Chris De Man is a husband to one, father to five, and reluctant dog owner. After 15 years in engineering, he finished a degree at Liberty Theological Seminary and transitioned to employment in the church. He currently serves as the Director of Support Ministries at Blythefield Hills Baptist Church in Rockford, MI. His passions are coffee, old books, and a bit of blogging (dwellingunderafriendlysky.
blogspot.com). He is deeply vested in ministering to men and young families and recently coauthored the book Man Made: Reclaiming the Passage from Boy to Man.
The origin of that scar is tangled in a wonderful web of boyhood adventure. My elementary years found me joyfully locked in a close male friendship. A friendship of the best type.
My pumpkin orange Huffy bike and I wore a path through our suburb to my friend’s house. His house was much more fun than mine. A friend’s always is. And him having a pine-forested backyard and an old apple orchard across the street certainly sweetened the deal.
My friend and I spent many afternoons busying ourselves with the activities of boyish play. Things like shooting flies in a junkyard with an under-powered BB gun. Hiking through the pine forest with provisions of polish sausage and cheese. Sharpening sticks just because. Frying ants with magnifying glasses. Riding bikes along sandy trails. Sighting-in a slingshot with the help of unsuspecting blue jays. Searching for the once-seen and forever-elusive Blue Racer. Or just lazing in the crook of a tree in moments of boredom.
I thoroughly enjoyed my friend. Our bond was special. For sure, our talks weren’t much deeper than baseball cards and apple wars. But we cared for each other. We were inseparable. We even won the three-legged race on Field Day at school. We were tight.
And then came grade 5. My friend moved away. Far away. I don’t recall crying. But I could now. There would be no more ”fixing” our unbroken bikes. Or boxing until punch-drunk in his basement. Or building snow forts with tunnels. Or taunting chipmunks. Never again would we be held “hostage” together by the mean 6th graders around the corner. Something inside me died. But like my friend, life moved on.
The sad thing about boyhood is its brevity. Too soon the worries of adult life suck the air from youthful wonder. The rugged individualism of manhood coupled with a curse of passivity yields an army of Lone Rangers. Men disengaged from relationship with other men – real relationship that goes further than sports scores and lawn care. Relationships that are an adult-sized version of what I had with my childhood buddy.
In my case, it was pride. I blocked my path to manly friendship but didn’t know it. I thought myself immune to the lies and traps that plague all men. Things like lust, inadequacy, worry, inferiority, laziness, anger, loneliness, and work. I was shackled in a prison of denial, too proud to see how lonely and isolated I was. I was unable to see the shiny, happy façade I’d made that kept relationships safely superficial. My perceptions of manliness left no room for trite, childlike friendships. There were places to see, things to do, worlds to be conquered. Who has time to talk life or get emotional? Suck it up, don’t be a baby, and get busy!
Unfortunately, my jacked-up Teddy Roosevelt rough-riding persona has no place in the life of a Christ-follower. I was empty. Deserted on the island of me. I needed rescue.
So God sent a friend.
A handful of friends, actually. Men who love Jesus. Men who love me. Men who used the light of Scripture to expose my self-centered imprisonment. Men who came, like Jonathan to David, to “strengthen my hand” in the Lord (1 Sam. 23:16). Even today, these men aren’t afraid to look me in the eye and speak the truth with love. To encourage and challenge. To pray with and for me. They are biblically authentic men.
Richard Rohr said, “The false self is a privately manufactured and maintained ‘I am.’ The true self is our participation in the great ‘I Am'” (Adam’s Return, p. 44). Too long was I bound by the lie that I was big enough to handle life. That seeking help was weak and unmanly. That my shoulders were plenty broad to handle life’s weight. Sadly, such thinking squeezed out the source of anything truly manly in my living – Jesus Christ.
I am deeply grateful for the spiritual posse God sent to rescue me. Sure, it took time to reengage and establish trusted, Christ-centered relationships. And it was painful to face the sin of my overly developed ego. In the end, my new manly friendships were key to helping me move from a worldview of “I am” to the “I Am.”
My childhood friendship, with all its fun and mischief, ignited in me a yearning all men carry. A thirst to share committed male friendships. To be fully known and accepted. To speak and be spoken to quickly, boldly, and redemptively. I thought I outgrew what I enjoyed as a boy. I was wrong.
Men, there is nothing noble about being a Lone Ranger. Don’t stifle the hunger the Creator has crafted inside you. A hunger for relationships with other men who seek the Kingdom first. God’s wisdom calls each of us to be in relationship. Too many men are falling – with no one to pick them up. (Eccl. 4:10).
I’ve taken off my Lone Ranger mask. How about you?