What’s a man to do with COVID-19?
I called a friend the other day asking to get together for a catch-up over coffee or lunch. He informed me that it would have to wait because he is in virtual isolation due to COVID-19. He’s not concerned about himself. He has what I call a secondary concern. It’s for his wife, who works with very vulnerable, special needs young adults. So, both of them are limiting their contact until the risk is over.
But, when will that be? New strains of the virus are being detected and posing new risks as they run their course. The news about the effect of the vaccine is mixed. So, can we resume contact this summer, next fall, or next year? These are unanswerable questions, and they leave us in limbo about plans, relationships, leisure activities, and fellowship.
And, this is especially hard on men. I’m going to use John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart trilogy of challenges that capture the heart of every man to highlight the challenges that COVID-19 has cast over the masculine gender during this pandemic.
Every Man Needs a Battle to Fight
How does a man fight this battle? Because the prevailing societal value and constant mantra of our culture is “Be Safe!”, men feel emasculated from the start. We are told to go home, shelter in place, work alone from home, and do nothing outside our tightest network.
But God designed us for dominion, to overcome friction, obstacles, and resistance. While desiring to be compliant and cooperative, a man also wants to see movement, to have a challenge, or devise a strategy to fix a problem. Nothing doing. Sit. Wait. Your life is in the hands of nameless experts. But a man can’t really live like this.
I’m not diminishing the realities of the coronavirus, nor its potentially lethal effects. However, treading water is not a healthy option for a man. So my exhortation to every man is that he finds within his new normal a worthy battle to fight. Look ahead, not backward. Look around and look within. Use every means at your disposal to stay connected, to train yourself in healthy disciplines physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Maintain your friendships, and get outside for some fresh (even sub-zero) air. Keep yourself ready because there are battles to fight with grace and truth right where you are. God is preparing you. Stay alert!
Every Man Needs a Beauty to Rescue
Deep within every man is the desire to be a hero to someone. Our lore is filled with damsels in distress, lovely maidens who need a prince, and runaway stagecoaches with the schoolmarm on board. And every man wants to measure up to the rescue. Men want to be that outward-focused, altruistic lender of strength and skill that makes life safer and better. Most men may not seem romantic, but they really are. They are spurred on by the noble, the beautiful, and the bold.
Now with COVID-19 we’re not riding the range or scaling the castle walls. We’re under the same roof together 24/7. Romance and mystery seem swallowed up in daily drudgery and boundary negotiations. Plus, there’s the fear we harbor. The niggling fear that the job might not survive the pandemic. Fear that I’m not enough. Fear that I can’t answer all the questions for my wife and family. Fear of nameless dreads that might sneak up on me. The heart of the inner rescuer wants to redeem the situation, but instead, a man can feel shrunken and overwhelmed by the sheer dailiness of the landscape.
So, men, our hardest journey every day is the commute from self to sacrifice. Yes, you carry the weight of leading and providing and protecting, but don’t let it turn you in on yourself. Recognize how your inner frustrations can be unfairly exported to the one, or ones, who did not cause it. They are looking to you paint a bigger picture, a way through, a team strategy. Lean in toward the ones you love. Do simple things to show you are thinking of her, of them. Stir up your courage and generosity to get out of your ghetto of work, routine, and doldrums. Make some memories by overcoming the lethargy of victimhood.
Our hardest journey every day is the commute from self to sacrifice.
Every Man Needs an Adventure to Live
COVID-19 protocols have clipped our wings. We’re like caged eagles. The free flights we once enjoyed are no longer possible. One of the ways this bubbles up emotionally is through anger. Slow, brooding darks moods, and sharp, loud explosions. We’re frustrated, and it either turns inward to swamp us in failure or outward to flare up in blame,
And, too often a man can adopt soothing behaviors: addictions to pleasures and appetites, or to ingrown self-absorption. So, ask yourself: what do I want my friends and family to remember about me from this testing time? Do I have a big enough God, a big enough vision, a big enough curiosity to stay on an adventure even though it’s different than my original plans? Remember, we are at war, not with policies and media and bureaucracies, but with an enemy who wants our hearts to be tamed, neutered, and rendered harmless. So rise up to a new adventure that God will make clear. Pivot away from disappointments about roads not traveled, and move with courage and curiosity down the path God has placed you on.
God made men to step up to challenges. Our pandemic predicaments are providing for us a whole new catalog of battles, rescues, and adventures. With God’s guidance, a man can be fully alive even under the restrictions imposed. God is bigger than all of these and is shaping men to lead the way.