Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What makes a boy a man?

Above is the subject of my current existential crisis. It's not something I haven't wrestled with before. It's something I tried and failed to get into the conversation of the Boon boys last year when I organized our first ever "Boon Church ExtravaMANza". It's something that Mark Driscoll originally got me interested in when someone sent me a near-viral youtube clip of him lambasting the boys in his church. And nearly three years ago, on my xanga page, I wrote that my lesson for the year of 2008 was:

Passion without temperament is immaturity

Anyway, as life cycles, I find myself revisiting this issue and experiencing a deep discomfort with where I am right now, prompting this following brain dump.

Last December, right before I left for my MAP internship in Australia, Stanley asked me how I saw myself in terms of maturity. My reply was, "severely conflicted". When I look around at those my age, I see many ways in which I am clearly ahead of my peers. I am wiser, more biblically literate, more responsible, more driven to pursue God, more articulate, and I had a car. But when I considered the spiritual giants that I endeavor to imitate, I feel miles behind and despair at the long way I have to go. I feel self-centered, self-conscious, irresponsible, uncaring, unthoughtful, unsteady, under-dressed, rash, temperamental, immoderate, immodest, and immature. I know that last one kind of covers the whole thing, but I needed a third "im-" for the poetic value. I feel like a sapling next to a mighty oak. I feel like the Stuyvesant freshman with the giant backpack taking the LIRR with all those well-dressed Wall Street big guns who live out in Manhasset. Like I said... brain dump.

Some days, I make decisions that surprise myself; decisions I wouldn't have had the godly wisdom to make in the past. Some days I make decisions so appallingly boyish that I wonder if I might have even grown backwards. It doesn't help when people remark about how young I am to be a MAP apprentice. Before I came to Australia, one of my desires was to work a year or two before locking myself into the ministry track. Conversations with Don eventually convinced me to dive right in. I wish I had thought about it some more. Back then, I didn't know that certain plumblines of worldly maturity overlapped with biblical maturity, such as financial responsibility. That one still really kills me.

On Friday evenings I feel like line (a) and on Sunday evenings I feel like line (b.)

In me is an ever constant fear that I may slow down in growth, regress to the mean, and even begin to lag behind those in my cohort. A great part of that fear is sinful. It arises from my desire to stay ahead of the pack, to shine, to be the young gun. It's pride and I need to daily repent of that, asking God to help me make less of myself and more of him to works in me and him whose energy I daily labor with. Actually, this fear is mostly that. It's mostly pride. But it reminds me of an issue I faced also about a year ago: the issue of whether I run to finish first or to avoid finishing last. For some people, the verb "to chase" is in an active voice and for others, it is in passive. Why are some people chasers and other people ones being chased? Why do I consistently find myself in the latter category?

It's not that I haven't considered the ways in which I've clearly grown. I've taken a major step forward ("Major Stepforward") in romance and relationships. Ironically, romance and relationships is the subject matter than launched me into this crisis. Another way I've grown is out of the pathetic shell of fatalistic determinism. I've grappled with the angst of my ownmost possibility and won. I can accept the responsibility of my choices now. My life is no longer ruled by cause but by will.

Having said that, last night I woke up in the middle of the night and made a major realization ("Major Realization"). I realized that demographically, there is no one in the world with a greater capacity to do ministry... nay, to do anything, than me right now. I am a young, healthy, single male with minimal relational attachments and very few financial obligations. I can survive on rent money and oatmeal. Actually, that thought's crossed my mind many times before. What was new last night was the frightening irresponsibility when I do less than more than other people.

So as not to end this post Psalm 88-style, here is an article by the world's most boring tweeter, Reverend R. Albert Mohler, on the marks of manhood. It is oftentimes hard and confusing to distinguish what the world says about manliness (enjoying the taste of rare meat, able to hold down large amounts of alcohol, opting to "walk it off" instead of seeing a doctor) and what Scripture says. It's really a mess of truths, half-truths, and complete lies out there. This article has helped me to identify categories that I may think about and reflect upon separately.

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