My family has a long line of men who have served in the military. It wasn’t expected of us; it just happened that way. My childhood in Illinois was spent wandering the urban jungle while holding my M-16 (stick) and camouflaging myself from neighbors and pesky enemies (oncoming cars) with a keen set of skills I had learned by watching war movies. It was easy to get caught up with all that boyhood wanderlust and I wouldn’t change it.
My boyhood wandering lead to dreams of being an Airborne Ranger and Green beret. I wanted to be like one of the “quiet professionals” able to escapade through rugged tundra, gator infested swamps, or sun-scorched deserts prepared for whatever, whenever. They walked tall. They carried themselves as men, or so my boyish mind formulated. My boy hood wanderings were nothing new. Many boys dream of being connecting to something bigger than themselves and find these groups to give a narrow pathway. These wanderings are prevalent in most men today, and as common as men looking for the rest of their shattered hearts.
Boyhood wanderings are common in most men today as common as men looking for the rest of their shattered hearts.
My curiosity for elite groups like this is still burning white-hot within me. I still get chills and tears when I watch the epic film starring John Wayne (1969), Green Berets. When Peterson dies, it still can get me (and yes, just now I just watched it again). The purpose of masculine strength is to rescue the vulnerable who were caught in the cross fire. It still gets me. Every. Single. Time.
John Wayne. AKA the Duke. Enough said. Just watch it.
This curiosity has not been extinguished and I still find myself dreaming.
French Foreign Legion
Lately at the gym I have been watching YOUTUBE videos during the painfully, monotonous time on the elliptical. I have dreamt of being a mile high into the backwoods of the Alaskan bush following game trails, but those dreams quickly fade when you see the other “hamsters” on ellipticals like you. The 30-60 sessions on that piece of equipment are not exciting at all, so I need something to take my mind away from the sweat and mindless movement.
After a relentless search, I stumbled upon a video about the French Foreign Legion. I have been fascinated by all things military for much of my life, so why not?
The French Foreign Legion is a mixed group of war fighters from different parts of the world that can come to France and fight in an elite mercenary group. They are widely known as being a place for young men to go to escape their past and start a new adventure as a fighting force. I am a big fan of second chances. The gospel is the portal to a lot of them. Although it seems like a great second chance, it has received a lot of scrutiny because they allow criminals with minor offenses to try out and they even allow people who have deserted from other military units to join them. This makes the Legionnaires a peculiar bunch. As the folks at http://www.special-ops.com wrote, “Since its founding in 1831, the Legion has become the one place of escape for those with haunted pasts. Men with criminal records, shady business dealings, or deserters from their home country’s armies were accepted into the ranks, with no questions asked.” But what happens when you cannot wear the uniform anymore. Who are you then?
One thing troubled me as I watched. The “second chance” for this men’s only group came with a surprising twist. To be a Legionnaire, you have to strip away your old identity and be given a new name with french origins, and then, they could have new life and a clean slate. These are men of desperation and to be considered elite is a draw for most men, but denying your true self is a steep cost for any man. Your true self is who you really are. Good. Bad. Ugly. Honest.
You truest self cannot be explored while ignoring your heart. It is easier to avoid the matters of the heart. In the heart you may find shame, guilt, doubt, confusion, and many other vile things. The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out. (Proverbs 20:5) The deep waters of our heart, our past, and our failings are uncomfortable, but a man without his heart is like a bird without feathers. The other day I watched a young bird flail around on the ground trying to fly but he couldn’t take flight. Seeing a grounded bird is a shame because they were meant for more. Even more so, as God’s image bearer, a man is meant to live in the light of his true self.
A man who has to hide his past, his heart, and even his feelings is a tragedy because he will never be fully known while living in the shadow of false self.
Only when we are honest about our failings can we find grace. Ask Paul (2 Cor. 12:9-10). Honesty about bad decisions can lead back home. Ask a prodigal. Saying I am sorry can free both the offender and the offended. Ask me.
Saint Irenaeus said this well, “The glory of God is a man fully alive.” But guess what? You need a heart to live and when you allow yourself to be fully known, you can live from your truest heart. (You may need to read that again) Your truest self can help you to have victory over failures and strength through the well-marked trail of confession and repentance. Jesus Christ died for the very things we try to hide. That is a sobering truth. You are never more true to yourself than when you are honest with God that you have fallen short of His perfect standard. The outlet of a heart fully alive is your truest self. Your truest self can lead to better relationships because you can acknowledge your emotions. Your truest self allows you to truly connect with other men without it being weird, and your truest self enables you avoid feeling like you need to posture up when you don’t measure up. Men, your truest self gives you words to bless and affirm your boys. Your truest self is like relational glue that connects heart to heart.
Identity as a Man is Shaped by Blessing and Affirmation
A man’s truest self is a man fully surrendered to God. The truest self can be found as God’s Spirit enters a person and begins cleaning out everything in a man that is false. (Galatians 5:16-18) This is a process to living with your true masculine heart. A surrendered heart to God is then formed into a different kind of fighting force. A fighting force who fights battles of the heart from their truest heart. This fighting force operates as family. This man doesn’t have to hide his failings because they have been atoned. This man knows who he is. Blessed as a son of the King. Affirmed for doing manly things for the Kingdom.
A man’s battle is to be fought from the truest heart and truest self. You are a warrior. With other godly men (and women). As family. For the King. Expanding the Kingdom.
Your truest Spirit filled self gives strength for the service, security, and sacrifice for others.
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