paul II affirms that the husband/father has the sublime mission of ‘revealing’ and ‘reliving’ on earth the ‘very Fatherhood of God.’ Although he does not explicitly say that the husband/father is the ‘head’ of his wife and the household, he clearly assigns to him a leadership role, one emphasizing the husband/father’s service to his family. He likewise implies that the exercise of authority by the husband/father within the family is proper and necessary. For how could he ‘reveal’ and ‘relive’ the Fatherhood of God by ensuring the ‘harmonious and united development of all members of the family’ unless there was some authority proper and exclusive to him as husband and father?” Just as God the Father is principle and begetter of life and love in the Trinity, so also the human father, as icon of God the Father, is the principal, head, and begetter of life and love in the family. As the father goes, so goes the family. In an analogous way, just as the man and his sperm initiates, seeks out, and donates the chromosomes to woman’s ovum that determine the sex of the child, so also the man is the differentiating factor that decides whether the family will become a revelation of God’s trinitarian love to this fallen world. There are a substantial amount of statistics to support this reality. In other words, a man who becomes a father who relives and reveals the Fatherhood of God becomes the differentiating factor.
The Real Man
Gentlemen, our identity leads to our destiny. Consider that the name Moses literally means “drawn from water.” Moses was named by pharaoh’s daughter, who drew him, as an infant, out of the Nile. But Moses’ name not only indicated his identity but also his destiny. He Moses drew the Israelites to safety, dry shod, through the water of the Red Sea. Consider the patriarch Jacob, who being the younger of Rachel’s’ twin sons grabbed hold of Esau’s ankle as the two of them were coming forth from their mother in childbirth. Jacob’s name means “usurper.” Jacob later usurped his older brother and obtained the blessing of the firstborn from his father, Isaac, and became the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. The first man was named Adam. The Hebrew word for “earth” is adama, which means “from the earth.” Adam’s name indicates something of his identity—that is, he was created from the earth—and can also speak of his destiny, which was a consequence of his failure to defend the garden—that is, he returns in death to the dust from which he was formed. However, if Adam defended the woman from the serpent, the beast, by sacrificing his life, God would have raised him “from the earth” as the first resurrected being. This was ultimately fulfilled in the New Adam, Jesus Christ, who entered the garden on the night of his betrayal and set the pace of self-giving love to Calvary, so effectively that for the last two millennia the Bride, the Church, has followed that pace of self-giving love. If daughters of Eve do not receive the much-desired sacrificial love of the New Adam, they will often resort to temptation and manipulation to obtain the disordered affection of the old Adam. Ask women what they desire in a man. Time and time again, they will respond, “I desire a man who is strong . . . a protector, someone who will sacrifice for me.” Women need a man in whom they can trust. They need a man who has strength, confidence, and resilience in the face of tests, trial, conflicts, and crisis.
The Key Attribute
Why did Adam fail, and the New Adam succeed? Adam did not trust that God would triumph through him, while Christ trusted that the Father would glorify him. The key to becoming the “other,” who is capable of harmonizing the outside world and the inside world of the family by means of initiating self-giving love, and thus begetting life, is trust in the Father. But unfortunately, many of us distrust the Father and doubt His reasons for creating us in the manner He has. God has created you for a purpose, to glorify Him and be glorified by Him. But it demands trust in the Father—trust in whom He has created you to be. We, as men, must trust that because we sacrifice our lives for our wives and children, and even though that sacrifice may not always be well received, God will raise us up from the soil, resurrect us, and glorify our manhood and fatherhood. This is our destiny. As Professor S. says, “Men must know that when a man initiates a good, it should be received and affirmed by woman. But even if it not received by her, it is always received by God. God receives every drop of man’s sacrificial offering. Even if the spouse steps all over that offering, God has received every drop of it.”