June 5, 2019

The Good Guys

Gary Thomas — 

I got a call from a friend who had some extra time on his hands while he was at the airport waiting for his wife. “Hey, Gary,” he asked me, “why is it that when I came home from a trip, I’m always taking Uber to my house. But when my wife comes home, it’s assumed I’ll be there to pick her up? If I told her to call Uber, it would be a declaration of war!”

We laughed at the double standard and moved on.

Most of my guy friends live with double standards like that.

Another friend has served God and his family heroically. He paid for both of his kids to get through graduate school. He supported his wife while she got her doctorate. But he brings in 100% of the family’s income and he made a reasoned but somewhat risky business move. He still doesn’t know how it’s going to turn out.

He’s not worried about himself; he’s worried about his wife. “Gary,” he said, “I’m a bit old to start over. If this doesn’t pan out, or if I die before it does, what happens to [his wife]? That’s what drives me.”

He could live in a small apartment, but he can’t bear the thought of asking his wife to. He’s overwhelmed by the burden but he’s not responding to the anxiety with sinful behavior. I asked him about it out of concern, and he responded, “Gary, that’s what’s almost sad. I’m too old and tired to be tempted by besetting sin. I just want to go to sleep.”

A third friend, Kevin Harney, is a local church pastor, author, and co-founder of the Organic Outreach International ministry (with his wife). He has many responsibilities and a full life in ministry, but he also enthusiastically supports his wife in her ministry as a co-author on some of her writing projects and a co-presenter at some of her speaking engagements. In fact, one of his wife’s books, Praying With Your Eyes Wide Open is one of my favorite contemporary books on prayer (and I’ve read many books on prayer).

His wife’s younger brother died recently right before Sherry was scheduled to lead a conference on prayer.  Kevin quickly volunteered to step in to speak for her at the last minute so that her conference would not need to be cancelled (which would have been a great loss to those who had planned, advertised, and organized it). With a schedule already bursting at the seams, Kevin didn’t have time to do this but he made time to protect his wife’s name and interests. Then, that same day, he got on a plane, flew to join his wife on the other side of the country, and stood by her side as together they delivered the message at her brother’s funeral.

Those are the kinds of guy friends I have. I am surrounded by men who heroically serve, honor, respect, support and cherish their wives.

But when I read Christian blogs and go on social media, I’m bombarded by how awful men are, how they are abusive, power-hungry, dismissive of those who prey on women, and misogynistic. I don’t doubt these stories; many of the readers of this blog have been deeply hurt by men in all those categories. I agree with the voices of many that there needs to be not just less tolerance but no tolerance for the way women have been mistreated by men.

But for this one post, I’d like to highlight and pay deference to some of the good guys.

When I taught a seminary class that was equally divided between men and women, we all laughed at the difference between Mother’s Day sermons and Father’s Day sermons. On Mother’s Day, women get handed roses and chocolates and are told that everything good in the world is good because they created it, touched it, raised it, and blessed it. Men are handed shame, guilt and blame for world events, the breakdown of the family, and the anger of women in general. I just about lost it one Sunday when a pastor chose to preach on Amnon’s raping of Tamar on Father’s Day, asserting that, “if we think about it, all of us men are like Amnon.”

As Father’s Day approaches, let me say that I get why so many women are so angry at so many men. They have a reason to be. I am not defending misogyny, abuse of power, chauvinism, or other male ills. I also get that men’s sins tend to be “creepier” than the sins women are more likely to commit. Of course there’s a double standard. If a woman exposes herself, some wives think their husbands are creepy for looking. If a man exposes himself, everyone thinks he’s creepy for exposing himself. And they’re right.

But can we do one post to celebrate the good husbands, the ones who heroically serve, authentically love, sincerely cherish, and sacrificially give to their wives and children? Can I do that without raising the anger of those who want to vent about how awful their husbands, boyfriends, bosses or pastors have been?

The challenge in doing this is the simple fact that since every man has his compromises and conflicts, the question arises, how perfect does a man have to be to be celebrated?

Samson comes off in the Bible as a man driven by his lusts—for foreign women (including a prostitute), for gambling, and for violence. Samson murders thirty men for their clothes, just to pay off his gambling debts. When I preached on his life recently, I couldn’t use him as a positive example because he’s not. Yet…when you read Hebrews 11, he’s listed among the heroes of faith. Some contemporary bloggers would lose their minds at the writer of Hebrews if he was writing today. They’d boycott his books, demand he be fired and chased out of ministry forever until he is sufficiently shamed for being so insensitive as to imply there was anything positive to say about Samson.

