Posted by: Ted Mattis | 03/07/2010

Circling the Wagons

I don’t think that anything captures the essence of our country and the American Spirit than images from the pioneering days. Images like the one here elicit imaginings of adventure, risk, commitment, perseverance, passion, determination and vision (among others). Our forefathers set out to make for themselves a life, to claim a patch of land and to build their lives out of it.  It was a time of dreams of new life and new beginnings- a new legacy.

After making the necessary preparations, husbands and wives set out on the journey of a lifetime, wagons packed full of supplies and hearts packed full with possibilities.  Not too long after departing, with their heads full of dreams, our forefathers began to experience the reality of the harsh journey. It was hard traveling. The journey was longer than they thought, but their shared dreams kept them focused.

After weeks of travel, however, they grew weary of the ride. They are tired.  Maybe a little ‘snippy.’  They are not ready for what lies ahead. Danger. Enemy territory.  Wearied from the sojourn and unsuspecting, out of nowhere comes a band of native american indians determined to protect their land (after all, this is their land and has been for quite some time and no one steps on their land without permission). With the precious cargo of their families at risk, they circle the wagons and prepare for war. Some wagon trains are decimated by the unsuspecting assault while others who have prepared themselves for enemy invasion and have rehearsed their own counter offensive, prepare for battle.  These vigilant ones keenly aware of the very real and present danger of enemy territory  find their way to their new life. The others, who chose to ignore reality and live in some postmodern dreamworld denying evil’s reality,  foolishly thinking to themselves that it could never happen to them, were not prepared and having ignored all warnings, are all, women and children as well, left dead, bleeding, broken and helpless on the blood-drenched battleground of their own ignorance.

You might think that I am recounting some nostalgic story about the wild west. I’m not. It’s a metaphor for the journey of marriage. It’s not hard to see it. We all start out with stars in our eyes and dreams in our hearts about the life ahead of us. We travel the road for a little while, reality begins to set in that the journey is not as smooth as you had anticipated, but you still share your dreams together and that’s what keeps you going. But time in the journey and all the distractions oftentimes take their toll on us and our dreams. We get tired and weary. We sometimes become disillusioned. Weak. It’s the perfect time for the enemies to ride in ready to destroy all you have and desire, enemies like doubt, entitlement, expectation, temptation, and so on.  Some, many in fact, choose the road of postmodern denial.  “That can’t happen to me,” they say.  Others have heeded the warnings of those who have gone before and have girded themselves for the impending battles. Without a vigilant awareness of the impending presence of the enemies all about us and a rehearsed battle plan, we are as good as gone.

When you spend your days as I do warning people, reminding people and yes, all too often, binding up their wounds from the awful assaults from the enemy, you do begin to ask questions about who or what has spent any effort preparing, warning and guiding the marriages of today. As much as they are needed, the plethora of Christian Marriage media sprouting forth the virtues of intimacy development and communication have, like Obama’s stimulus package, not delivered. Have they forgotten that the foundation and strength of intimacy is not bound up in ‘skills’ but a secure confidence in the concept of ‘safety’- in an unflinching confidence in solid and committed relational protection?  What is safety in a relationship other than in the very real recognition that the self-centered ‘spirit of this age’  is extremely hostile and unsafe, incessantly seeking to bring defeat and destruction to the things that are dearest to God, especially our marriages and, in light of that very real and present threat, because of His mercy and grace, I am, we are, protected.

What has happened to marriage in our day?  What has happened especially to the men of our day? If we were to transport ourselves back to the days of wagon trains and the wild west, we would learn one thing about living in the danger of the wilderness. Men, it is our job to protect the perimeter of our homes, our marriages and our own lives. It is our job to man up to the reality that we are to provide a place for our women and children to grow- to provide a place of protection and safety. We are the ones who need to be vigilant and educated about the enemies ways and intentions.  Women back then didn’t need some ‘girlie man’ at home ready and willing to ’emote’ at a moment’s notice.  They needed a warrior.  And it is no different today.  Can someone answer this question?  What the hell is a “metrosexual?”  And who in their right mind thinks it’s a title worthy of honor?  When did we get so soft?  Who has so seduced us to prostitute ourselves so egregiously?  When did we become so willing to tear out what spine we had in order to be ‘loved and accepted?’

How can we expect respect when we so willingly throw our own purposes aside in our quest for self-satisfaction?  How many times have I had a man in my office say, ‘she doesn’t respect me…..?’  Wah, wah, wah.  I have an idea- why don’t we  start acting in ways that deserve respect?  Spineless ‘girlie’ men don’t engender respect in our partners.   Nor is respect the deserved and contingent by-product of earning a living to provide material well-being in our homes. Long hours and a paycheck no matter how big or small do not entitle me to my family’s respect. Respect comes when we actually take responsibility for their well-being and are engaged in the active battle of defending the boundaries of our homes- when we stand up to the enemies that assault our marriages every day like lust, gluttony, greed, power and the culture of self. When we take responsibility for the crafting of our kid’s characters and stop leaving them to the world’s (and even the church’s) destructive hands, then we will know respect from our children. When we clothe our wives in the finest garments of praise and delight, as objects of our truest affection, instead of expecting them to bow at the altar of our own grandiosity, maybe then will we know respect and what it means to be masculine.

Men. it’s time to circle the wagons.  Stop listening to the garbage of this age that has rendered us spineless and start taking ownership for the lives that have been entrusted to us- to start getting real about our life’s effect on those closest to us.  The church won’t do it for you. She’s too self-consumed as it is anyway.  Stop living as though the enemy isn’t interested in destroying your marriage, leading your children into darkness and death.  Let’s get real here. He wants you too and he will throw the barn door and the kitchen sink at you as well- power, sex, self-pity, etc….    We need to circle the wagons and fight against even the present cultural agenda that wants to tell you that even your manhood can be replaced by lesbian love as long as it’s loving.  Are you freakin’ serious?  And you and I have the audacity to sit on our lame rears and not rage against the machine?  The fight is on.  We are in enemy territory and it’s time to circle the wagons if you dare.  You can, “do all things through Christ who strengthens you.”

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