“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6 NIV
Powerlessness is a horrible feeling to begin with. It seems particularly hard when it comes as a shock, as with the realisation that you have no control over a certain situation or relationship, and also especially hard for men. When a man is made redundant or struggles to find work, it is utterly devastating in our society which still places much of its value for males on career and purpose. It’s terrible if you are female as well, I don’t deny, but women tend to be more adaptable on the whole simply because we’ve had to learn to be, and because our very biology leads us to a different way of balancing career and home. I’m generalising of course, but impotency affects far more men than it does women, sexually and culturally. Men are far more motivated by the need for power and control, because in our patriarchal societies they are taught (sadly) that this is their role, to lead and be strong and be the breadwinner, the motivators, the top dogs, the alpha males.
When that illusion comes crashing round our ears, it is horrendously painful, confusing and frustrating. Often it causes deep wounds in our self-confidence and self-worth. When the one thing society says you ought to be able to do by virtue of your very gender, is something you cannot do, you are bound to feel like a lesser being, worthless and small.
Human power is, in the eternal, illusory, and in the earthly, fleeting at best. So when reality begins to break through into our worldly lives, it can actually be a good thing. As with any brokenness though it hurts! It leads to feelings of disenfranchisement, failure, emasculation and anger. It often leads to misogyny (as though women were to blame for the direction that society has taken) and a resentment towards both women (who remind us of the sexual power we feel we should be wielding) and those in jobs or leadership (who remind us constantly of our “failure”). We feel that everything we should be doing, indeed are entitled to do, sexually, culturally and economically, has been unfairly taken away from us.
But more and more, I feel that what the world calls failure is the beginning of a new understanding, a deeper and more spiritual way forward. Patriarchy is crumbling, manufacturing industries and traditional male roles are changing and becoming areas of equality and co-operation, and sadly some men feel they need to protect the old ways at all costs when we could actually be moving on into a new way of being manly that is far greater and more satisfying all round.
Men who have fallen from the heights can be humble, gracious, and they can be stronger for it. They can be wiser, gentler, more rounded people. They can think outside of stereotypes. They can be (this is so important) true to themselves. They can be more resistant to foolish expectations and mockery. They can find new places to stand and new ways of expressing their masculinity and their sexuality, that never belittle women.
They can relax into the knowing that God is the one who ought to be given all the real power, and bow to that, becoming a meaningful part of the Lord’s purposes. Power without purpose is just self-serving after all, and rather frustrating and boring itself. To serve a greater end, that of love, of justice, of a different kind of everlasting kingdom, that is really something. In God, men can find their true calling and discover that it is about being a whole human being, and be freed from feeling the need to try to fulfil the harsh and constricting expectations of an antagonistic, backwards looking culture.
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