What Makes You a Man? The Process of “Manning Up”

I loved watching my father shave. No, I loved watching my father (period). As a young boy, I idolized him. Whatever he was doing, I was watching, soaking up his emanating masculinity. And nothing was more masculine than watching him shave.

It was the early 60’s and my dad shaved like most men of his generation: he used an old shaving mug and brush. He would pour hot water in the mug and vigorously stir the soap with his shaving brush until the lather foamed up to the rim. Using the brush, he would lather his face, then take his stainless steel double edged safety razor and shave off his black stubble.

I would climb up on the toilet, taking my seat on the porcelain tank and revel in this manly morning ritual. Dad would sometimes pick me up before shaving and rub his whiskered cheek against mine. I would scream with delight. His unshaved face felt rough yet comforting. It was as if he was injecting his blessing through hundreds of little bristles.

On the mornings when he wasn’t in a hurry, dad would take the shaving brush and lather up my boy face. He’d then hand me the bladeless razor and let me shave.
The smell of shaving cream and Old Spice would transform the small bathroom into our own father-son man cave.

I can’t imagine growing up absent of this father-son ritual. Actually, I don’t think I could have grown up without it. I think I would have been stuck in a Peter Panish state of never-never land with a bunch of other lost boys still awaiting their masculine blessings.

I’m a man now. Not because I have whiskers, or any other physical traits of the adult male. I’m a man because my father blessed it to me.

Thanks Dad!


Check out my other blog at Ballwin-Ellisville Patch

Spiritual Sidekick – The End – Part One

I was really hoping to wrap up my sidekick self-awareness ramblings this week, but you know what I’ve come to realize? I will never get to the end of my inward identity struggle this side of heaven.

Hello, my name is Jacob, the God-wrestler.

Every spiritual sidekick (and superhero) needs exercise, don’t you think? So, I’ve decided wrestling with God is great spiritual exercise.

I’m just now recovering from my latest bout of sidekick training and I do believe I’ve had an “aha” moment. Perhaps I would even go as far as to say I have had what the Greeks call a peripeteia. Peripeteia is defined as a sudden reversal, often in fortune of the protagonist, therefore, the turning point in Greek tragedy. I believe I’m at a turning point in my identity crisis. (I’m praying it’s not a tragedy, just a crisis)

So here is my peripeteia, my “aha” moment. My sidekick identity, Worshipboy, is an alias for my alter ego Fearfulboy. That’s right boys and girls, I just exposed my secret identity! Fearfulboy, too afraid to leap tall buildings for fear of falling flat on his face. I am afraid, folks.

All my life I have had a deep fear of rejection. And this fear has driven me to play it safe. “Don’t put yourself out there, Fearfulboy, people will reject you. Don’t make waves. Don’t stir the pot. Don’t speak your mind. You can’t handle the rejection. You can’t handle the challenge. Play it safe. Join forces with someone stronger and let him take all the hits.”

So that’s what I’ve done. I’ve self-protected Fearfulboy by dressing him up in superhero pajamas and cape. I’ve allowed him to run around the house jumping off of furniture, playing make-believe, but making sure to lock the storm door so he doesn’t run out in traffic and get hurt. 

So I ask you, what boy grows up wanting to be another boy? I didn’t want to grow up to be Superboy, I wanted to be Superman! A boy wants to grow up to be a man!

Worshipboy aka Fearfulboy must die!


Spiritual Sidekick – Part 2

I concluded last week’s blog with a number of self-directed questions regarding my spiritual sidekick dilemma. For those of you who refuse to read my blog, here they are again:

Have I used my identity as a sidekick as a crutch? Have I hidden behind this position as a way to avoid the loneliness of leadership? Have I used my sidekick status as a way to allow me to remain in my dorkiness instead of growing up and acting my age?

Before I answer these questions, I want to take this opportunity to give a “shout out” to all the “Preacher Men” superheroes in my life. My dad was my pastor for the first twenty three years of my life. Yes, I’m a “Son of a Preacher Man!” I know what it’s like to be a pastor, as I witnessed it firsthand.  I remember hearing the pecking of the typewriter in the wee hours of the night as he prepared his sermons and seminary assignments. I recall the phone calls in the middle of the night when he would be summoned to the deathbed of a parishioner or ringside to the latest marriage boxing match. I stood in the foyer tugging at his coat tail while he patiently listened to the precious saint expressing her objection to the color of paint in the women’s restroom. I followed him around the church building as he turned out the lights and locked the doors. I accompanied him to the church basement when the sewer backed up. I guess my sidekick status formed at a very young age. I’ve seen superheroism up close and personal.

Since being in full time ministry the past 31 years, I’ve worked with a number of superheroes. Some of them were larger than life with a variety of super powers. Others were more of the mutant variety, but I digress. Seriously, I have been blessed to work with several Preacher Men who modeled leadership and wisdom. These men graciously accepted me as their sidekick and mentored me, encouraging and challenging me to step up and serve God and His church. So thank you Jim, Phil, Billy, Ray, Jack and Charles for investing in me through the years.

As you can see, being a spiritual superhero is no picnic. Being his sidekick isn’t a day-in-the-park either, but it can be very fulfilling when teamed up with someone who’s got your back. That’s what I’ve appreciated about my heroes. I’m honored to be their sidekick.

So, to answer last week’s questions; yes, I’ve probably used my sidekick status as a crutch. I’ve never felt I could measure up to these strong leaders. Yes, I’ve probably hidden behind my sidekick status in order to avoid the loneliness of leadership, but as I see it, if I’m the sidekick that God has called me to be, I will be right there at Preacher Man’s side, so hopefully he won’t feel so lonely. And last, but not least, yes, I’m using my sidekick status to allow me to remain a dork.

Spiritual Sidekick

I loved Superman back when I was a kid. My brother and I used to watch the black and white reruns every afternoon after school. Then when we got a color TV in the early 70’s I started watching Batman. I enjoyed watching the Dark Knight and his sidekick, Robin, fight off the evil villains with every “Pow!”, “Sock!” and “Zow!” In my more innocent days, I never detected the creepiness of two men in tights living together in a cave. I just thought it was great that they made such a great dynamic duo, saving Gotham City from the diabolical Penguin and Joker.

I guess I’ve always identified myself more as a sidekick. In school, I tended to set the bar a little too high when it came to making friends. I wanted to be in the cool crowd, but alas, I was endowed with a double dose of dorkiness. The most I could achieve was to become a sidekick to a cooler guy, trying to be funny in a most obnoxious way. If you ever saw “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” I was Rowley. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bySsLRMqpQ

Then as an adult, I went into Music Ministry. In evangelical circles, the music guy was always the sidekick to the preacher. Dwight L. Moody had his sidekick, Ira Sankey and Billy Graham had Cliff Barrows. So I have always seen myself as the sidekick to my pastor. That’s how I got my name, “Worshipboy.” I was sidekick to “Preacherman.”  I was a superhero wannabe.

Recently, I mentioned this whole “sidekick” identity to a friend of mine and he challenged me. He said “Are you supposed to be the sidekick or is it a crutch?” So, I’m going to take that challenge and sort through some of my thoughts on that in the coming days. Have I used my identity as a sidekick as a crutch? Have I hidden behind this position as a way to avoid the loneliness of leadership? Have I used my sidekick status as a way to allow me to remain in my dorkiness instead of growing up and acting my age?

Stay tuned, young crime fighters, for the next episode of…Worshipboy! Spiritual Sidekick!