Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Voice of the Masculine

William Struthers’ book Wired for Intimacy made quite an impact when it was released in 2009. Struthers went deep into the human brain to show that God has hard-wired us for intimacy and relationships, and to show that pornography has disrupted the brain’s circuitry in dark and dangerous ways. He spoke about other matters as well, and one that still remains important to me is his discussion of the unique importance of the masculine voice. He distinguishes between the masculine and the feminine voice and insists that both play crucial and unique functions in relationships.

The voice of the masculine speaks to affirm. All children are carried and primarily nourished by the mother. Daughters and sons first know their mother as she carries them, delivers them into the world and then is their primary source of nourishment. In many ways the child moves from becoming an extension of the mother to their own person. All children, both boys and girls, develop their own sense of identity as they separate from their mother. For boys, this process is fairly straightforward. What makes them different from their mothers is fairly easy to see: their bodies.

Both young boys and young girls need to hear from both the feminine and the masculine voice. These voices can be spoken by both mothers and fathers. A father is not incapable of nurturing because he is a man, neither is a mother incapable of affirming because she is a woman. But the masculine voice alone speaking both affirmation and nurture is not enough. The feminine voice speaking both nurture and affirmation is not enough.

Does this mean that a child who grows up in a house where one of their parents is not present is doomed to a life of truncated emotional, psychological and spiritual development? Not if there is a male presence other than the father that is able to come in and act as a surrogate for those children. Boys and girls both need a masculine voice in their life that encourages, affirms, challenges, enables and stretches them. In an ideal set of circumstances both mother and father are present in the raising of a child. Both the masculine and the feminine speak to nurture, protect and grow, albeit in different ways.
There is something special about the affirming voice of the masculine father. This voice of affirmation is not just needed for young men, but also for young women. While it may be true that “only a father can tell a boy when he is a man” (and worthy to stand among his peers), it is also true that the father’s affirmation of a daughter’s worth speaks into her being in a way that others do not. … The masculine voice of affirmation spoken to a man lets him know that he is worthy to stand in the company of his peers; he is loved because of who he is. The masculine voice of affirmation spoken to a woman lets her know that she is loved because of who she is and that she is worthy of pursuit.

When a boy realizes that he is other than his mother (his body is different and she acknowledges that he is different), who is it that tells him who he is, what he is to do, what he will become? His father. The father, the masculine voice, acts to inform, equip, instruct and model. In the absence of this voice, which at its best is loving, trustworthy and affirming, a boy is forced to look for whatever is available to discover who he is. He may look to his mother for instruction, and she rightly has much to say on the matter, her guidance on how a man should relate comes from a female perspective. He may look to another male figure in his life; a grandfather, uncle, elder brother or the media.

The masculine voice is received as a voice that speaks unchanging truth. Just as we think of the Word of God being truth that is unchanging, so a man’s words speak to what he knows to be true. The Promise Keepers movement of the 1990s hit this nail on the head. When a man makes a promise, he is honor bound to keep it because his word is who he is. The degree to which a man keeps his word is the measure of his integrity and honor. When the masculine voice affirms, it says, “It is good.” It doesn’t say, “It is okay now, but it might not be later.” The affirming nature of God is evidenced in the first chapter of Genesis after the many acts of creation. God “saw that it was good.”

from Tim Challies serves as a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario, edits Discerning Reader, is a co-founder of Cruciform Press, author of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, Sexual Detox and The Next Story and active blogger. 

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