Socially, it is open season on men in general and evangelical men in particular. Sadly, men and evangelicals have given their enemies many easy (and justified) targets to shoot at. But my nature is to be an encourager, and I see so many men and so many churches trying really hard, harder than anyone could imagine, to be among the “good” ones; to serve with good motives; to bless and lift up, not to exert power and authority for the sake of their egos; I see men who have given their wives very comfortable and pleasurable lives at great sacrifice to themselves; I see hundreds of pastors who love God’s word and want to preach it compassionately and fearlessly not for fame and certainly not for fortune, but because they genuinely love God and want to serve people. Yet, if there’s one sentence in a decades’ worth of sermons that could be misconstrued, or one decision in a thousand that may, in hindsight, have lacked discretion, they get pilloried and shamed.

I’m not challenging those who have been deeply hurt by husbands and male pastors, but I do want to encourage the men who feel taken for granted and who often get lumped in with those who deserve censure: God sees your service and your sacrifice.  While he hates your sin, he’s on your side and wants you to be forgiven and redeemed, not shamed and shunned. If God can find something to celebrate in a repentant Samson, and then honor Samson for that one small step, he can celebrate you in your repentant brokenness and quest to live a new life.

When I was preparing to preach on Samson (which you can hear here if you want to Samson: for just the sermon, scrub to 22:38). I came across a remarkable book written by Nate Larkin in 2006: Samson and the Pirate Monks: Calling Men to Authentic Brotherhood. With almost unbelievable candor and honesty, and astonishingly good writing (I’m surprised he hasn’t written another book), Nate writes about his horrendous fall into serious and addictive sexual sin, and the road out of it to a life of sacrificial service. I picked up the book hoping to glean something from the life of Samson but that’s not what the book is about. It’s a call for men to stop living independent lives, to form small societies of mutual support and encouragement. We’re not meant to live this life alone and an isolated man who feels shamed and alone is walking toward a fall.

Guys, you know we’re in an open season on men—for some understandable reasons. We’re not going to get a lot of empathy from “the crowd” or on social media. But we can support each other. We can let down our guard with other men and encourage each other to become the kind of men we aspire to be, men who won’t define us by our worst moments, but who will affirm God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness, and inspire us in our aspirations to live, love and serve like Christ.

And for those women, sisters in Christ and wives like mine who genuinely respect us and even like us in spite of our failings and mess ups, bless you. I include Beth Moore in this, who, while challenging the extremes, finds words to affirm the good among those with whom she now has legitimate theological disagreements. Such wives, speakers, writers and sisters in Christ are an oasis of nurturing encouragement in a very angry world.

I’d love for this post to make Samson and the Pirate Monks a best-seller. There are some ugly accounts in it, so for that reason I’d warn traumatized (and I mean that in an empathetic, not judgmental way) women to not read it.  But for men who are looking for honesty and a roadmap to encouragement in a world filled with condemnation, this book could be water in the desert.

For the good (not perfect) guys: thanks for your sacrifice. I hope your wives will even praise a few of you in the comments section below.

For those women who have been hurt deeply and traumatically by men: I’m not minimizing your pain. Your hurt is real and justified and needs to be taken seriously. You would have to be a robot not to feel angry and jaded. Just please, for this one post, don’t take offense when I tell some men, “Atta boy; keep it up, brother.”

And wives, if you want to praise your husband below as a message to single women that they don’t have to “settle” for a guy who doesn’t cherish his wife, feel free. I offer this as a very public “Happy Father’s Day” forum.

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75 responses to The Good Guys

  1. Worth more study. I have one of the good guys in my life. It is a mutual amount of sacrifice on both our parts. I would never let him Uber! 😁

  2. This might be your best blog post ever! So balanced and truth filled! Thank you!

  3. My husband is not perfect, but an amazing man. Yes, he has made mistakes and he has hurt me. But he has also worked extremely hard to learn from his mistakes and become a better husband, better man, and follower of Christ. And my husband has forgiven me for all the ways I have hurt him, because of my past. And he has never given up on me, on our marriage, on our family, or on his faith. When I was losing hope and not sure what to do, my husband would stay strong, encourage me, and point us back to God. Yes, my husband is one of the “good ones”, no…”one of the great ones”, and I am “one of the blessed wives”. 💗

