Being the man | MOSS Part 11

by You Have My Word

Find out what MOSS is about here. Kurt Schroder writes brutally, often tackling topics that hold the potential to crush (not just step on) toes, but with an evident edge of grace. Like a brother to me, Kurt is on an eventful journey to becoming the man God desires. Check out his blog here, and follow him on Twitter here.

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I have three prominent memories of my childhood. The first was of me and my dad piecing together a green “Ninja Turtles” bicycle which he had bought me for Christmas one year.

The second was of my mom throwing an alarm clock against my parents’ bedroom wall in an argument with my pop, followed by me running out of our driveway, chasing after my dad’s car as he drove away.

He didn’t stop.

I didn’t get to say goodbye that time.

My third memory was of a middle-aged woman in a grey dress. She was a social worker who came ’round to our house to explain to my older sister and I that our parents were getting divorced. All I remember from that conversation was my sister crying, and that the grey-dressed lady had a bit of pink lipstick on her front teeth.

My parents got divorced when I was three years old. For a long time I hated that lady in her grey-dress, because I believed that it was her fault I couldn’t see my dad everyday.

My dad was my hero. He was Batman and I was Robin. In my mind, he was the greatest man in the world, and I wanted to be just like him. In fact, until a few years ago, my greatest fear was disappointing my father.

A year or two after the divorce my pop moved away to live on a farm in the Eastern Cape (province, South Africa). His parting words to me were “Look after your sister and your mom. You’re the man of the house now.”

I took that charge very seriously. I was “ready for the position.”

The naivety of my youth had me convinced.

At 7 years old, I became the “man of the house.” I refused to give up that title, no matter what.

Life carried on. My mom got re-married and in 2000 my younger sister was born. My mom’s new husband was a successful businessman and neither myself nor my sisters were ever for lack or want of anything. I developed a good relationship with my step-dad. He was often away on business, but when he was around, he treated us all very well. My step-dad was, and is, an incredible man – but I refused to acknowledge that he might be “the man” in the house.

I didn’t get to see my pop nearly as much as I would have liked to anymore. Where, before, I would spend every weekend with him, now I only got to see him once or twice a year during the holidays.

However, when those holidays rolled around, they were filled with awe and wonder. I was my father’s shadow wherever he went on his farm. “Batman and Robin, patrolling Gotham City!” I would tell myself as we drove around. Wherever we went, I wanted to know everything my dad was doing, how he was doing it, and then would ask him to teach me to do it too.

I drove (and crashed) my first bakkie with my dad.

I wheelie’d a tractor with my dad.

I built a motorbike with my dad.

I caught my first fish with my dad.

When I was with my dad, I tried to learn everything I could, desperate to do justice to the tag of “man” that I had sheepishly tried to make my own.

Just before I went to high school, my older sister and I made the familiar journey down to my dad’s farm. In the midst of my excitement and day-dreaming of the holiday ahead, I failed to notice that my sister had a few more bags packed than normal. A little over two weeks later, I took the bus home.

My sister was not sitting next to me that time.

“Home” was no longer the same place for her and I.

I returned to my mother’s house, my heart raging and broken.

Batman had a new live-in side-kick, and so I figured, soon enough, Batman would forget about Robin. My sister had stolen Gotham City from me.

Anger, bitterness and resentment moved into my heart that day – and if I am brutally honest, they still often visit me.

Between 2004 and 2009 I started and completed high school; I endured five of the toughest years of my life. After my older sister moved to live with my father, my mother took a fervent liking to liquor. As the months and years rolled by, the mom I knew disappeared more regularly behind the veil of alcohol. Eventually the bubbly, loving, caring mum I grew up with disappeared altogether. I often wondered when “my mother died” and when this other lady took over the ship. My mother became as stable as a two-legged chair. In those years, shame kept me from telling anyone about the emotional and physical abuse my little sister and I suffered at home. Every bruise had an excuse and every tear I shed shamed me, “What kind of a man are you?

“Look after your sister and your mom. You’re the man of the house now.”

Whether or not I realised it consciously, I knew I was inept to carry the title of “man,” So, instead, I masterfully crafted a facade of “manliness.” Because, if everyone believed I was a man, then that still counted, right?

I isolated myself from the rest of the world, blissfully unaware of the consequences of my behaviour. I forced my pathetic reality out of my mind, and adopted my masculine-fantasy until even I was convinced that I was a great man – only I was convinced though.

Sometimes, the burden of being “the man” caught up with me, and that tag hung so heavily around my neck that it began choking the life out of me. There were a few days when I considered speeding up that “life-choking” process. As strange as it sounds, I am grateful for my pride in those years, because in my (oh so) twisted mind, I saw suicide as the ultimate failure of strength and manliness. I was too much of a man to give up being a man.

If I were to come up with some elaborate illustration of how I came to salvation, it would probably involve me comparing Jesus to some kind of “super-sub” sportsman who comes onto the field in the dying minutes of a massive game to score the winning point and steal victory from the jaws of defeat. (If you’re a movie director, get hold of me.)

On the 6th of December of 2008, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. Since then, things have not always been sunshine and roses, but they have been the most significant times of my life.

I have had some incredible highs, and devastating lows, and the most significant thing I have learnt since that warm December evening is this: 

“I am nothing without the Grace of God.”

I used to be so proud of the man I had become. I would recount stories of my life in the same way a storyteller would tell children about dragons and wizards – all the while painting myself as some war-hero man. Those over-exaggerated, ego-boosting stories so often served more to convince me, than to convince others.

Thank God, I realised my disillusionment.

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.”

In the last few months, I have been on a gut-wrenching roller-coaster with the Lord. He has shown me my own heart – and it is ugly. It’s disgusting. Through painful revelation, I have also learnt the massive flaws in my character and understanding of my identity. Finally, God has also shown me the pain and destruction I have left in my wake. Ruined relationships, broken hearts, false promises, stolen innocence, blaring injustice, double standards…

Where I thought I was a man, God has mercifully and patiently brought me to a point of sober self-assessment.

But.

“Righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” [Romans 3:22-24]

God’s Grace is sufficient to reconcile those ruined relationships. God’s Grace is sufficient to heal those broken hearts. God’s Grace is sufficient to restore trust and hope. God’s Grace is sufficient to restore innocence and purity.

God’s Grace is sufficient for ME.

 Men become boyfriends and fiances. Men become husbands and fathers. Men become the spiritual-heads of their houses and leaders of the church. Men become providers and protectors…

Honestly, those titles scare the pants off of me – but I am clinging onto hope, because I know that God is redeeming my masculinity. I know that God is at work in my heart, transforming me into the likeness of the Greatest Man Alive, Jesus Christ.

“For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” [Romans 8:29]

 Hope. Inextinguishable hope.

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Go to previous post: Preparing myself for someone else | MOSS Part 10

Go to next post: Speak up | MOSS Part 12

Go to intro post: Marriage and Other Scary Stuff | MOSS Intro

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