Was Jesus Christ effeminate?
What does it mean to be masculine?
Is an emotional release compatible with masculinity?
Have modern Christians strayed from a biblical understanding of crying?
The role of weeping and sobbing in authentic Christianity
Healing of the emotions.
After suffering extreme trauma, I finally passed out.
When consciousness caressed my senses I found myself, immersed in unearthly beauty. Was this heaven? To my bewilderment, I burst into tears. I was alone, but not even that stopped me from feeling ashamed and deeply embarrassed by my emotions.
What is happening to me? I chided myself. How freakish!
I recalled the book of Revelation speaking of God wiping away all tears1 and yet, incomprehensibly, here was I in what seemed like Paradise, blubbering like a baby.
Nevertheless, for some inexplicable reason there seemed to be something cleansing about those tears. Somehow I felt as if it were making me more whole than I had ever been; as if at last I was reunited with a long-lost part of me. In fact, it was even more dramatic: it was as if a dead part of me had sprung to life. I could hardly have been more surprised or relieved if, after having resigned myself to going through life dragging a paralyzed limb, the nerve endings had suddenly reconnected and I was restored. I felt a peculiar kinship with the man crippled from birth walking and jumping, and praising God.2
I presumed my bawling was some sort of reaction to the horror I had experienced before passing out but what confounded me further was that I was not now even consciously focused on those events. I was so perplexed by my tears that as I continued sobbing, the wheels of my mind spun on a different track: trying to figure out why I, or any grown man, would surrender his masculinity to tears.
I was acutely aware that Jesus had cried.3 As a kid grappling with memory verses and wanting an easy way out, I knew full well that the shortest verse in the Bible is Jesus wept.4 Since my teens I had never managed to reconcile Jesus tears with my conviction that he is the perfect man. I guess if I were to ruthlessly rip through all my attempts to suppress it, the unsettling truth is that I have always worried that Jesus was a bit effeminate. Until I found myself blubbering, I do not think I had ever dared admit this to myself. Cringing at this near-blasphemous admission, I desperately tried to grasp at anything that might reassure me of Jesus masculinity.
Jesus certainly managed to inspire real men, I told myself lamely. I imagined Peter and the other fishermen with bulging muscles as they braved storms, rowed against contrary winds and hauled in nets. Hey! Peter wept after denying Jesus!5 This was the first time I had ever linked Peters tears and his physical strength. In my frantic search for tough men among Jesus followers, I zeroed in on the Sons of Thunder.6 I felt assured of their masculinity, then questioned why I should associate being a hothead with manhood. Isnt anger an emotion? Isnt it ironical even hypocritical for men who cant control their anger but dont cry to pride themselves in controlling their emotions? Suddenly, I found that sickening.
Thinking of hypocrisy while still anxious to see Jesus as masculine triggered the thought of Jesus repeatedly blasting pharisaical hypocrisy and courageously standing up to religious authorities.7 And they had real authority back then. After all, they were the ones behind Jesus execution.8 I recalled them on the brink of stoning the woman caught in adultery,9 and actually completing the act with Stephen.10 I thought of Jews flaying the apostle Pauls back.11 Then I pictured Jesus riling the authorities by single-handedly hauling the moneychangers out of the temple.12 Not only was he contending with several men whose livelihoods were at stake, he was violating an officially-sanctioned practice and creating a near riot in the most sacred place in the world to the Jews a place that was sure to have been protected by zealous armed guards.13
Still bucketing tears myself, I kept trying to counter my doubts about Jesus by endeavoring to impress his bravery upon my consciousness. I recalled Jesus despite knowing the torturous fate awaiting him and knowing that at any moment he could turn back, or call down battalions of supernaturally fierce angels 14 courageously setting his face like flint15 as he headed for Jerusalem, with his disciples dragging their heels behind him.16
That reference to flint brought Jeremiah to mind. At this prophets very calling, God declared he had made this man a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall.17 And yet Jeremiah shed so many tears18 that he is known as the weeping prophet. A hard-as-iron, weeping man? Never before had I laid next to each other such two ridiculously incompatible facets of a man of God. I found the thought as head spinning as a lion and lamb lying together.19 At this, my mind bolted to Jesus being called the Lion and the Lamb.20 Could anyone be hard and soft at the same time? Is this what it means to be fully human even gloriously human? Is deadening ones emotions akin to deadening part of ones brain?
