Author: Zach van Meter
Last Friday I found myself at the rehearsal dinner of my beloved sister who was getting hitched the next day. The rehearsal had to be practiced inside because of rain, yet food and merry celebration followed with the wedding party and additional family. The cuisine and conversing went quite fluidly as one would assume, but now it was the time that everyone was either dreadfully or eagerly waiting for: toasting time.
Normally toasts can be in ranges from awkward to academic and/or stolid to a blubbering mess, which makes the expectations for the toasts a little more erratic. So, as I sat in my chair preparing for the potential onslaught of individual presentations, I was curious where in the range these toasts would fall.
Indeed, the first toast sets the tone, while others would be the catalyst to my own speech construction and help me outmatch any previous orators. The father of the groom stands up and is the spearhead of speeches. He begins slowly with the normal acknowledgement and appreciation to all attendees and then sets his eyes on his son and the bride and instantly starts crying. While struggling to dictate his words, I sit quietly in my chair internally battling the fact that I’m glad he loves his son and my sister, but now every speaker is probably going to release the floodgates; moreover, I haven’t a rain jacket (that was a bad attempt at a joke).
Like clockwork, all of the toasts afterwards included some waterworks, which obviously I enjoyed the impactful and loving words that were shared, but I had decided that I would diverge and take a different approach, hopefully one more comedic (those normally go over well in toasting settings).
Finally it was my turn to speak, and I began my stand-up performance with a story of my sister when she was a little girl. It was both nostalgic and hilarious in nature, so I got a lot of smiles and laughs – I was off to a good start. As I confidently continued to speak with dry eyes, I began shifting my speech to affirmation and appreciation of my sister and soon-to-be brother-in-law.
Then, as I began to say how much I loved each of them, a wave of emotion hit me out of nowhere and I began to cry instantly. It was almost unfair how quickly those waves of emotions had hit me, but it probably was because I had tried to bury them before I stood up; emotions can be quite vindictive. In the moment I reacted awkwardly and said, “men don’t cry” to try and make light of my embarrassing emotions. After I finished my speech and hugged the bride and groom-to-be, I sat down and analyzed my reaction to my emotions. Why did I say, “men don’t cry”? After all, my now father-in-law had cried and even my dad had as well – so why would I react that way? Honestly, it’s because I’m still trying to figure out how to be a man.
The world we live in is really confusing. There are so many indications and persuasions of how to be a man. Do this, look like this, think like this, act and respond like this – then you will be seen as manly. I feel like I have to be bigger, stronger, more confident, better looking, smarter, and more daring than others to prove my manliness. Hopefully someone can agree with me that showing any kind of personal struggle (sins) or “feminine” emotions (pain and suffering) will extinguish my right to have a “man card.”
It even ties into success and leadership – if you aren’t at the top of the food chain, there’s something wrong. All of these perceptions and personas of how manliness should be executed are completely ridiculous and reverse to how the Bible defines manliness.
When Jesus came on the scene, He completely blew everyone’s mind on how they should live their lives. Instead of responding in anger and “bowing up” when someone does you wrong, you turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-39). But he didn’t stop there, he said, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:44).
Jesus perfectly demonstrated and communicated humility instead of pride many times as well. When the disciples were trying to figure out who was the greatest in the group (a manly thing to do right?), Jesus responded, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. BUT not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.” (Luke 22:25-26, emphasis added).
Jesus also said, “But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45).
These words should definitely humble us and define our pursuit of manliness. Humility is not the only thing we have to strive for though. One of the other areas we lack as men is being vulnerable and dealing with our emotions (no matter how “girly” they feel). The modern-day church has turned into a masquerade, and it’s sad. Many believers put up a façade of perfection around other Christians. The truth is we all are imperfect sinners and should resolve to see our own sin and weaknesses and others’ not as something that needs to be hidden but as a reminder of our complete depravity and need for a savior, our Savior, Jesus. “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14).
Living in this freedom, we are called to release our sins and struggles to the Lord, allowing light to be shed on the darkness in our hearts – but what is the best way to do this besides pursuing the Lord’s presence? It’s using the body of believers that are around us! Men (and women too) really struggle to use the opportunity of community to be vulnerable. This should be a safe place to reveal areas of sin so that there may be restoration and true sharpening. James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”
And as we strive to be vulnerable as followers of Christ, we should strive to love as Christ loves. If Jesus wept, you better believe it’s reasonable for men to weep. Jesus wept because he felt compassion for others; in the same way, I cried because I truly love my sister and brother-in-law (I just wasn’t prepared for how much in that moment). We as men should pray every day to have a heart that is in tune with the heart of God so that we may be patient, gentle, compassionate, and loving just as Christ is. Let’s sacrifice our pride and the image we project and humbly present our struggles and emotions to the Lord and fellow believers. Let’s rest in the fact that real men cry.
Zach van Meter is the national advisor to the Texas, TCU, Texas Tech, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Missouri, Florida, and Yale BYX chapters. Zach graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2014. He and his wife Mary live in Dallas, TX.