I grew up always feeling like the outsider. Sometimes I put myself there. Sometimes others put me there. Sometimes I would put myself there before others could put me there. Regardless, I always had the desire to be an insider. I was awkward, nerdy, smart and non sporty. I didn’t fit into the world of men. My father and brother were in an emotionally dependent relationship that excluded me for decades. No matter how much I tried to enter the world of men, every entrance was blocked. It was painful and isolating. So I simply stopped trying to enter the arena where masculinity was forged and set up shop just outside. If they didn’t want me, I didn’t want them either. Or so I tried to convince myself.
When my father did eventually venture into my kingdom I had established a life without him. I considered his presence an interruption in the daily ebb and flow of my life. My resistance was met with his resistance and a lifetime struggle for dominance began. I moved the boundary lines of my kingdom further away to prevent further intrusion. Deep down I longed for a connection to other men. Men I hoped would never hurt me the way other men had.
My first straight friend in college was a pilot who had grown up without a father. We were the same age, but he was rough and tumbled and always grabbed life by the b…well he lived more dangerously than I did. His name was Shawn. Shawn gave me hope that there were men out there who would accept me. I flew all over Oklahoma with him. We planned to room together the next semester at OK state. Shawn didn’t return to school. I was devastated. I felt abandoned by another man. This was the first of many lessons I would learn. People will always come in and out of your life. You can’t control it. It is best just to flow with it. Change is the norm.
Year after year, the elusive straight guy relationship never materialized. I substituted gay relationships. I had to compromise my beliefs, but I still eeked out some connection with masculinity. God was forever working to show me that I had a place in the world of men. Some 10 years later, God used the last guy I dated to show me there was still hope for my desire to connect with men in the right way. The level of intimacy would obviously be different than what I was used to, but God has ordained a place for me in the world of men. It was my hope of being accepted by other men that had faded, not my desire.
Slowly but surely God used all kinds of guys to mold me and shape me into the man I am today. Over the past three days I helped my roommate, who happens to be a general contractor, build the inside of a McDonald’s Restaurant. I went into the experience fearful about being the least knowledgeable of the four people on the job. God quickly packed in the experience. It was hard labor, but it was also healing to my masculine soul in so many ways. It was the simple camaraderie combined with the feeling of belonging in a man’s world that made it worthwhile. This entire weekend was a billboard for Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” At one point, one of the carpenters on the job gave me one of his carpentry pencils to mark the boards I was cutting. It was a simple gesture, but the heart of a rejected little boy rejoiced. It wasn’t the pencil I will cherish. It was the simple act of kindness that sparked hope and destroyed the lies of the enemy in my life.
Forever, I have pictured myself a bumbling fool around adult men. I feel like they know there is an impostor in their midst. Yet all my efforts this weekend can be summed up in the praise and encouragement I received from my roommate, my friend.
“I have faith in your ability and readiness to learn. You don’t give yourself enough credit.”
“You are amazing and you don’t even know it.”
And last, “You don’t understand who you are.”
He was right. Most days I don’t understand who I am. That is when I have to shut out the world, get into the word and read Psalm 139 for the 91st time. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. All of God’s works are wonderful.
How beautifully poetic that God would send yet another carpenter into my life to leave an indelible mark of hope and restoration.