Jonathan was tall and lean with deep-set eyes, a farm boy from Pennsylvania turned tank commander in World War II France. On the night of Aug. 6, 1944, he was on the road, charged with his own small part in liberating Europe.
As he engaged the enemy, he could have taken cover inside the turret of his tank, but he felt he could better command his platoon with head and shoulders outside. Harried by rifle fire from soldiers in the surrounding woods, he continued to man his machine gun — until a single bullet found his heart.
Though Jonathan never had children of his own, I’m told that his nephew Ivan is like him. I can’t help wonder how. His self-deprecating sense of humor? The gentle exterior masking the hidden vein of granite? His willingness to spend and be spent for the needs of others?
Here’s what I know: Ivan is a mechanic and mentor, a logger, a hiker, and a man’s man whose powerful stride seems to devour the ground. Though he is childless, the littlest boys in his church light up when they see him, and for more than a decade, he has played surrogate father to his widowed sister’s sons.
At work, he pours his life into college-aged men, providing spiritual and practical training, day in and day out. He is humble and passionate, patient and impatient; he puts up with mistakes and excuses, late nights and hijinks. He plays a part in prodigals returning to God and wayward sons coming back to their fathers. He loves the sinners, but he won’t leave them there.
In many ways, he looks a lot like God.
In His Image
I love being a woman, and I’m excited about the ways in which I can reflect my Creator’s character and creativity as only a woman can. Naturally, I’ve spent a lot more time thinking about godly femininity than godly masculinity, but now I think it’s time for that to change.
First, because everything that’s excellent, and yes, even beautiful about manhood originated in the mind of the One I long to know. Second, because God deserves glory for the creative and redemptive work He is doing in men’s lives all over the world. Third, because I want to develop a greater appreciation and understanding of the men in my life. And fourth? In a world that’s busy telling us what’s wrong with men, I want to focus on what’s right with men — what men are doing well and what that means to me as a woman. Because I hope and pray that my brothers will love what God created them to be.
Let’s start with my natural brothers. I’m specially positioned to appreciate the three of them because I had no brothers until I was nearly 12 years old. At first they needed my protection and then, as agents of mayhem and silliness, my patience. Now that they’re young men, my brothers are a whole new kind of novelty to me. Now they’re my protectors, swelling visibly when they walk me through the city at night, willingly dealing with mouse traps, insistent on taking heavy items out of my arms, and apt to teach me all I need to know about cars, computers and cameras. Nobody browbeats them into treating me this way. They like being the strong ones. And with them, I like being weak.
Then there are my other brothers, my brothers in Christ. Call me terribly spoiled, but thanks to the men I grew up with, I have to be convinced that there’s such a thing as male chauvinism in the world. When we pray or study the Bible together, I am fully accepted. When we are traveling, I know any one of them would leap to my defense. I am treated with reverence, reserve and respect. Oh, none of them are perfect. But they are dedicated bond slaves of Jesus Christ. And in them, I see Him.
How do I know that God sees and celebrates my worth as a woman? In part because of men like Michael and Adam. We used to carpool to Bible study together, bantering all the way. By focusing on our mutual interests, they made it clear that they liked me, enjoyed my company and even thought I was cool — all without leading me on. Adam has since moved away and married; my friendship with Michael continues with the delightful addition of his wife and daughters. But both young men have given me a lasting gift. Whether or not I made their “girls to impress” list, they enthusiastically built me up.
How do I know that unselfish love is real? In part because of a group of men I’ve never met. While researching for this article, I stumbled upon a website connecting some 7,000 men who fast and pray monthly for the women in their lives or for any woman who is in specific need.
How do I know that Jesus leads by example? That His leadership expands, rather than suppresses who I am? In part from the men who have led me. There’s my former boss, who is quick to recognize gifts in others and make room for them to develop. Largely thanks to him, I now support myself with skills I didn’t even know I had. There’s also his young son, Steve, who showed me what it means to be “instant in prayer.” Whenever I chatted casually with him about my concerns, he would immediately say, “Can we pray about that right now?” Years later, I still find myself doing the same for others.
How do I know that God’s faithfulness is great? In part because of my daddy. The strength of my father’s character provides immense security in my life. He teaches me to pray, and he prays for me daily. He nudges me outside my comfort zone, while refusing to stay in his own. He tells me to never give up, and I’ve watched him live that out through pressure, suffering and even heartbreak.
Is my dad my hero? Yes, because much of what I know about humility and transparency I learned by watching him. He taught me from his weaknesses, many of which I share. My father’s openness has helped guard me from discouragement. I’ve seen that he has good fruit in his life, not because he was born naturally amazing, but because Jesus is amazing in him. That helps me realize I’m not disqualified by my youth, my personality or my own faults and fears. Good fruit and strong character can be mine as well. In fact, despite his extra decades of wisdom, my father shows that he genuinely respects me as a fellow child of God by soliciting my advice and relying on my prayers.
All these qualities can come from only one place — our heavenly Father.
Years ago, I ran across a simple, offhand statement buried in an online survey. I don’t know the young man’s name, but his words left a deep impression on my heart: “Sometimes I see a girl and think, Wow, God. You did a good job with her.”
Wow, God. You did a good job with him! I love to see Your image in these men You made.
Copyright 2011 Elisabeth Adams. All rights reserved.