Lessons in Living like Lions: Crossroads Experiences and Living Radically
"I’m Hub McCann. I’ve fought in two world wars, and countless smaller ones on three continents. I’ve led thousands of men into battle with everything from horses and swords to artillery and tanks. I’ve seen the headwaters of the Nile and tribes of natives no white men had ever seen before. I’ve won and lost a dozen fortunes, killed many men, and loved only one woman with a passion a flea like you could never begin to understand. That’s who I am.” (Hub McCann, Second Hand Lions)
Uncle Hub, from the film Second Hand Lions, is everything that makes men say, "that's awesome! That's a man!" Don't get me wrong, there's a lot about this character tat reflects a sense of being lost and lacking purpose that I don't aspire to, but he does know who he is. If someone were to ask me the question, "Who are you?", I am often unsure of how I would respond. I've been thinking about this more and more being a new father, knowing that I too must give the “What Every Boy Needs to Know About Being a Man” speech.
Walter, the young man in the film, looks on and finds himself desperate to hear the speech. Uncle Hub will eventually tell Walter, “Honor, virtue, and courage mean everything; that money and power mean nothing. That good always triumphs over evil. That true love never dies. Doesn’t matter if they’re true or not. A man should believe in those things anyway. Because they are the things worth believing in.” I believe I'll add a bit to this idea when I share it with my son, but largely this is the underlying principle that should inform my daily decisions, not just as a Christian, but also as a man.
Hub's philosophy sounds good, noble, and virtuous, but it is an extremely radical departure from the values of the culture we're currently living in. Money and power mean nothing? What do we do with this statement? Isn't the goal of life to get a good job so we can make more money to get more stuff and hold more influence? We spend our lives looking up to the "Role Models" that the paparazzi pushes at us in TV, in magazines, and on the Internet. I've spent a considerable amount of time in my own life lately stressing about money more than I've stressed about virtue and honor. In fact, I think that if I were virtuous and honerable but homeless and smelly I would be considered among the dregs of humanity in this culture. Meanwhile, if I were rich and well-connected, yet despicable in my personal relationships, I would still be "the man" in the media.
Honor, virtue, and courage mean everything? This is probably more difficult to swallow than the money means nothing part. Our daytime gurus share how important it is to be happy and satisfied with our life. Being emotionally fulfilled is the trendy paramount value. It's the topic of book clubs and talk shows galore. "It's all about me!" If it makes you happy, then it must be right. To be quite honest, honor, virtue, and courage don't always feel very good. Sometimes they're scary, uncomfortable, self-sacraficial, and often not fun. Can you believe that we should do something that's not fun?
Secondhand Lions is primarily about the tremendous need for boys to have strong male role models and the devastation of fatherlessness. As one who grew up essentially fatherless myself, I often find myself at a loss as to how to act responsibly with honor, virtue, and courage when I come to the major and mundane crossroads in my life. As a teacher and now a father, however, I have been thrust into the position of male role-model, and let me tell you, it is scary.
This is what the Lord says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where teh good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, We will not walk in it. Jeremiah 6:16
For the past few weeks we've been discussing the crossroads of life at my church, and upon self-examination, I have lived my life, up to this point at least, taking the path of least resistance, which most often means the culturally acceptable self-gratifying path rather than the narrow path of honor, virtue, and courage. I am continually more convicted, though, that I want my son to see a man who follows the ancient paths. A man of whom he can in some sense say, "That's a man".