I love movies. Jeff’s reference to Open Range in his blog last week was a wonderful reminder of why I love movies. When done well, I love the stories they tell. Interestingly enough, I recently showed that same movie, Open Range, to a group of guys at my church. After watching the movie, we spent about 45 minutes discussing what we witnessed as we entered the world of the old west for the previous 2 hours.
The conversation was rich and engaging. Guys just seem to connect with films. They see the good in men that they’d like to model their lives after. They see the bad that they need to avoid or fight against. They see how both the heroes and the villains treat the women in their lives. The complex issues that are played out in the telling of a good story are the same complex issues that men face in one way or another every day.
What I’ve discovered is that men tend to talk about areas where they struggle as men more easily after having watch a movie that exposes some of those struggles in the men whose story they’ve just experienced vicariously.
One of the comments that the men picked up on in Open Range came from a scene in a saloon. After two of his partners were brutally bushwacked, one murdered and the other clinging to life by a thread, Charlie Waite and Boss Spearman went into town to set things right.
Charlie Waite, the civil war sniper turned gun-hand turned free-grazing cowboy, challenged the townsmen for refusing to stand up to the evil cattle baron who ruled the town with an iron fist and owned the local Sheriff. They saw what was wrong, but they felt powerless to change it.
One of the men responded to Charlie’s challenge: “What? Me and my boys, we’re freighters. Ralph here is a shop keeper. What can we do?”
Charlie’s response was simple but clear: “You’re men ain’t cha?”. After expressing their fear of dying, he followed up with, “You may not know this, but there are some things that naw at a man worse than dying.”
What Charlie’s cowboy wisdom exposed was the tendency for men to confuse who they are with what they do. I hear that so often out of the mouths of men that I work with. “I’m a carpenter, doctor, plumber, salesman, or engineer.” We men often hem ourselves in with a description of who we are as defined by what we do for a living. Don’t believe me? How many times have you seen a man lose his job and he doesn’t know who he is any more. Who are we without our work? We don’t know. And that’s why many men experience an identity crisis when they no longer are doing what they’re used to doing. They feel lost. They don’t know who they are as men.
(By the way, while this post focuses on men’s struggles, women tend to do the same thing, it just looks different. Women often identify themselves with the roles they play or the relationships they have: mother, housewife, nurse, lawyer, waitress, or manager. This is even more true as women continue to pursue careers outside of the home. Forgetting who we are is not an exclusive domain of men. It just tends to seep to the surface more obviously in men.)
God made men (and women) in his image (Genesis 1:26-27). We forget that timeless truth that has been true from the very beginning. We are male image-bearers or female image-bearers. There are no image bearers that are gender neutral. We’re either men or women, male or female.
The townsmen in Open Range forgot that they were men first . That’s who they were. What they did for a living, while important, was a distant second. And when men lose site of who they are, they live controlled by fear. And the Bible describes that as a loss of heart.
So, today, who are you? Have you forgotten that you’re a man (or woman) made in God’s image and worthy of love and respect because of who you are? Remember. Don’t forget.