Somewhere in the 20th century I believe healthy masculinity took a wrong turn. It wasn’t immediate and sharp but more of a gradual curve taking decades to journey, landing us far from anything remotely resembling healthy masculinity.
For millennia men have had the support of brothers around them. Any number of cultures from around the world and throughout history could speak to healthy male friendship, brotherhood, masculine integrity, supporting brothers when they were down, sad, wounded, afraid, and celebrating with them when they rejoiced. I will stick with one example from history. One man. One voice speaks to us still today if we are willing to have ears that hear.
Throughout the gospels we read of the Son of Man who laughed, encouraged the little children to come to him, had compassion on the crowds, wept at the tomb of Lazarus, became angry with the money changers, withdrew to a solitary place after the beheading of his cousin John, and the list goes on. Jesus was a man who felt emotion; emotions that he himself had put into mankind when he created him in the image of God. Take a closer look at the Son of Man on one fateful night.
On the evening of his arrest Jesus took eleven men to the garden of Gethsemane. Eight of the men settled down and then Jesus brought his three closest friends just a little farther with him asking them to watch and pray. Translation: “Please hold space for me. I need you. I don’t want to be alone. I’m anxious and sorrowful.”
Three of the four gospels give an account of what happened that night in the garden before Jesus was arrested. Matthew and Mark describe Jesus as troubled and overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Luke conveys that the Lord, being in anguish, had sweat like drops of blood pouring off of him. Anguish: great distress, anxiety, pain and suffering.
Jesus prays to his Abba. What else can he do? He has a mission to fulfill and he knew that his time has come to fulfill it. Pausing from prayer he goes back to Peter, James and John and finds them sleeping. He questions them upon waking, “Could you not watch one hour with me?” Translation: “I need you! I feel alone! Please hold space for me, support me, and hold vigil. I don’t need you to say a word. I don’t need you to fix this. I just need you to be present with me.“ They fall asleep two more times. Perhaps it is due to their slumber that Luke tells of an angel sent to Jesus to strengthen him for the task that lay before him?
Don’t miss it. We serve a God who needs! We serve a God who feels, emotes, and sweats. We serve a Creator who chose to lean on those He created. Did you catch that? Jesus felt all these things and needed the men around him. If the Creator of the Universe needed men, and felt the entire palette of emotion, why do men of 21st century western culture think we don’t need men? Or should need men? Or that it’s weak to feel and have difficult, vulnerable conversations with men? When did being masculine stop being so masculine?
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us – and laughed, cried, grieved, expressed anger, wrestled with anxiety, hungered, had thirst, felt compassion, loved, and needed his brothers! The Son of Man modeled for us how to be men. The Son of man modeled brotherhood and male friendship to us. It is not too late to learn from his example and hold space for the Son of man by holding space for each other as men.