“Masculinity is an achievement, not a given, and it is vulnerable to developmental injury.” Joseph Nicolosi
I knew sex outside of marriage was sinful and that as a Christian I was not supposed to engage in sexual behavior until marriage. I just did not know how to live that kind of life. I would battle with my thoughts and white knuckle my way through for about two weeks, then I would head out to a bar, get drunk and wind up in bed with a woman. I desperately desired to live free of this broken lifestyle, yet felt powerless. In spite of my best efforts, this cycle continued for the first three years of my Christian walk. I also had no self-control when confronted by anyone about any subject. I had narrowly escaped legal issues several times over the years due to my temper. Early on I felt my anger was always justified by the words or actions of the other individual.
Then I was introduced to healing ministry. Through Living Waters and Leanne Payne’s conferences I came to understand that my problem was more than just lust and alcoholism. It became apparent to me through the teachings that I really felt inadequate as a man, and that I used methods including alcohol and women to prove to the world that I was a man.
I had spent a lifetime trying to put on masculinity. I was a bodybuilder and a rugby player. I had worked for years as a bouncer. I could drink large amounts of alcohol, and women seemed to be attracted to me. My masculinity was defined by my sexual conquests and my athletic abilities. Andrew refers to these as false notions of power and accomplishment.
These aspects of my life assuaged the pain of a childhood filled with ridicule and abuse. I was raised by a stepfather who was both a rageaholic and a workaholic. He burned the bottoms of our toes (my brother’s and mine) for playing with matches. My brother’s scars did not fade until his twenties. My stepfather would call us “stupid, dumb jackasses” whenever he was upset with our performance in accomplishing chores. This seemed like a normal childhood until I began to hear of God’s intents and purposes for family.
In school, since I was very skinny and wore glasses, the bullying and name-calling was constant. Friday night out ended with me being tossed into a Pizza Hut dumpster on several occasions. I really don’t have any fond memories of childhood. Rather, I recall a fog of anxiety and fear that began to lift when I encountered the love of Jesus through Living Waters and its leadership team of both genders.
Due to the violence and derision I suffered and perpetuated, I shut down to all emotions except anger. An offense of anger served as a good defense to my real emotions. It also kept anyone, friend or foe, from discovering who I really was. As I began my journey into wholeness, the transparency of Living Waters leaders was both comforting and disconcerting. I drew comfort from their stories and acceptance of me, yet I knew they expected the same from me. I had never let anyone behind the façade of false masculine strength I presented.
I was terrified as I began to wrestle with these new ideas of masculinity. I had never heard anyone say that masculine strength came from submission to Him who is more masculine than any person. One of the first things God did was to begin tearing down my idea of what a man was. He needed to put new pictures of true manliness in my mind. I saw in Living Waters leaders, as well as other ministry leaders, a quiet strength and confidence that obviously came from their reliance on His presence in their lives. Yet I would still bench-press four hundred pounds and was willing to fight anyone on a rugby field!
One week after my introduction to healing ministry I suffered a fracture to my tibia and fibula. Consequently I was forced to lie in a bed for almost three months. During this time, God, knowing how fragile and narcissistic I was, began to work with me in private. This was before the era of cell phones and the Internet. Everyone I knew had jobs and had to work during the day. This left me lying in a bed alone reading Andrew and Leanne Payne, listening to tapes of conferences and studying the Bible during the day. At night alone in the dark God would begin to bring up my pain. At first there was so much that I had no idea what He was working on. I could only lie there and weep.
I began to use my imagination for holy purposes and would see myself holding on to the foot of the cross, refusing to let go. I had no idea how to go forward, but I knew I could not go back. I was terrified to tell anyone what was happening, as I believed emotions were a sign of weakness and vulnerability. I was left alone with my pain and Jesus. Without realizing the significance of what I was doing, I began to position myself on my back, wrapping my arms around myself, envisioning that I was hugging the cross. I would just weep and beg Jesus to please help, to please take the pain.
By the time I was allowed out of the bed God had done enough in me that it was safe to cry in front of other humans. This was good, because I attended Living Waters training on crutches and in a cast. It seemed as though I cried the entire time. It was a tremendous blessing to find acceptance from Christians who knew my story and still showed acceptance and love. The men and women present blessed me as I poured out my litany of broken patterns. It was finally safe to have emotions; my true masculinity began to come forward.
The single biggest issue for me was a profound fatherlessness. I already mentioned my stepfather and his physical and verbal abuse. My father was an alcoholic and a womanizer. He rarely saw us children, and when he did he would purchase a six-pack for himself and one for my brother and me. We would drink it on the drive to his home. We would go months, even a year, without any contact with him.
My father hunger was so great that I was incensed over praying in Jesus’ name. He was between God and me. I wanted the Father. The Lord graciously showed me a picture of Jesus standing between God and me, and I was jumping up and down trying to see around Jesus. I was reminded, “If you have seen the Son, you have seen the Father.” Something went into me at a core place, and immediately the anxiety I felt began to diminish. Afterwards I would simply pray, “Father, come and father me in all my fatherless places.” During this time God placed several male leaders in my life that encouraged me and prayed for me regularly. They became fathers to my wounded heart. Just being in their presence and hearing them speak would evoke emotional responses.
Slowly I began to understand that people could change, that it was possible to become the man I desired to be. The man of strength that I had tried to present to the world was becoming a reality. God used the same drive that had driven me to the gym to drive me to pursue healing. I began to stand for truth rather than waffle under the pressure of another’s ridicule. I was able to bless women rather than see them only for their physical attributes. As I received the blessing of the Father I began to impart the same to others. The process continues today as the Father reveals Himself in new and deeper ways. My job is to remain vigilant to what He has for me.