And by this blog title, we do not refer to the physical measures of a man. We are not talking metric and imperial units here. Professional athletes do not get a free pass. We are asking one question: What is a real man? What would be the increments on the measuring stick that sizes up a real man?
A quick disclaimer to all the women reading this: please do not feel undervalued. Yes, this series is directed at men. But a massive reason behind that is because of one thing: I am convinced that one of the biggest problems in the world is our men. However, I take it that many of the points I will make are valuable for both genders. So feel welcome.
And if you are game, keep reading.
Ultimately, the measure of all men is Jesus Christ. This is the ultimate premise behind every post in this series. Jesus Christ is the standard. The straps of his sandles I, and every man that has or ever will be, are unworthy to untie. And he came to set every man and woman free from his and her failures and fallings short. Therefore, we look to Jesus.
It is fitting, therefore, that we are going to work by an acrostic word. STRAP. Each letter stands for something that I characterise as being a true hallmark of a real man. And to do that – we are going to privilege the voice of men. And I’m not just talking males. From now on, when we refer to a man, we are talking about a man. A real man.
Another quick disclaimer: I by no means consider myself a model of any of these qualities. Hear this. It is precisely as a result of my own failure and frustration that I was forced to consider what it takes to be a real man. So. Disclaimer over. Let’s get into it.
France has the Eiffel Tower. England the Big Ben. USA the Statue of Liberty. Egypt the Pyramids. Australia the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
And these are (to some degree) the face of each respective country. They are all grand sculptures. Incredible works of architecture, structurally secure, flawless pieces of work. A brilliant showcase of what mankind is capable of.
That’s what makes my hometown pretty unique. There are two things iconic of Port Willunga. A broken down jetty and a shipwreck. Not exactly the height of human achievement.
Quite the opposite.
There is a strange beauty in wreckage that has stood the test of time
The shipwreck involved the deaths of many members aboard the ship. What was made structurally secure came to a horrific ending. Likewise the jetty, once very practical and useful to the area, stands as testament of lost relevance.
And yet, these things have become something of an attraction to our area.
Hundreds of people snorkel out to the shipwreck each summer. A cafe has been named after the ship. Heaps of people get married in front of the jetty remains. Tons of people take photos of the sunset through the jetty, which regularly appears on adverts showcasing the raw beauty South Australia has to offer.
We go about our lives trying to be this ideal work of art. Presenting ourselves and striving towards this image of greatness. Qualified. Confident. Secure. Flawless.
And there’s no wondering why we do this. Society depicts through magazines and advertisements architecturally flawless people. A people structurally secure in wealth and health. Confident in qualifications and relationships. The pinnacle of mankind.
And when we compare ourselves against perceived perfection, flaws surface.
Personal struggles hit peak activity. Social awkwardness steps up a gear. Feelings of inadequacy hit hard. We fail in subjects at school or university. We are made redundant from work. We lose relationships and friendships with people we care deeply about.
All of a sudden we are comparing The Statue of Liberty against a Shipwreck.
My Uncle posted this as his profile picture.
At first it seemed a little funny, as this is just a photo of some random old dude. We needed answers. Had Tassie really aged him this much?
He explained. ‘There is beauty in people and our society too often covers over the faults and lines and damage in order to fit in.’
I love this. It really gets to the heart of what it takes to be a human. As much as we try to put our best foot forward, life happens. Situations in life are often very far from perfect.
Perhaps trying to hide all of our scars isn’t the answer.
Our scars tell a story.
There’s a strange beauty in the wrinkles and sun-torn skin of a weathered individual.
My Dad once ran our Sunday School lessons. I’m slightly biased, but they were literally the most fun ever. There were two activities we all loved.
The first was the Atomic Fireball challenge. Atomic Fireballs were these extremely hot lollies. Straight out of the middle of the earth those things. The challenge was to try and keep just one in your mouth. It was intense stuff. Especially for an 8-10 year old.
This one time a certain curly haired, boisterous kid by name of Joram put about 5 in his mouth at once. I’ve had a weird sense of respect for him since that day.
Our other favourite activity was sharing our scar stories. How it worked was pretty simple. We would sit in something resembling a circle, and show our scars to the group whilst recounting the accident that created them.
Some of the stories were absolute classics. It was always a funny time. Skateboard accidents. Bike crashes. Running into closed screen doors. What once brought us to tears, we could now laugh about in front of our friends.
You see, the scar stood as testament of the healing process.
‘He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. Beaten so we could be whole. Whipped so we could be healed.’ -Isaiah 53:5
Jesus. Not some photoshopped, money motivated, perverted picture of perfection.
Perfect in every way.
And knowing our deepest flaws, Jesus was willingly put through a ridiculously excruciating death. Whipped relentlessly, skin ripped from his back, blood loss in extreme proportions. There were scar stories all over his body.
But not just scars that told a story. Scars that rewrite a story.
Jesus. Who by profession created new things with nail and wood, willingly submitted himself to his own instruments to make us new (2 Corinthians 5:17). And by his resurrection, Jesus proved even the deepest scars of sin cannot overcome God’s kingdom.
Kingdom literally translated is King’s Dominion – just shortened. So because Jesus smashed sin and death to pieces, his dominion extends beyond death. Because Jesus lives, his kingdom endures.
And we are all given full access to His kingdom (Ephesians 2:18-19). Because in Jesus alone we find the way to truth and fullness of life (John 10:10; 14:6).
Now and beyond the grave.
Jesus rose from death with scarred hands and feet. The scars from the cross did not magically vanish, rather they served as witness to his power over death.
‘For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus…’ – Ephesians 2:10
To be a Christ follower is crazy unique.
We don’t claim to be a Statue of Liberty. We don’t claim to be flawless people. We don’t claim to be a showcase of what mankind is capable of. In fact, we boast in the exact opposite (2 Corinthians 12:9).
We don’t claim to be without fault because we simply aren’t.
In fact, maybe you feel like your life has been an absolute shipwreck. Everything is falling into ruins. Your life has become a story of lost relevance, everything now just a shadow of your past.
But in Jesus, we do claim something amazing has been made of our ruins.
We are made new (Ephesians 2:8-10). Not made new in the absence of our wreckage, as if God turns a blind eye to all our issues. Made new in the presence of our wreckage, that stands as testament of our healing. Wear those scars with dignity.
All will marvel at our wreckage that stands the test of time.