No matter where you are, what your background is, or your belief systems are, there is one thing that tie all of us together. This is so for women but especially so for men. Even atheists, whether they realize it or not, are searching for a transcendent purpose to life. Most men realize that there is more to life than what they are currently able to sense. It is what drives some men in search of fame, prestige, and riches, in order to fill in this void in their lives.
Even Friedrich Nietzsche, despite his declaration for nihilism, was actually in his own weird way, on a search for transcendence. The void that stared back at him after he eradicated the soul drove him mad. Half a century later, another man would also be driven mad by this search of transcendence without regard to the soul, resulting in one of the most massive genocides in our history.
This search for transcendence is an innate part of both men and women. Everyone who has ever lived on earth has at one time or another sense the God instinct that is encoded in our DNA. At one point or another, all of us come to a realization that there is more to life than food, sex, sports, and beer.
We sense this when we connect with our spouse as one, when we look across the vastness of an ocean and the waves on a moonlit night, when we perceive the true greatness of a work of art such as one of Beethoven’s sonatas, when we read the Bible and the Scripture penetrates our hearts and spirit like a finely-sharpened sword. These are times when our soul long for communion with God. In the August session of Men Alive, Bro John guided the fellowship into looking into what it is to have soul making.
The first thing that was established is that every one of us has a soul. The second thing is to learn that it is a lie of the enemy that men are not spiritually-wired like women, that men are not made to naturally commune with God.
As Christians, we all have sensed this before in a way that was so awe-inspiring that we could not comprehend it. When each of us encountered God for the first time, His loving presence was so overshadowing that it broke through our walls and many of us broke into tears. There was something about the presence that was so mighty and yet so gentle, a true embodiment of majesty.
As we go on with our lives, many of us men have drifted away from that first touch of communion with God. Our relationship with God has become a list of dos and don’ts. Sometimes, in our overzealousness for ministry and service, we have made our ministry the main thing instead of our relationship with God. After some time, the routine tires us and we get burnt out and fall away from God.
Patrick Morley writes in his book, Man Alive, about the process. He shares that it is understandable for men to be task-oriented and to want to get things done. And many times it seems that we cannot help it, for there are deadlines to meet, bills to pay, families to take care of.
Unfortunately, this soon becomes a problem when taking care of our souls becomes the last thing on our minds. In our busy, overscheduled lives, we wear ourselves out with pressure and exhaustion, not just physically, but also emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. This is when the devil pounces.
First, we get caught up in the rat race. Then we start living an unexamined life. Then we start letting others set the spiritual tone and stop paying attention to our souls. Finally, we wake up one day and find ourselves spiritually empty. Many men in such situations get weary and start turning their backs on God. We forget that first awakening experience with God.
It may not be culturally natural for men to ‘hang out with Jesus’, but it is actually in fact very simple. There is a passage in the Bible that men are not accustomed of applying on themselves for it concerns two sisters, Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). Patrick Morley writes that we should.
Martha was a worker. She excelled at service. While Mary was content to sit at the feet of Jesus, Martha bustled about making their home ready for dinner with Jesus. Seeing Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet, Martha soon questioned Jesus; did He not care that Mary was slacking? Martha took her work seriously but she missed out on her God moment with Jesus. She did not understand Mary’s God moment with Jesus. For Jesus, relationship is more important than task.
Studying this passage, many men in the fellowship found themselves identifying with Martha. The spirit of Martha is about task, service, appearances, work, and stress. By comparison, the spirit of Mary is about relationship, communion, worship, truth, and closeness to God. This, in essence, was what Jesus was saying to Martha in Luke 10:41-42 when He said that while Martha worried about many things, Mary had chosen what is better.
As men, we are always thinking in terms of service to God. But Jesus is saying, fill up our cups with our personal relationship with Him first, and then serve out of the overflow of our communion with Him. The first thing is to cultivate a love for God with all our being. First, seek to be with God. There will be plenty of time for Martha.
It is not impossible for men to once again have that out-of-this-world relationship with God we once had. There are three priorities that will bring this personal, consistent communion with God within reach.
- Know About God, Know God
Bro John also communicated that the story of Mary and Martha teaches us something about the knowledge of God and the knowledge about God. Authentic faith consist of an integrated whole between the two. Accurate knowledge about God is important but a living relationship with a living God is also based on a personal relationship with Him.
How do we know about God? By seeking Him through the word that He has handed down to us. How do we know God? By communing with Him, even asking Him to guide us when we’re reading His word. When we’re reading the Bible and praying to God, we are literally spending time with Him. Bible and prayer are the best places to start if we want to hang out with Jesus.
2. Leave Room for Mystery
There are many things in life that we may not understand at the current moment. But this is also where many of the power of the knowledge of God come from. These are the special moments of revelation, the transcendent moments mentioned above. It is expected that our minds cannot fully encompass Him, for a God that can be comprehended completely by our minds is finite. We may not be able to know everything about Him for He is transcendent, but we can know Him. Never want a God you can fully explain, Patrick Morley writes.
- Take Your Time
Don’t rush through our time with God. Learn to appreciate the moments and soak in His presence. Like the best things that can only be appreciated through savoring them, our relationship and quiet time with God should bring us the same enjoyment. Being in the presence of Jesus nurtures our soul with His power and presence.
The need of mankind for transcendence, awe, and communion can be raw and at times frightening. But it is also very personal and comforting for we know a relational and magnificent God, a God who is in the business of soul making. He wants communion with us, often far more than we do with Him. Very often, all He wants is just for us to ‘show up’.
That is how much He loves us, and if the greatest commandment is to love God, then we ought to build up the time we spent with Him. Patrick Morley writes that this is what differentiates men who lead powerful, transformed lives from lukewarm ones; for men who desperately want to be fully alive, it’s a game changer.
NOTE: This article is a personal expression, guided extensively by August Men Alive session and the sixth chapter in Patrick Morley’s ‘Man Alive’, and 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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