It is a common adage that every man has a story. Yet, how many of us men really understand our own stories, not to mention of those around us? Unlike women who generally seem to feel comfortable coming together in groups and sharing about their problems with trusted peers, we tend to isolate ourselves. We have conversations with people everyday but we seldom really get to know them beyond superficialities.
We think this is instinctive and the way we are wired as men. Women were designed to be nurturers and sharers, and we were designed for leadership and responsibility. We were taught since young by all the caregivers who help us become men – parents, teachers, coaches, even pastors – that we have to take responsibility over our own lives.
Furthermore, we are purposed by society to be responsible over the lives of others. Sometimes, as men we tend to resent being under the management and responsibility of a female figure. Men are supposed to lead, protect and provide and any other way is seen as a weakness.
In certain ways this is good. Just as one instance, being privileged with physically stronger bodies, it is good that we work and protect our families once we have one. However, in here also lie our weaknesses. Many of us were taught since young that it is not cool for men to have feelings. So we suppress them whenever we go through hurts instead of finding a way to heal or let go of them.
There are more men that struggle with insecurities than you would believe. Many men find it difficult to break free of the walls that we have built around ourselves. The problem is, there is also a danger in this. Few of us are prepared to deal with emotions and challenges in a healthy way. We do not connect with our families. We sometimes prioritise our work over them and over our relationship with God. And soon, the lion pounces.
In 1 Peter 5:8, Scripture gives us a warning:
1 Peter 5:8 New Living Translation (NLT)
8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
Men Alive at DUMC was formed to disciple men into becoming authentic and healthy influencers for God’s Kingdom. This is done through helping us to understand ourselves and issues better and within a conducive environment.
This year, Men Alive at DUMC is taking a look at common issues of men, as guided by Patrick Morley in his book ‘Man Alive’. On the 23rd of May 2015, the session focused on one of the primal needs of men: To Feel Like We Don’t Have To Do Life Alone. This issue is important for our own sakes and also for accountability purposes.
How God Designed Men
If we study the Bible closely, we will discover that God did not wire men to be alone. How do we know this? Because at the very beginning, within the Book of Genesis, we find that one of God’s first command to man was to multiply and take responsible stewardship over His creation.
Additionally, God walked with Adam everyday. Even then, Adam became lonely and God created Eve to be his companion. As we go through the Bible, we discover that many of the heroes of the Bible had disciples and companions. Jonathan’s loyalty to David kept David strong.
We also find that many of the heroes went through periods of loneliness. One common cry always rang out; of the need of men for companionship, also very often with God. Philippians 1:30 says that we are in our struggles together. Galatians 6:2 encourages us to share each other’s burden. And Hebrews 10:24-25 counsels us not to give up meeting and encouraging each other. Each man has a story and those stories gain meaning when they become an impact on the lives of each other. We were not designed by God to go through life alone.
The Dangers of Going through Life Alone
Many of us men think that it is strength to be able to go through life alone, owing no one anything and having complete control over our lives. It is what hinders us from coming to God even when we need to. It stops us from seeking for help and support and encouragement even when we desperately need it.
Many men who go through life alone become confused and feel isolated. Patrick Morley writes in his book that many are still Bible rookies even after years of being a Christian. They live stagnant lives; one year repeated over many years. They have no one to be accountable to and they don’t understand how other men really handle life issues.
But Morley also writes that in all of his years of ministry experience since 1986, he cannot remember a single man who did not want to share his story. Many men are seeking to find release and healing for their hurts, betrayed confidences, sense of inferiority and a feeling of in fact being controlled by forces beyond them.
The Need for a Community
Why are communities like Mentoring Accountability Groups (MAGs) so important for men? First of all, they provide a safe place for us to be real. It is the first place where we learn to talk honestly about our lives with transparency and vulnerability.
Equally importantly, being in a group that is formed around the Word of God gives us a place where we can be accountable and grow in the Lord, being guided by His Word. We lead each other through verses, and we learn through each other’s stories how God’s promises apply in their lives and how it can do the same in ours.
Christianity is heart transformation, not behavior modification. Many of us try to work out our lives on our own. We think that if we put in enough effort, we will become more holy, more spiritual, and more successful. Yet, many men end up leading lukewarm, defeated lives.
A transformed live has to come from the inside out, and in order to have this, we need true friends who can encourage us in our walk with God. We need a group of guys who can accept us for who we are but also have genuine interest and concern for our journey through life. Coming together and digging deep into God’s Word, we learn how to present ourselves to God, not hiding anything from Him, but being completely open and transparent before Him and our group of friends.
First comes right reading of God’s Word, then comes right thinking which would shape right beliefs which would then result in right behavior. It is not something we have to force but rather just learning to let go and allowing God to work in our lives through the help of reliable friends so that our faith and relationship with God would in turn become authentic. Healthy MAGs have a focused leader with a vision to make disciples, love, and real conversation. Ultimately, they produce tangible value.
Men do not need to do life alone. That was never the way God designed us. By being in a community like MAGs, Morley writes, God provides us with a powerful way to solve the problem by giving us places where we can share our stories and grow together and where we can experience the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and the Word.
NOTE: This article is an expression of the second chapter in Patrick Morley’s ‘Man Alive’, with some additional reflections, written through the lens of the value and understanding the writer has gained since attendance in the Men Alive fellowship at DUMC. Men Alive meet one Saturday per month. The next sessions are as follows:
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– Jason Law