Donald Miller began the Mentoring Project as a response to the masculinity crises he and countless others agree is happening in our nation.
The Mentoring Project seeks to respond to the American crisis of fatherlessness by inspiring and equipping faith communities to mentor fatherless boys.
It's gotten national attention from President Barack Obama and his team. I get giddy when I hear of programs such as Donald's, John Eldredge's, and others who are stepping in the gap, believing an entire generation of boys and men can be renamed, restored, and rebuilt. It all starts by one man courageously believing he has something to offer another. And not just thinking about it. Doing it! (Men who mentor only become stronger and assured of who they are and what they bring to the world).
This project and other's like it, reenforce a question I have quietly talked to others about for years. How is the crisis in masculinity affecting women and reenforcing our own negative femininity issues?
I call it "The Silent Epidemic."
I've wondered if part of my observations and frustrations in ministry, dating relationships, counseling, and leadership were somewhat due to the bad fruit emerging from the fatherless epidemic. Not just abandoned boys who lacked a father figure, but adult men who grew up lacking true connection with their fathers. The initiation they were intended to receive from their fathers.
And if this was true....was I coming alongside these men as a beacon of hope believing there was more to their life than they saw and were offering OR resigning myself to hopelessness and instead compensating for what I saw a lack of?
Which made me suspect, how many women, like myself, were pretending to be strong and 'use their gifts' only to be covering over their quiet, unspoken fear that no man was strong enough to handle them, they were alone in leadership, and they better rise to the occasion or no one else will?
Many of us live in fear and shame of our femininity and innate need for strength. So instead of living in the tension being a woman assumes, we seek to become self sufficient, independent, and "strong" (which often leads to taking on way more than we can handle or were intended to. We become superwomen letting NO ONE penetrate our impenitratable walls, and we feel a weird mix of liberation and shame if they do).
I know, some of you are not even listening now because your theological and experiential paradigms are having a boxing match with what I've just shared. But rather than react, take a moment to sit with it. Let the Queen Mary, that many of us carry so heavily on our shoulders, drop. Now sit with some of your deepest longings. How you wish your father, significant other, ministry leaders, friends would of handled your heart?
If it wasn't for the Donald Millers and John Eldgredges of the faith pioneering the trail, I would have pretended something wasn't "off." I also would have stayed a "strong, independent, afraid little girl" instead of "a strong, interdependent, free woman." In acknowledging the damage and impact of a Fatherless Generation my heart has only opened to greater compassion, concern, and desire for restoration in both sexes.
I know now, I cannot and should not try to "fix" a guy (ministry partner, leader, friend, significant other). Masculinity gives rise to masculinity. And boys are initiated to manhood only through the love and camaraderie of another man. However, what is my role in honoring and calling forth the goodness of men?
Let me give an example.
Early on in my ministry, God had to Father me in what it meant to honor a man (and not compensate for him). I noticed as a twenty-something young leader that when a male leader I worked with stayed quiet or didn't step into an important team situation, I reacted. Rather than sit in the silence, and walk down the tumultuous feelings this was bringing up in me as the co-leader, I would jump in and take over. Slowing it down: I quietly resigned in my heart he wasn't going to do anything (honestly it took two nano-seconds) and quickly jumped in navigating waters that were uncomfortable, felt too much, and perhaps weren't for me to be swimming alone in the first place.
Over time the Father stepped in....Beloved, honor Him. Sit in the discomfort of his silence. You only add to his defeat when you take over. And it only reenforces the lie you are not worth being taken care of.
What??? I'm just helping. But whose gonna step in? Who's gonna do something? (this paradigm shift of truth rocked my safe, inner world!). My Father called me out! What I wanted to do was ignore the guy's passivity, compensate for what was lacking (ignoring my needs), and make uncomfortable feelings and situations go away.
I think a lot of women do this. I know because I've talked to you. It's feels vulnerable enough being a woman, and it takes a lot to be a woman leader, but we fear the tenderness required when we must depend on the Lord to defend, advocate, and protect us in His way through His processes. Then it's even harder to believe He will speak to the man involved (fill in the blank: spouse, significant other, co-leader, etc.) and keep hope alive that something might change.
But to honor a man, I believe we must sometimes sit in the silence and the cost of passivity. We can offer the impact of his action or inaction, but must still love him through the process. We reflect to Him the quiet, tender, nurturing strength of God that He bestows on us as we walk this out. This I believe is intended to arouse a man to love, wholeness, and good deeds (in a way only your feminine heart can). It says, "I know you have what it takes!" We then pray, ask for the Lord's eyes to see him, and abide in the process that as the Lord protects and meets us in our heart of hearts, He is doing the same in his, reminding him he has what it takes and changing him from the inside-out!
So here's to the Mentoring Project Part II. Because we all play a part, and God loves us way too much to keep us there!
p.s. oops... the elephant image is from the mentoring project (click here for the story) this is my pink version, for Part II (o;