With these confusing thoughts utterly unresolved, my mind fled to King David. If ever there were a mans man, it was this giant-killer.21 I recalled the biblical record of David and his men crying until they had no strength left to cry.22 His home had been burnt to the ground and he not only lost everything he owned, but a huge, ruthless army had abducted his own wives and children along with the loved ones of his best friends presumably to rape and enslave them all.23 Then he found his once-loyal men so embittered by the loss that they were plotting to murder him.24 Next, when we jesus might be tempted to think him a crying shame, he stuns us all by strengthening himself in God, and in an endurance feat so incredible that many of his battle-hardened men were quite unable to keep up the pace and gave up, he chased down the army.25 Then, when he was not only ridiculously outnumbered26 but should have been too exhausted to move, he utterly defeated and plundered the foreign army.
Had I, for all those years, been cowering in fear of my emotions, as if scared of my own shadow? Had what I arrogantly regarded as being manly, actually been cowardly, and had I robbed myself in the process? For me, such thoughts were almost as shocking as heresy.
Didnt Paul mention tears somewhere?27 How many references to crying are there in the Bible? Emotionally, how far below the norm has the average Western Christian slipped? I made an urgent mental note to make this a Bible study priority and later discovered well over seventy references to men crying.28
My mind drifted to another time I had shocked myself by crying. Being in control has almost been a religion to me. In this case, however, it was as though I had been continually forced back until this unmanly act was the only exit. I was driven to such bitter regret over squandered opportunities and mistaken priorities that had robbed me of lifes greatest treasure knowing God more intimately. Suddenly it seemed there could be no greater loss; no greater tragedy; and no alternative response but to cry. As bitter tears washed my face, I found it peculiarly refreshing, as if each teardrop softened my sun-dried soul. There was a liberating honesty about it; like blabbing a fearfully kept guilty secret and to ones surprised relief finding acceptance.
Oh, sweet tears of repentance! Tears, so bitter when they erupted, seemed to turn to nectar the moment they touched that God-charged atmosphere. Until then I had no idea that to see through tears is to see through a telescope. It was then that I knew that tears touch the heart of God. Like a gentle summer breeze, the words, Blessed are they that mourn, caressed my softening heart.
At the mere reminder of having cried, however, shame swamped me and I caught myself trying to push the memory away. The irony is that I had just begun feeling a little smug over having progressed in my understanding of masculinity and emotion. As I pondered the contradiction, I concluded that my lingering shame over tears was a little like my fear of handling snakes. My excuse for the fear is that I have spent most of my life in a region renowned for several species of deadly snakes. When given the opportunity to hold a non-venomous snake, however, my heart thumped despite knowing that the snake was harmless. As I had stubbornly refused to cave in to my irrational fear of a harmless snake, so I should refuse to be dominated by an irrational feeling that tears imply weakness.
I found myself puzzling over what it means to be a man. Things have got very blurred in a technologically advanced society in which physical strength means less than it ever did and where women act more like men than ever before. I wondered if dividing manhood into its basic components might help. A man is a mature male human. To be mature is to be smarter and wiser than children. To be human is to be more intelligent than animals. Hey! A significant part of being a man is intellect! If my thinking ability separates me from animals and children, what could possibly be manly about refusing to think about unpleasant things? If a real man is not a coward, wouldnt it be more manly to face ones past fears and resolve them by thinking about them, rather than fleeing them?
Then a realization punched me in the stomach. Ive done it again! I reeled in amazement that yet again I had resorted to my timeworn way of coping. Am I so addicted to avoiding unpleasant memories that I am seldom even conscious that I am doing it? Rather than face all the unpleasantness and come to terms with the trauma I had witnessed, I had reverted to my preferred method of escapism. Instead of dealing with emotions, I had plunged into an intellectual examination of emotions and masculinity. It was as if I had subconsciously hoped and it had almost worked that by these mental gymnastics I would fool myself into not realizing I had run from the emotional and personal issues.
