There’s a small zoo in my hometown that boasts a lion as one of the main attractions—the fierce king of the jungle placed on display for all to see. But if you pay close attention, there’s something terribly wrong. This lion doesn’t roar. Instead, he lay silent with his face pressed against the dirt of the earth, exhausted. The breath of his nostrils stirring up the dust, longing for the freedom he once knew.
At first, I imagine the lion welcomed the attention of his new home. He was well fed and he roared on occasion to keep his admirers entertained. But in time, the chains of prosperity began to steal his hope and he was utterly alone. His booming voice became a quiet grumble as the thrill of the hunt became a distant memory.
But when I stare at this lion, I can’t help but see something else.
Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with countless men from the ages of twenty-two to sixty-two and one of the most striking similarities I see in every conversation is this: men are searching. They’re searching for a legacy that’s bigger than their bank account and a career that doesn’t cage in their true identity. Like William Wallace, they long to rekindle that warrior within who roars “FREEDOM” at the top of his lungs having poured every ounce of his life’s energy into something bigger than himself.
But the problem is, we live in a culture that has convinced men that it’s easier to make money than worry about the convictions of their heart. Slowly, subtly, we have become trapped by the noble desire to provide for our families. Day by day, the walls close in around us. Apathy becomes easier than passion and instead of feeding off of inspiration we bask in entertainment—isolated by the belief that comfort is a suitable replacement for peace. When starved for real purpose, our chief aim becomes security as our childhood longing for greatness atrophies into a weak muscle that is no longer willing to suffer in order to grow.
Deep down we know that there has to be more.
Know Who You Are
A lot of Christian writers have presented this notion that men need to rekindle the warrior within. The call for most is to get back to nature, to smell the earth, and subdue it. Then, and only then, will you discover who you are. But frankly, I believe there’s more to it than that. The goal of a man isn’t to lift weights, go mountain climbing, or kill a wild animal. In fact, if we’re not careful, those very things that promise freedom will become our identity. The enemy loves to cure us of one ailment by giving us another.
When Adam fell in the garden, the sweat of his brow became our curse—busyness and stress and ambition and fear. Those are the subtle idols that begin to stake claimover our hearts and cause us to live like a pendulum bouncing back and forth between the ends of a spectrum. Work or rest. Entertainment or inspiration. Security or purpose. Apathy or passion.
The only solution to satisfy our deepest longing is to discover who we truly are. As men, we must understand the DNA of our birth. We are sons of God. We have a Father who says the battle isn’t ours to fight, that no weapon formed against us shall prosper, that we are not to live in fear, that He has overcome the world, yet we live as if those were words on a page instead of the inheritance we’ve been given.
Breaking free isn’t about being “manly”, it’s about trusting God at His word and receiving His blessing—the blessing of sonship.
But the challenge—the rub, if you will—comes with the answer to the age-old question: “How?”
A New Life
Whether you look at Frodo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings or Luke Skywalker from the Star Wars movies, at some point, you have to make a decision to leave home. To leave the comfort of your current way of thinking and embrace a new life. New life is found when we die to our former selves. The lion has to leave the cage.
The only way to know God, to truly understand who He is and what He has promised you, is to die to yourself. The upside-down nature of the Christian faith is this: only death can bring life. And this isn’t just lip service. God went so far as to model it for us on a cross. Now we don’t have to physically die, but we do have to surrender. Instead of saying all the right things with one hand raised to God while the other hand clings to everything the world has to offer, we must truly let go.
When dead men come alive with the hope of the gospel, lives will change.
Men will begin loving God with their full hearts and they’ll long to read His Word, not to check off a box, but because they understand that it is the doorway to a relationship with Him. From that birthplace, an adventure will begin. An adventure of leading with humility and strength that isn’t their own, not for the sake of control, but for the sake of His glory. Then, families will thrive.
Men will begin using their gifts and talents to do more than simply work and earn a paycheck. The grip of money will loosen as they stop treasuring it and see that money is a resource to be stewarded, not paper to be hoarded. In turn, their lives will overflow with generosity because they understand what they’ve been given. Then, entire communities will be changed.
The worries and fears of politics and power and economics will diminish because they know deeply that isn’t what defines them or their freedoms. Entertainment will be something they can enjoy instead of idolizing and using as a means of escape. There will be peace beyond understanding that pervades throughout every part of their life, helping them weather every storm and they will live fully in the greatness for which they were created—the image of God.
Men will be a light in a dark place, the reflection of encouragement and hope for the world.
However, if we fail to miss faith as our foundation to build upon, our good deeds and personal development efforts will eventually be caged in by circumstance.
Men, lions weren’t created to live in cages and neither were we.
It’s time to break free.