Men are meant to be lions—conquerors, strong, tender and victorious in the midst of challenge. Such men are also lovers. They selflessly do good for others even to the point of death. These men are meant to be dangerous and powerful, forces that must be reckoned with. This is true masculinity, and there is no doubt that this is Christ’s hope for every man. He wants lions.
I grew up in a Christian home. I had good parents who were broken. My mom did the best she could raising three boys while getting a college degree and working full time. Life demanded that she be absent. My dad dealt with significant sin issues throughout his life; from my early adolescence until his death he engaged in sexual sin, had a gambling problem and in his later years a prescription-drug addiction. His sins weren’t talked about or even known by me as I grew up, but they disabled my father’s ability to rightly parent me. For all the good that was in my father, he never fathered me. I needed a lion to raise me. None could be found. Andrew writes, “A fatherless boy will be vulnerable to launching out into a void.”
Without any lion to call me into my own identity and strength, other shadowy creatures drew near. In early adolescence I immersed myself in pornography. Then, in my first year of high school, I was sexually abused by an adult man. In the midst of the chaos, I became addicted to crystal meth, alcohol and marijuana. This set the stage for a descent into my own personal hell: five years of broken sexual encounters, dark sexual sin and demonic bondage that almost took my life. My own sin, the sins of others and the devil’s nefarious work made sure that this cat would never roar.
It was there at the bottom of the hell in which I was living, “unfathered and untrained . . . subject to the rats of addiction,” that God met me. I hadn’t done anything to earn it, but Christ came. In my parents’ garage, I heard the quiet whisper of God reverberate in my lost soul, “Follow me or die.” There was hope in His somber words. I heard the chance to become a lion. I responded to Jesus that day. Grace poured in, and I literally felt like I was being pulled out of a pit. Sobriety from drugs and alcohol happened quickly, even the acting out sexually with others stopped.
God was so good. His kindness was a gift, and I was experiencing it right before my eyes. But as that first year of following Jesus continued, it was apparent to me and my Christian friends that the damage I had experienced because of my sin and the sins of others was deep, expansive and not easily healed. I wanted to be a lion, but I wasn’t one. I was still a weak little cat. I was still addicted to porn, and I was still a broken man. But God had a plan.
In Living Waters I became a lion; I became a godly man. Andrew writes, “Through the cross, the Father and Son summon men to become lions. Fractured hearts find wholeness in relation to the Trinity and each other.” I was summoned to be a lion. Three things happened to me in Living Waters that enabled me to become fierce, strong, obedient and holy.
First, God enabled me to receive and keep His love. As an addict, and as one who had been abused, I had no idea what real love was, how to receive it or how to keep it. Frankly, there didn’t seem like a lot of hope that I would ever be capable of knowing and experiencing real love. I was too broken. Thankfully, through healing prayer and the teachings of Living Waters, I began to experience His love in new ways. Instead of it coming in and quickly leaking out, I began to be able to integrate His love into my actual life. The result was feeling truly loved for the first time in my life. God cared for me and none of my sin could stand in the way of His love. From the solid ground of His love, my true self began to emerge.
Secondly, as my true self emerged, I learned the good work of confession. I had a lot of sin to confess, and it was ugly and it was hard. I had to confess the specific ways that I had “failed to walk uprightly in [my] true manhood.” There was significant shame here, as well as demonic oppression, but as I found the grace to be obedient to the call of speaking out my sin to other men, God did His part. As a gift, I found real freedom—freedom from lust and pornography, freedom to live and to be strong. This set the stage for me to enter into the life that God had for me.
Third, Living Waters gave me a healthy place to work out my true masculine self with other men. Andrew writes, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens and deepens and brings clarity to the masculine soul of another.” In the midst of true biblical community with other men, God brought “definition and refinement” to my masculinity. I was becoming a good gift. I could relate to other men without sexualizing the relationship, and I felt the good push from those men to begin relating to women in healthy ways. These men wouldn’t let me just keep looking at my brokenness. They called me into a bigger world. Slowly but surely my will found the power for purity; my desire began to long for what was good, beautiful and right; and the character I longed for began to be my actual experience.
Fast forward fifteen years and I am radically different than when I was when I started Living Waters. I am a godly man who lives an amazing life. I am imperfect, for sure, with whispers of brokenness that still remain, but I am standing. I am standing strong. I have been married for over ten years. I have four boys that I love dearly. I am a pastor. But most of all, I have become a lion.