Recently I have stumbled across the show Man vs. the Wilderness. If you haven’t heard of the show before let me explain it. In each episode ex-special forces Bear Grylls is dropped into a remote location with the bare essentials and survives for a week until he makes his way to civilization. His week consists of navigating dangerous terrain, locating sources of water, and finding food. I was particularly struck by a segment in the American South in which he comes upon an alligator in the swamp. Carefully circling the creature in the muddy water he suddenly jumps upon its back. Wrestling with the alligator he pins its front legs back and forces its head on top of a log, while pinning its mouth shut. Then Bear takes a knife and plunges it into the back of the head of the gator, all the while providing colorful commentary of what he is doing. With the dead alligator hanging from his back Bear then walks off to find a place to cook the meat.
Something about that segment made me think, “Now there’s a really man.” Of course in thinking this made an assumption about what it means to be a man. The coming of age story is a common theme in literature and movies. It’s something that fascinates us. Many a young man has struggled with what it means to be a man. If there the same king of struggle with womanhood, I haven’t noticed it. I don’t know because I am not a woman and am not qualified to comment on.
There are many opinions on what it means to be a man, which can be quite confusing to a young male trying to understand what it means to be an adult. At my church there is a car I often end up parking near with a bumper sticker that says, “Real Men Love Jesus.” Being a “Real Man” is dependent on loving Jesus. I have to confess that I find this to be a stupid bumper sticker. If the owner of that car is reading this then I apologize to you, but you sticker is still dumb. I believe that God’s view of whether a person is a man or a woman depends much more on anatomy and biology than whether they love Jesus or not. You may think I am trying to make a cheap joke, but I say this with sacred seriousness.
God creating man in his own image made him human; being a man was a consequence of being designed a certain way. The only condition for being a man was being made of dirt. Obviously there are certain characteristics that are usually associated with being a man. Men like explosions, fast cars, and are attracted to women. We like to compete and test our strength. Many a female has tried to understand why we are like this. My only explanation is that our brains were pickled by testosterone before birth. Yet lacking these characteristics, testosterone one excluded, doesn’t mean a man is not a man. Attraction to women and killing animals for food are God designed expression of manhood, not the thing itself. Realizing this was a great encouragement to me as wrestled over the question. Instead of having to prove something or act a certain way to be considered a man, I already had what was needed.
The real question should be; what kind of man do you want to be? Notice that after man was created, God had a certain way he wanted man to live so that he would function best. God put man in a garden, provided him with a woman, and told him not each from a certain tree. Otherwise, the man had free range to name the animals and shape bushes to look like unicorns if he felt like it. Each man has to decide what kind of man he is going to be and what to do with what he has already been given.
Back to Man vs. the Wilderness. I am guessing that the majority of men watching the segment that I described at the beginning enjoyed what they saw. Something surged inside at watching the display of strength in the face of danger. As for women, I am guessing that the majority were trying to understand what was so entertaining about it or why this guy was even wrestling with an alligator in the first place. Both are good expression of how God created males and females and should be enjoyed. If you didn’t respond along the lines I describe, God has probably created you to express your manhood or womanhood in a different way. His guidelines are strict, but within them there is great variety and freedom.