What do you think of when it comes to words such as masculine or masculine man? For some, it might be a man who is confident, strong in body and mind, can fix things in the home and on a car. And has the ability to fend off a violent attacker. This can be seen as the traditional man/ alpha male. For others a man might be more quiet and introspective, more in touch with their emotions and artistic and quite the opposite of the traditional-alpha male. In modern times, there is a war going on between the two stances. But do we ever stop and ponder, what manhood or masculinity looks like, in light of disabled men? This is a question that I’ve been wrestling with for quite some time now, both societally and religiously for the church. Now to be fair, there are those with cerebral palsy, who are healthy and active, can take care of themselves for the most part. The biggest obstacle for me then is the issue of driving, due to my startle reflex is not something I’ve overcome yet, the difficult part of the equation is it hinders me socially. And things such as uber can be pricey after a while. Forgetting about myself, I often think about the men in the world, who aren’t able to be as active as myself, have to depend a lot on the care of others, spend a lot of time at home and very rarely get out of their homes.
Are they still not real men? Of course they are! These are men that are made in the image of God, and have immense value, dignity and purpose. The problem that I believe that these men, can very well be over looked by society and even the Church. While I do not believe that there is anything overtly malicious causing this, it grieves me non the less and I’m deeply convicted and convinced that this is an issue to brought to light and dealt with. Furthermore, if this issue grieves my soul, how must God feel about it? I believe that it grieves his heart, much more than it does mine. Most of the time, when pastors are talking about Godly men leading their families, more often than not they are speaking to able abled-bodied men. Teaching them to lead confidently and boldly, to provide for their families and pursuing the calling that God has placed on their lives. This is not wrong, and I affirm this absolutely. Yet very rarely do pastors think about what leading a family or pursing a God given calling might look life, if a men isn’t able to provide for his family, as he would desire in a physical sense. Have pastors ever really paused to consider the shame that this might leave in the soul of a man?
Everyday I talk to various men with different severities of disability, and each story echoes. Men of various ages and walks of life. Feeling that their lives are completely pointless, due to the context of their lives and being stuck at home more often than not. Moreover, they even endure the thought process of feeling worthy of love, be it by God himself or even a woman. In my daily conversations with men like myself, I make it a point to apply lessons that I have had to learn the hard way over the last few years of my life, that lead to a sense of masculinity in their own right. Though I still am in a similar context myself. The first element that I try to instill in my daily conversations with disabled men, is where their self of self and identity resides. Yes this is crucial in all men, but it is all the more important in the lives of some disabled men. It’s so important that disabled find and even lose themselves in the identity that God graciously bestows upon them. Whether they believe it or not. If not, disabled men will continually be stuck in the thought process of feeling like a burden to society and even their families. The next crucial element, after establishing a Christ centered identity is tapping into some sort of God giving calling. Whatever that may be, as I stated in the beginning, some men are more home bound, and have to depend a lot on the care of others and can’t really “work” in the sense that the world would like.
So, we have to establish of purpose and mission even if it’s glorifying God every day. There’s more that can be added. But I’d like to end with these thoughts, is it frustrating that the church doesn’t speak to the reality of masculinity among disabled members of their congregations, very little/if any? Yes- it is, it is also sad to see that very few churches have ministries dedicated to even families with special needs children. However, rather than being stuck in the downward spiral of complaining, I have accepted the calling that I believe that God has placed inside me. Even if it’s not seen as significant in the worlds eyes. It’s my goal to write one of the first books on the matter, because no longer can these men go forgotten.