It seems that I, who had prided myself in not being one to use drugs or drink, was as much into escapism as anyone who resorts to substance abuse.
What had left me so traumatized was some sort of vision of Jesus crucifixion. It had seemed as if I were actually there and simultaneously witnessed angelic responses to those events. It had felt more gut wrenching than merely being a spectator to a grizzly incident of earth-shattering proportions. It almost felt as if I had experienced Jesus tortuous death and burial not through a hardened human heart but through the passionate innocence of angelic eyes and emotions.
No matter how much I longed to erase that ghastly memory, I did not have to be Einstein to know that God had obviously given me the experience for a purpose and that the suppression of the memory would render that divine revelation a waste.
My mind leapfrogged to other life experiences that I had tried hard to forget. There was no way I could say those experiences were from God. They had the fingerprints of evil smudged all over them. Was it acceptable to keep pushing the memories out of my mind and leave them unresolved, or would, like this experience, I somehow be wasting an invaluable learning opportunity by suppressing them? But what was there to learn? I thought of people using punishment to teach people a lesson, but that was not applicable to my four-year-old brother dying, nor to my other unpleasant memories.
I recalled the beginning of 2 Corinthians where God is called the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received effeminate jesus from God.29 This makes our ability to minister to others dependent upon us receiving Gods comfort.
I keep expecting God to meet all my needs without me articulating them, despite this being at odds with Jesus teaching. He kept pleading with us to ask in order to receive.30 I thought of all the times Jesus asked sick people what they wanted before he healed them.31 It was apparently important that they confess their need. If God will not heal until we admit our need for healing, could living in denial of inner pain keep God from comforting us? And could this, in turn, keep God from using us to help other people? If receiving divine comfort is the key to us ministering to others who are hurt, what are the full implications of trying to act macho by refusing to admit even to ourselves let alone to God the extent of our inner pain? Could it not only keep us messed up and cause other people to miss out, but keep us from our lifes mission?
I recalled in the Epistle of James where it links healing and powerful prayer to confessing our sins to each other.32 In contrast, I tend to be too big a coward to confess in private to myself and God, weaknesses that are not even sins. I thought of Jesus saying that what has been whispered in secret shall be shouted from the housetops33 and recalled the Scripture that affirms that all things are naked and exposed before the One to whom we must give account.34 Just as it is better to repent this side of Judgment Day, wouldnt it be better to get hidden things over and done with by being open about everything now?
I revisited Jesus famous statement in which he said he is the Truth,35 and another occasion when he said the truth shall set us free.36 I concluded that since God is a God of truth, he must surely want us to live in truth, not in denial.37 Further confirmation flashed into my mind in the form of Jesus statement that God must be worshipped in spirit and in truth.38
Another famous Scripture began bobbing on the surface of my consciousness, about God weaving all things together for good in the lives of those who love him.39 That reminded me of Joseph in the Old Testament telling his brothers something like, You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.40 There is no way that God could have approved of the evil in his brothers hearts but if God is so powerful as to be able to bring good out of such evil schemes, God can surely bring good out of evil things I have suffered and would rather forget. Could I, by suppressing unpleasant memories, miss at least some of the good God would otherwise have brought out of a regrettable event?
That thought opened so many possibilities as to keep me intellectually entertained for weeks, but then I realized what was happening. Im doing it again! Is there no limit to how far Ill go to avoid unpleasant memories.
So I quickly prayed, then dragged my reluctant mind by the scruff of its neck back to the memory of the crucifixion. There could hardly be anything more traumatic than witnessing ones loved one being tortured to death. And yet I sensed that not even that could fully account for the violent intensity of my emotional reaction to what I had witnessed.
With the same reluctance I had felt as a little child trudging my way to the torturer who called himself a dentist, I dredged up the memories of the angels recoiling at the sight their beloved Lord on the cross. Their reactions had been so explosive as to somehow send shockwaves through my entire being. The sickening blow to my senses made me feel there was something appallingly wrong and of cataclysmic significance for the Holy Creator of the cosmos to be naked on a cross, pinned out like a bug specimen on public display to titillate curious spectators. The feeling was so strong that it was as if truth had been speared into me, entering my heart without passing through my mind. It seemed I knew mysteries that even now continued to elude my intellectual understanding.
