Updated: Nov 9, 2019
We have a kid-sized rocking chair in our living room. When they were toddlers, all three of our kids loved getting into it and realizing that they could rock it back and forth. Our youngest (16 months old) is at that awkward stage where she is much more confident in her ability to move than she really has any right to - which is a metaphor for life if I’ve ever heard one. We were having a family movie night a few days ago, and she had climbed herself up there to enjoy the show. When her older siblings broke into a spontaneous dance number, she must have felt the unavoidable urge to join in. So she twisted around to hold the back of the chair and started to stand up.
It’s one of those moments that every parent instantly recognizes. This. Will. Not. End. Well. From the other side of a coffee table, my wife and I are launching ourselves toward the toddler, repeatedly calling for her to sit down, hold on. Somehow, futilely, all in slo-mo. One last rock of the chair to throw her off balance, and backward into space she goes.
And there he is. Somehow my son has turned away from the television (itself a miracle sometimes) and he manages to catch his baby sister. He slows her fall, actually cradling her head in his hands just before it hits the wood floor.
After getting over the initial shock of his Jedi-like reflexes, the overwhelming feeling I had was pride. We have talked to him about being an older brother and helping out with his sisters. But we have also talked to him about being a protector, both inside our family and out. That is part of his identity as a child of God, to look out for the weaker, the more vulnerable.
We do not have the same conversations with our girls.
I realize that this is not a popular position to take at the moment, and our culture will label this chauvinistic, sexist, or any number of other anti-PC terms. But that doesn’t necessarily mean its wrong.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam was not punished for eating the fruit. He was punished for not stopping Eve from doing so. When it says she “gave some to her husband who was with her,” the Hebrew actual means he was standing right there the whole time! So when God finds them hiding in the Garden with their fig leaves, he curses Adam “because you listened to your wife (instead of doing what was right - my addition)”. Not that we as men aren’t supposed to listen to our wives, I am married to an amazing woman who gets it right far more often than I do, but that we are supposed to listen to God first. When what was needed was for Adam to step in, he stepped back. He didn’t fight for his family, didn’t protect his wife - and we’ve been struggling ever since.
Historically speaking, it is a very new thing for a culture to open up the ranks of the military to women, for society to erase the lines separating the genders. This is because every society prior to our current one recognized the innate capacity for men to serve in specific roles suited to them, and the same for women. Men were called upon to be physical, to be aggressive, to be violent when called upon to defend what they held most dear. (I wrote a call to arms for true masculinity in a previous blog, check it out here.) Yes, there are definitely women who can handle the physicality of “traditionally masculine” roles, but if masculinity and femininity are working the way they are supposed to, why should they have to? Or better still, why do we have the movie trope of the homely, tomboy female character that will undoubtedly go through a radical transformation before the movie ends? Why have the dramatic reveal - complete with a stunning dress, make-up and hair, to the gaping astonishment of her “bros”? Because women want to be recognized and appreciated for the Beauty that they are inside, and they want a man to be willing to fight for her.
Awhile back, I listened to a sermon from Matt Chandler at the Village Church outside of Dallas. (See below for a link to the full sermon, it is part of a series the church did on God’s design for men and women, both the sermon and the series are great - check them out). During it, he told a story from the Aurora theater shooting in 2012. Matt mentions 3 of the men who died that night, but his point actually applies to 5 of them. One father died saving the lives of his two teenage daughters, and 4 young men gave their lives protecting their girlfriends. Five of the 12 fatalities in that tragedy were men protecting women. They were regarded as heroes, not because they offered their daughters and girlfriends the opportunity to be the one standing in the line of fire, but because when all hell broke loose they threw their girls to the ground and used their bodies to protect them from the spray of bullets.
Matt then relays the story of how Dr. Randy Stinson raised his sons to think about their sisters and the other women in their lives. “The boy goes down so the girl goes free.” Something about that statement really speaks to me, at a place deeper than conscious, logical thought. It’s why I have to hold back tears every time I hear this Tim McGraw song, because I have prayed that very same prayer. Again, it is not that women can’t defend themselves (though I think our current world rife with examples of situations where women are left vulnerable by men that are consumers, instead of protectors, of women), or that as females they aren’t capable of also offering the ultimate in sacrificial love. They can certainly choose to do that, but as men we are wired to do that.
It is a part of my job, as husband and father, to defend the well-being of my family, and I am raising my son to see that as part of his identity as well. It is also part of my job to raise young women who are strong and confident and are secure enough in their worth to recognize men who are selfless instead of selfish. Integrous instead of divisive. Giving instead of demanding. I will walk my post diligently until I hand them over to just such a man (and watch out boys, because my girls will be fierce!) By my side will be the young man I am training to do the same for the next generation, because I am also looking out for my granddaughters and great granddaughters.
And so when Aidan caught his baby sister as she fell backwards out of a chair, we celebrated and affirmed that part of his identity. His God-given calling to make the world a safer place for the people around him. Not with a “top of the food chain” kind of skewed masculinity, but in a way that his strength is offered in service to those around him. In a way that also allows the women in his life to live out of their identities in God and to not have to take on additional burdens to make their way through life. I pray that he is never involved in something like a mass shooting, but I want him to be prepared to do the right thing if he is. And along the way, I want him to learn that he has the opportunity in hundreds of decisions, big and small, to protect, defend and love well the people God has brought into his life. To be active, not passive. To stand up, not shrink back. To empower and encourage and bring the best out of people by making them feel safe. Cared for. Protected.
Photo credit - @nik.shuliahin