by Ricky Chelette, Executive Director
Real men: rough and tumble males who are interested in full-contact sports with wounds that are still visible when they are forty. But where do we get such a narrow view of what it means to be a man? Can artistic men be real men? Ask a boy in grammar or middle school and the answer is a resounding NO! In our modern American culture, young boys are rarely encouraged to pursue the arts and are expected to be what our world calls “real men.”
Granted, throughout history, there are always more men needed to build the walls, the castles, the homes, and the cathedrals than men to decorate them. But what would any of those structures be if not for the artistic men who designed them, captured the beauty and grandeur of God’s created splendor, and transferred that splendor onto walls and ceilings and sculptures grand and small? And what would life be like without the melodies, the dancing and acting of those whose movements and melodies can soothe the savage heart or help lift the soul to the very presence of the Father? Real men are tough, but they are also artistic, gifted, and sensitive!
Can you imagine a world without beauty? Can you imagine a world without music, art, or dance? Before the foundations of the world, the Lord designed into the hearts of man the gifts that allow men and women to be artisans. Some would hear the sounds in a meadow and form them into a beautiful melody. Some would see the setting of the sun or flowers blooming in a field and capture the beauty and majesty of those colors in a painting. Others would watch the wind-tossed trees and plants bending to and fro to the rhythm of an incoming storm and mimic those movements in effortless dance. In each instance, they would capture something of the beauty and mystery of our created world and express them in creative ways that echoed and amplified the magnificence of our Creator.
Artistic men = real men. Our world often looks at them with a great amount of contempt, especially when they are young. But where would our world be without them?
In His infinite wisdom, God gifted some men with particular gifts to express his beauty, melody, order, and movement in the world. In Exodus 35:30-35 we read,
30 Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts- 32 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 33 to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship. 34 And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. 35 He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers–all of them master craftsmen and designers.
And we also see David, one who could be considered a “man’s man” in one camp — killing giants (1 Sam. 17) and having many women (2 Sam. 5), — yet musical (1 Sam. 16:23) and so expressive that he would dance before the Lord (2 Sam. 6:14).
The truth is that men are created in the image of God and an obvious part of that image is the creative aspect our Father imparted to us. I am convinced we are most manly when we are most creative; when we have an opportunity to express ourselves or create something that seemingly wasn’t there before.
The problem artistic men face in our culture and in the church is that we have allowed the definition of a real man to be fashioned by some Hollywood caricature of invincible strength, stoic emotions and rampant hedonism. Such a definition is far removed from the creative Heavenly Father’s reflection and Biblical revelation.
In Genesis 2:19 we see the first man created by the Father and placed in the Garden of Eden. His first assignment is to go and name the animals God has created. The Word tells us that [God] brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.
Real men are not defined by their ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound, be the last man standing at the fight club, or experience grave heartache without ever shedding a tear. Real men, according to Gen. 2:19, reflect the beauty and glory of the Father by speaking truth into the chaos of life and giving it form and direction. Adam did just that for the creatures of the earth and that is what artistic men do when they see the beauty of God’s creation and gather from it the colors, sounds, movements, and images to recreate something that reflects the glory of the Father. It is a shame we have believed a lie from the devil about real men and relegated these gifted men to some lesser category, or some kind of less-than status. No wonder so many of these gifted and talented men, searching for a place to belong and be celebrated, are drawn to some alternative lifestyle. How sad. We are all living but one life — the one given to us by the Father. There is no alternative. How sad that we would miss the beauty and contributions of our brothers who might not fit some narrow and distorted view of real men. We are the lesser for their exclusion and we are missing the beauty, the expression, the mystery that each of them was created to express within the body of Christ — that gifting, designed by the Father, to cause all men and women not to praise the creature, but the Creator!
Instead of labeling these young men as different, special, sweet, precious, or gay, and solidifying their “other-than-ness,” let us embrace them for the God-gifted and talented men they are. The Body of Christ needs these men to help us express and see the fullness of God. When they are missing among us, we are missing something of the Father.
Real men: They are masculine, truth speakers, emotional, problem solvers, artistic, courageous, expressive, dancers, fighters, lovers, warriors, musicians, hunters, artists, leaders, actors; strong, sensitive, and designed to beautifully and mysteriously reflect the glory of God in our broken and fallen world. Real men are not simply measured by their posing, but by their humble posture before the Father who they seek to reflect all the world.
So when you see a young man who is expressive, sensitive, emotive, musical, artistic, etc., walk over to him and thank him for helping you see the glory of God in the beauty of creative expression. By affirming his giftedness you will bless a young soul and assure a bit more of God’s beauty expressed through a real man!