Friday, September 13, 2013

Encouraging Growth: The Men In Your Life

Do you want to know who one of my favorite women of the Bible is? No, it's not Mary. Or Esther. Give up? It's Deborah. Bet you didn't guess her!

You may be wondering what this has to do with the title of this post. I admit, Deborah isn't a very talked about woman and there's not much known about her, but there's not much that we know about encouraging the boys in our lives to become men either. If you were to ask just me and me alone how to do this, I would have to tell you that I honestly don't know. But Deborah does.

Let's take a look at what we do know about our dear Deborah:

  • She lived in a time when everyone around her was doing anything but what God had commanded them. (Judges 4:1)
  • She was being plagued by an enemy nation that seemed like all it wanted to do was pick on her people. (Judges 4:2,3)
  • She was in an unusual position of authority (that most women in that time period did not have) as a prophetess and judge. Everyone and anyone who had a problem came to her for judgement, so it sounds like her days were pretty much booked with her "job". (Judges 4:4,5)
  • The men- especially the commander of Israel's army- did not seem to be stepping up to the proverbial plate and assuming their positions of leadership. (Judges 4:6,7)
Does any of this sound familiar? Like Deborah, we live in a time when people- including many in the church- disregard the Word of God. We are plagued both without and within by other countries and our own lack of repentance from sin and immorality. More and more women today feel like they have to step up to positions of authority in life and the church because the men "just aren't doing anything!" 

I think we can safely say that Deborah would understand our frustrations about what is happening in our world today. She, too, was probably a little frustrated. Think about it- in her time women worked at home, raised children, and took care of their elderly widowed mothers. She should be weaving a new tunic, not settling disputes between her countrymen. I'm guessing there were moments when she felt like she was playing mother to the whole of Israel. Now, the Bible doesn't tell us that she complained about what God had chosen for her. It doesn't say that she didn't enjoy her job. But if I were her... I'm not sure I would.

In my life, I have often felt like I was put in the same strange position. There would be a perfectly capable man in the room and I am the one who is pressed to decide what we are studying for this year's Bible study. Or maybe there is someone in need of help moving and no one but girls show up when I know the majority of young men in our church are unmarried and without a full time job.

And now I'm sure similar moments in your life are rolling through your mind.

Ok, back to Deborah. So apparently the leader of the Israelite army, Barak, was told by God to go out against their oppressors, but he hadn't gone. Maybe God told him directly or maybe because Deborah was a prophetess she told him. Either way, she knew that he wasn't obeying the direct instructions that had been given him. 

What did she do? She sent a message and reminded him. It doesn't say she nagged him or tried to guilt trip him. She just reminded him of the Word God had given him. And it worked. He would go. But on one condition- she would go with him. Obviously his response wasn't a very confidence-inspiring one, but at least he got moving. And what was her response? Well, she took what she could get. One step at a time, right?

I guess my point is that the way she approached this idea of growing up the men in her life is different than how we usually do it. She used Scripture, we use nagging. She took things one step at a time, we try to change them overnight. She encouraged growth, we try to force it. And in the end she didn't tell him "I told you so". She just praised God that something had been done to save her people.

What would this look like in practice? I'm going to be honest with you here- it will not be the same in your life as it is in mine. Long ago I purposed in my heart to encourage the boys in my life to become men and it has not proven easy. But I can tell you some of the things I have done and maybe you will get some inspiration:
  • When asked what movie we should watch or what we should order in for dinner, I ask one of the guys in the room to pick.
  • When holding a discussion, I wait for/ask them for their opinion first before I offer my own.
  • When I don't agree with them, I don't belittle their opinion or try to show them how dumb what they think is. I just tell them my point of view using Scripture, if I can (carefully and with much thought).
  • When someone needs something done that could be done by anyone, I first wait a while to encourage them to volunteer, then I offer to help while requesting them to help me.
  • When they are struggling to express themselves or are taking forever to get to the point, I wait. If they think it is important enough to work to get it out, then it should be important enough for me to listen to as well.
  • When a guy offers to carry something/open the door for me, I let them.
  • When we are having a group planning meeting for something, I invite one or more of them to be on it.
That's all I can think of for now. But you get the idea. Maybe you are thinking, "Man, that sounds like a lot of work!" 

It is. But the results are worth it. I'm not saying I remember to do this all the time. On the contrary- I fall flat on my face more often than not. (Thinking of the many, many instances is embarrassing me right now.) But think of this: If you were the one who encouraged a friend/your brother to grow into a man, how grateful do you think his future wife would be? How much headache and heartache in this world might you spare him? How much confidence might you give him? Who knows! He could go on to change the world because of you.

And all without him suspecting a thing.

So, are you a daughter of Deborah?

Think about it.

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