I am an Enneagram Type 2 kind of guy.
That means I’m a helper…a giver…a man who is generous, empathetic, and demonstrative, and who seeks to please others. It means I’m great at falling in love, but I get hurt easily when that love doesn’t seem to be reciprocated. It also means that I can be possessive and, at times, clingy when I sense that my needs aren’t being met. Being a Type 2 kind of guy is, as they say, a blessing and a curse.
I lead with this self-description because it is central both to who I am and to that with which I struggle. All of this giving makes it easy for me to disappear in my service of others. It makes it easy to lose my self-respect and confidence because my identity becomes intimately defined by the person for whom I dedicate my adoration, resources, and efforts. (Damn…that sounded smart, didn’t it?)
My guess is that the average person who looks at me doesn’t see a strong man in a classic sense. I’m not tall and muscular…I don’t carry myself with a swagger…I concern myself with the feelings of others…I can speak with multisyllabic words and evolved thoughts… But, as I reflect (there I go…being all unmanly again) on strength, I think of male examples whom I’ve read of, observed, and known.
I think of my father… A quiet man of character and substance who has worked hard his whole life, shown dedication on a daily basis, cared for his family, and patiently loved his wife for a half-dozen decades. My dad is the strongest man I know. He could always lift anything that needed lifting…he could get up before dawn and work long after dark…he could shoulder hard times and challenges and still be able to laugh and make up silly, corny songs for his sweetheart and kids. He is a man who loves without fail and encourages without reservation. He is patient and wise and – even as his physical strength flags – always ready to provide.
At the center of his STRENGTH is his love for Jesus.
I think of Joshua from the Bible… A man who saw impossible situations and believed that God was bigger. A man who stood against naysayers and crazy odds and trusted that the Maker of heaven and earth and minds and hearts would be true to His promise of never leaving or forsaking. Now, Joshua may have been big and buff or small and unimposing…as far as I know there isn’t a description of what the guy looked like. But, internally and spiritually, he was a badass. He took responsibility and remained faithful when others backed down. He listened to the word of God and courageously believed it, walking into deep waters and waving swords with unyielding faith and courage. He was obedient and truthful, and he served with integrity and purpose and indomitable strength.
At the center of his STRENGTH was his love for God.
I am not my father. I am not Joshua of the Old Testament. I am, simply, this short, bald guy with a quirky sense of humor, a huge capacity to love and believe, and a desire to be who God created me to be. I am a man who has been blessed beyond reason, forgiven beyond merit, and held together through pain and loss by the One who formed and breathed life into me.
To be honest, there have been times when I have been very tempted to try and be someone else. To redesign myself as more of a heartless, selfish asshole so that I might better capture the affection of a woman. There is something to be said, it seems, for being unattached, non-empathetic, and selfish. Those guys appear to get the girl.
But I am not one of those guys.
My father is not one of those guys.
Joshua was not one of those guys.
And, I’m pretty damn sure, Jesus wasn’t one of those guys, either.
So, right now…sitting at my kitchen counter in the long shadows of a January afternoon…I have to remind myself that there are many different ways that strength is embodied. My failure, yet again, to “get the girl” doesn’t mean I am weak. It doesn’t mean I am a loser. It doesn’t mean that I have been doing it all wrong.
It means that I have in front of me another opportunity to love and serve God and trust Him for the strength and courage necessary to move forward against deep waters and waving swords and hard times and lonely moments. It means I can carry myself with purpose and passion as a badass with a loving heart. It means that I get to see how He will use my Type 2 tendencies for His glory…to discover how He will empower me to continue to be a helper…a giver…a man who is generous, empathetic, and demonstrative, and who seeks to serve others.
And, at the center of all that, I will find my STRENGTH in my love for Jesus.