  4. Yes, thank you for this post!
    I’ll never forget a warm day at 17 years old.
    I marched over to my father while he was standing outside by himself. I confronted him about why he sexually abused me.
    “It was my way of showing my love to you, ” he replied. I’m not sure what I said next but then he tried to French kiss as we parted. Gross.
    For the past 40 years, God saved me and has put me on His journey of restoration.
    I can honestly say it has been a privilege to learn how and choose to forgive my father at this deep place.
    And just as important, almost 30 years ago, God gave me a good, Godly and sexy man to marry!
    Has it been easy? Not at all. I took my anger out on Chris, at first. Lots of other dysfunction as well. But God…(favorite two words) continues to help us ‘work out our salvation’.
    The deep battles we have fought have finally brought us to understand the pure kindness of sex as well! What a tremendous gift from my heavenly Father as well as being married to a good, good guy ❤.

  5. Thanks for the encouragement and the calling us to celebrate the men who are leading godly lives ! I’m not married and don’t have a good father figure, but I’ve been blessed with godly pastors and peers who are amazing men, serving God with courage, gentleness, and passion for the Gospel in all they do.
    When girls complain they don’t know any “good guys”, I laugh because I know a dozen – who like me are pursuing God’s calling on their lives in unreached and unengaged communities around the world. One of the biggest challenges for these amazing brothers in Christ is that there aren’t (or very few) women who are also willing to sacrifice their comfortable lives and serve in those communities. But they choose to stay in those places, knowing it means singleness, rather than give up what God’s called them to do.
    Those are the good guys I know and am so thankful for their faith, commitment, and perseverance for the Gospel. They do need to be celebrated more and I am glad this post puts the spotlight on such men!

  6. My partner, Toby always tells me I’m beautiful. He gives 100 percent to our kids. He is learning to admit his mistakes, knowing he’s loved by God. He is starting to be honest. He laughs with the kids even when he’s tired and has had a long day. He is funny, loving, so good looking, impressive, strong, sweet, dedicated, and smart. He works hard to provide more money for us to live on. He asks me why I am upset, even when he doesn’t have any answers. He helps pick up the floors. He thinks about me everyday and tries to be a good partner. He makes plans for the kids, he thinks up interesting and healthy ideas for them during playtime. He listens to them when they are upset and he teaches them. He drives around the city, during work, trying to be a good man to everybody. He battles his demons with love. He changes. He forgives me for my uncontrolled anger. He keeps loving. He will always be there for his children. Please pray for us to stay together, to get married. Thank you, Gary, for your posts.

  7. I love this post because it speaks words of encouragement to our guys who are really laying their lives down for those around them. Our girls and I have been privileged to have three such men in our midst – my husband, my son and my son-in-law. They are hardworking and every day is marked with the desire to make our days go a little brighter and smoother. They are problem solvers and plan for the future. I am so blessed by all of them for their everyday sacrifice of time, resources and care. I locked myself out of my car the other day and called home feeling sheepish. My husband was in a meeting and my son came to help me out with a cheerful demeanor. He takes after his daddy.

  8. What a great article. I have one of the good ones. Not perfect but certainly chosen for me by our Father! Thank you Gary, we appreciate you and your willingness to share your wisdom!

  9. Mary Wolfinger June 15, 2019 at 5:28 pm

    I am so grateful for a father who loves my mom and has for 49 years, and loves his children and has always made us a priority. For a brother who led me to Christ, who adores and cherishes his wife and 3 daughters. And for my husband who is incredibly patient, a faithful provider and community servant, and who cherishes me daily.

  10. I love and honour men, I have one husband(dec) who worked very hard to provide for family,building our home with bare hands also 3 sons all doing a great job as husbands and fathers.I always pray for motorcyclists on road,guys working out on the roads,in all weathers,doing mining etc emergency work…the tough stuff.Thank you,where would we be without you.Not to mention men like my dad that gave up 5 yrs of their youth to go to war and come back changed forever.

  11. Kathleen Moots June 14, 2019 at 10:05 am

    Thank you for this post! I am also so grateful for the amazing man God has blessed me with. We have been through our share of storms and even a hurricane or two, but he loves God first and me second. We help shepherd a small group of newly married couples. I am going to share this post with all of the women today! Thank you again!