My thoughts skidded to the angels blood-curdling shriek, This is no ordinary man! Something about the eerie, stomach-churning sensation that tore through me as he had expelled those words made it feel as if the words were of special significance. So, hoping that God would guide my thoughts, I determined to explore the implications of those words.
I dont think any of us can truly comprehend the mind-boggling importance and value and eternal potential of just one ordinary human. Even so, the Eternal Son is infinitely greater. No matter how dirty and tattered a childs beloved teddy bear is, for those who deeply love and understand the little child, it would be like a knife in the stomach to see that stuffed toy ripped to shreds. Nevertheless, it would be an incomparably greater tragedy for the child himself to be tortured to death. No matter how excruciatingly tragic the death of a loved one is, it is infinitely more appalling to contemplate the death of the One through whom all things are made and sustained. Any other regrettable death is like the loss of a mediocre reproduction of a masterpiece, compared to the master artist himself being struck down in the prime of his creativity.
I remembered the time I gasped as I read, in the book of Acts, Peter saying, You killed the author of life.41 I thought of the beginning of Hebrews that speaks of the mighty Son of God holding the entire cosmos together by his word.42 It is in him that we live and move and have our being. He is the one who gives life and all things to all.43 Killing the Origin and Sustaining Power behind all life is as terrifying as accidentally detonating a chain reaction that could implode the entire universe.
As it says in Colossians, the Son of God is the one by whom and for whom, all things were created.44 Truly, I had witnessed the total humiliation of the most exalted person in the entire cosmos.
I recalled being told as a child that the Son of God becoming human is like us becoming an ant. Not even that, however, adequately embraces the enormity of the gulf between the Creator and the created. In comparison, the difference between an amoeba and a mighty, sinless angel who has lived in splendor for eons is nothing. Our Lord is not merely a different and vastly superior species; he had no beginning. He is not just from a different world; he made every world. He has no limitation. Whereas he is dependent upon nothing, we are dependent not only upon the God who holds our very atoms together but utterly dependent upon food, water, oxygen, light, a narrow temperature range, and so on. We cannot even keep sane for long in solitary confinement. We live for a few years: he is Life. We sometimes manage to discover a fragment of truth; he is Truth.
And on that cross I had seen the ultimate violation of Innocence. No one in the universe has been more violated, and no human has had such innocence. Morally, we are shades of gray, whereas his purity is so blindingly brilliant white as to burn our eyes out. The moral gap between the lowest criminal and the greatest saint, or the most defiled rapist and the most chaste virgin, is nothing compared with the gulf between any of us and the Sinless One.45 Trace anyones family tree back far enough and there will be a conception based on rape, adultery, or lust. So there is a real sense in which all of us owe our very existence to sin. But the Man in torment on the cross was eternally pure. A newborn human will grow up to sin, but the Man on the cross remained pure.
No wonder witnessing Jesus death and burial had such a devastating effect on me. As much as I despised those awful feelings, they had dragged me kicking and screaming to an understanding I had sorely needed, even though I still believe my intellectual grasp of the full ramifications is, at best, fragmentary and superficial.
It truly is important to bring painful memories to God and resolve them, rather than opting for the cowardly way of trying to suppress the memories.
Real Christians Grieve: Help and Healing from Emotional Pain
Husband, Head of a Submissive Wife? A Mans Man, the Bible Way
Men: The Simpler Sex? Understanding Men
Men Crying in the Bible Insightful Scriptures
Is My Baby in Heaven? Comfort when grieving the loss of a baby due to miscarriage, abortion, stillbirth or the death of an infant.
Basking In Infinite Love Further help and comfort with your grief. Keep following the first link at the end of each article.
God and Suffering Help in wrestling with why we live in a world where tragedies occur.
The above is adapted from a novel Ive written that can be read on the web. See Free Book
Not to be sold. © Copyright, 2008, Grantley Morris. Not to be copied in whole or in part without citing this entire paragraph. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings by Grantley Morris available free at the following internet site www.net-burst.net Freely you have received, freely give.
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