For the last few sessions, the Men Alive fellowship at Damansara Utama Methodist Church has guided and given an outlet for men to discover their true identities and calling in God. Throughout it all, a new paradigm shift in mindset has been build on. That men were made not to be lone warriors, but for relationships, both with other people and with God.
Along the way, several other primal needs faced by men were addressed. These included our search for purpose and transcendence, and on how to break free from the destructive behaviors that keep dragging us down. In the latest session, bro Teo Wun Meng led attendees in learning how to be loved and to love without reservation.
As men, we have grown up to define ourselves as the handicapped half when it comes to relationships. Why has this been the prevailing notion among men, that we’re uncomfortable with expressing love?
There may be several reasons. It might be because we have grown up without really giving thought to how relationships really work. Even after many men marry and start a family, they’re easily distracted with work responsibilities and competition. Sometimes, we do not also allocate enough time in meaningful conversations with our loved ones.
And when conflicts arise, many of us tend to be Cluster C, avoidant-type people, withdrawing into shells, hoping things will settle down in time. We do not want to discuss issues, and when our family, wives, or friends insist we do, it breaks our peace and comfort.
Yet, most men are also deep down people who want the best for their loved ones. We struggle with the same questions: “What can I do to make my loved ones happy?”, “How can I have more meaningful conversations that go beyond responsibilities or the superficial?”, “How can I ensure my family stay close to God?”.
Often, these questions take added weight because many men also have a responsibility over families. Relationships can be messy, and most men I know (including myself) like things to be as simple as possible. We plan schedules and we want things to happen according to those schedules as much as possible.
But the Bible also speaks about love and relationships, and truly meaningful ones take work and sometimes courage. In fact, in multiple passages, and through Christ’s instructions, we know that the greatest commandment is to love God and one another with all our being. This speaks about more than just a cursory relationship. It speaks about a much deeper connection.
Studying Patrick Morley’s book, Man Alive, together in last Saturday’s session, we came across a simple statement that was yet very insightful. Patrick wrote in his book that if we didn’t have relationship problems and if everything was smooth all the time, the Bible would be 80% shorter.
The Bible is full of examples and God’s counsel for the way we relate to spouses, children, extended families, employees, coworkers, friends, and even our enemies. Our most important mission as disciples of Christ is to be in right relationship with God, but John 13:34-35 also reminds us of the importance of being in a right relationship with the people around us.
So how do we develop this? Several insights into being better family men were gained, divided into our relationship with wives and with children:
How to Really Love a Woman
Many men in the session shared that the most valuable lesson they learned in this area, is that it takes involvement from 2 parties for a marriage to be strong, and to be united. Patrick writes in his book that the number one problem many men face in this area, is that their marriages are not working the way God designed them to work.
It is extremely important that men learn how to pray with and for their wives. Through testimonies, it becomes plain that the benefits from this area are numerous and amazing. Many men reported that they gained a better understanding and closeness with their wives, their communication improved, the petty things ended not being such a big deal anymore, and even during times of challenge, the unity and calm was surpassing. As husbands, men who are married are likely the only person in the whole world who will regularly remember to pray for their life-mate.
Married men also need to develop a schedule of spending time with their wives alone and to listen to her deeply without answering ‘answers’ or ‘solutions’ too quickly. Do not be afraid to touch and comfort her when she needs it. Accept her unconditionally; happy wives do not feel like they have to perform in order to be loved, or meet a certain set of standards in order to be accepted.
Take care of her financially, and in conversations, encourage her with words and learn to laugh with her. After God but before all others, their wives should be the top priority of married men.
How to Really Love Your Children
Like all relationships, taking care of children and raising them up in Godly ways take intentionality and effort. There must be enough time invested into the right amount of structure, prayers, hugs, encouraging words, and verbal affection.
Proverbs 22:6 advices us to train our child up in the way when they are still young, and when they get older, they’ll not depart from it. As spiritual head of the family, fathers have a responsibility to build reading the Bible up as a rewarding experience. Fathers need to take the lead over their children in family devotions.
One area that is often neglected is setting up work boundaries. Do not take our work home with us, and build up family time that is really family time. Make the family our number one ministry. Patrick writes; no one else can take care of our families in the way we do. We must be strong and we have to set boundaries. We must take responsibility over the discipleship of our own families. Effective ministers for God must first learn how to take care of their own families.
How do we take care of our children? Spend time and date with them. Get involved in their activities. Pray for and encourage our children with words every day. Attend as many of our children’s programmes as possible. Whenever possible, make it a point to eat dinner together. Expose our children to ministry but in a family-conducive setting, and make our children responsible to attend church.
God has assigned wives and children to many of us men. This was done with a purpose by God, and as stewards of God’s blessing, we need to take up responsibilities, not just in providing material comfort, but also in spiritual and emotional ones.
God wants us to be a vessel of His love, and we have the privilege and power in how we respond. We need to challenge ourselves to be such a vessel. It will transform our relationships with people, starting from the home. Seek God for His empowerment and He will make us over to be radical and uninhibited in our love.
NOTE: This article is a personal expression, guided extensively by the October Men Alive session and the seventh chapter in Patrick Morley’s ‘Man Alive’, 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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