Matthew 11:12 “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.”

I’ve always loved the intensity of this verse. It sounds so heroic, courageous, and filled with adventure. Yet, at times it seems as if men in the church, including myself at times, are in retreat. The kingdom is advancing and some of us are stuck, some of us are going backwards or nowhere fast.

So many of us have found a safe harbor in just being “good.” A good boy is one who finds his identity through his own goodness. A proper name for this would be we are performance oriented. Our righteousness isn’t found in Christ but in our “goodness.” Unfortunately these old wineskins of being the “good boy” can’t contain the new wine of God’s passion for us. This is a lifeless religion of duty and obligation and eventually destroys any masculine initiative within us.

Most of my life I have struggled in the area of masculine initiative. I have found it difficult to rise up to take my place as a man in different situations and relationships that have challenged me all through my life. Never feeling good enough about myself, always doubting that I had anything worthwhile to share and doubting that my prayers were relevant or powerful. Like Gideon (Judges 6:15) I saw myself as the least and the weakest in my family. I had a “poverty spirit” that could not believe that I could rise up and face and then overcome the challenges of life. I avoided risk for fear of failure.

All I’ve really wanted most of my life was for people to like me. Growing up, I was deprived of love, healthy touch and affirming words from my father, so I never knew internally if I was good enough. My dad expected me to be perfect. His expectations impaired my masculine initiative to pursue what I was really passionate about. Anytime I dared to attempt to “think for myself” he crushed that by humiliating me. So I came under his yoke of expectation and chose to try to be perfect; I became a “good” boy. I have found that the expectations of parents, culture, even our faith can weaken our resolve to risk or to color outside the lines. Hopefully you get what I mean?

That always meant I needed someone to tell me that I was good enough. Please give me something “to do” to prove how good I am. So I wasn’t seeking God for His guidance or affirmation I was seeking it in you! Tell me what to do! Because I don’t have the initiative to try something unless you tell me. To bring form and shape to my life in relationship with the Father had yet to be realized so I looked to people to bring that form and shape. This should have been imbued by my father throughout childhood.

So I had yet to develop the ability to quiet my heart to allow God to tell me who I was. I was still learning what it meant to be a sheep that knows the voice of the Good Shepherd. Without that truth and clarity, like a child I sought it in others who were well meaning but could not bring the healing I needed. I lacked the forcefulness of Matthew 11 and paid a price in my academic life, career, relationships, and as a Son of God. I lived my life inwardly, always wondering, “When is it my turn to be noticed?” This was born out of an emptiness within that I somehow could not shake.