I believe that one of the biggest struggles facing men today is not one of sin.
We are all born in sin, and as human beings living in a fallen world, we will struggle throughout our lives with different sins. Some we will gain complete victory over, (through Christ of course), while others will remain a major battle in our lives requiring prayer, meditation, effort, discipline, repentance and God’s grace and forgiveness. James 1, 2&3 tells us to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience”. Over time I’ve come to accept and even embrace my struggles as opportunities to lean on God and look to Him for strength, instruction and escape in those troubling times. My broken human state also allows me to understand weakness which gives me compassion and empathy for those that I wouldn’t have otherwise. No, sin is not the major struggle facing men today; it’s a reality of the world we live in and the reason why God sent his Son to die for us.
One of the biggest struggles facing men today is leadership. The concept of knowing how to lead, when to lead and embracing the responsibility and challenges that come with it.
Growing up, I was always a fan of movies where the hero defied all the odds and stood up for what was right. Even when everyone else gave up on the cause, our hero stood his ground fighting the good fight no matter what the cost. To me, this was the example of leadership. Leaders were loners that didn’t need anyone. They had unwavering strength and character demonstrating it time and again. I especially loved movies where the hero turned a personal tragedy into a cause or platform for good. Braveheart and Gladiator are a couple of my favorites as I’m sure they are with most men. These characters defined the type of man and leader that I wanted to be.
When director Christopher Nolan reintroduced Batman in 2005, He introduced a concept of leadership that was new to me; support leadership. Nolan’s “Batman Begins” beautifully examples the support system that Bruce Wayne builds around himself before engaging organized crime as The Dark Knight. Bruce partners himself with a few key men to hold him accountable and keep him focused on the task at hand. Bruce forms alliances with James Gordon, one of the few honest cops not on the payroll of the mob. This connection will enable Bruce to keep the justice system informed and let them know he is working with them to clean up the city. He works with Lucius Fox, the head of R&D at Wayne Enterprises. Lucius will help supply Batman with all the cool gadgets and vehicles to help him fight crime. Bruce chooses these men not only for their placement and the advantages that they provide to him, but also because of their character and integrity. He will need this accountability to keep him from falling too far down the path of the vigilante. As boys, we all dream of being the brave cop or a successful business man/inventor, but the most important and influential man in Bruce’s life was a person that most of us would never in a million years aspire to be; a butler.
Alfred is a fantastic example of the servant leadership that Christ teaches and challenges us to be in His Word. When Bruce’s family is tragically murdered, Alfred steps up raising Bruce and mentoring him to be a leader that makes a difference. Alfred challenges Bruce to be more than what others expect; to be a man that looks beyond his own needs and puts others first. My favorite scene in the film is during a heated conversation between Bruce and Alfred when a college aged Bruce asks Alfred,” Why do you even gives a damn, I’m not your family!?!” Alfred’s response shook my core and challenged me in a way that I had not been challenged before. Alfred calmly replied, “I give a damn because a good man once made me responsible for what was most precious to him in the whole wide world.” It was as if God was speaking to me through a superhero movie, and I guess he was. God was saying to me that leadership isn’t always about being recognized, being respected, or doing the impossible. In fact it’s rarely that. Leadership is about staying the course day in and day out. It’s about recognizing strengths and abilities in others that they may not see in themselves. It’s about nurturing those qualities, encouraging those people and being there, especially when they lose sight. It’s about picking them up when they fall, dusting them off and saying, “I haven’t given up on you and I never will!”
I’ve been a husband and a father for 20 years this summer. As with all marriages and families, I’ve had my share of challenging times when things seemed too much to bear. In those moments I’ve heard Satan’s cynical voice ask me, “Why do you give a damn?” I’ve found much power and comfort in this response, “I give a damn because God once made me responsible for what was most precious to him, my wife and children. I give a damn because God once sent his son to die for me so that I may live and do it abundantly.”
Strive to lead with a servants heart men! Form alliances with others to encourage, challenge and hold each other accountable. Embrace the Alfred in you!