When I attended my church’s men’s retreat last fall, one of the men who entertained us was named “Cookie,” who works as a cook for hunting and fishing trips and is big enough to be TWO men. His comment about our first camp breakfast, that consisted mostly of fruits and grains if I recall, was “that wasn’t a meal. That’s what food eats. To make a good meal, ‘SOMETHING’S GOTTA DIE!’” The men at the retreat probably remembered those three words more than anything our special speaker said during his four teaching sessions.
I suppose that, like me, you celebrated your 4th of July this year not with fruits and veggies, but with some kind of meat that required a sudden, but hopefully humane, death of some animal. Otherwise, the whole summer barbeque thing just wouldn’t quite be the same.
As I have reflected on this “something’s gotta die” truth from Cookie, the Philosopher, I realize that this principle relates to so much that God has to teach us on our journey. For one thing, I think this idea explains why so many of us who profess to follow Christ try to go through so much family pain alone without sharing our burdens with someone else. In fact, we can meet with and interact with other believers, and yet keep our pain hidden behind a mask of “having it all together.” And when we walk away from that other person, we feel more burdened, discouraged and alone than if we had never “connected” in the first place.
To be willing to begin to receive help from another man, a friend, a brother in Christ, I have to “die” to my false belief that it is better to portray an image of success to others than to be honest with myself and a trusted friend or two. The “death” part may well mean facing and revealing to another man my weakness, my failure or my helplessness to change a harmful habit. And by the way, for most of us men, we did not have this modeled to us by our fathers, so this will feel like a particularly “unmanly” thing to do.
But this “death” is not the end of the story. As we dare to share our struggles and weaknesses with a trusted friend who will then pray for us, we unleash the resurrection power of Christ to turn that very weakness into an opportunity where we come to know Christ in His sufficiency like never before. (See James 5:16, 2 Corintians 12:9-10.) And we will find that we are no longer alone and we are able to grow in true Christian fellowship and experience through another brother the reality that God truly is close to the brokenhearted. (Psalm 34:18)
So here’s the point: there is no way to avoid family discouragement, heartache and pain for the man who is committed to love his family for a lifetime. As I have walked alongside men who have lost their marriages or who are helplessly watching their grown children walk far from God, I am convinced that the Heavenly Father’s heart for us is not to HOLD UP some ideal picture of what an ideal Christian family “should look like.” That only drives the rest of us who can’t measure up to HIDE and suffer quietly. But, I believe, He would have us courageously face whatever pain may come our way and allow it to drive us to a greater dependence upon HIM and upon one another.
Because we live in a sinful, fallen world, experiencing family disappointment is inevitable. But to go through these challenges without prayer and support is tragic and unnecessary. Something’s gotta die. That “something” may just be our clinging to a foolish belief that we are expected to walk this journey of commitment to our family for a lifetime alone.