Sometimes, things around us -- in our culture, communities, even our families -- can seem so dark and difficult that we are tempted to give up and withdraw inward to ourselves. We may be tempted to stew, sit, and then throw up our hands with the thought: "What's the point?"
This past weekend, several hundred men gathered at Green Street Baptist Church for a Stand Courageous conference in High Point, North Carolina to consider the role and responsibility of men in their families, communities, and culture, and to pray about the way ahead for their own lives.
Getting answers to this first involves first looking inward -- to the heart. A man must first stop and consider the state of his relationship with his true Father in Heaven before looking around him for solutions in other relationships. Unless he understands that he is a son of the most high God, fully loved and fully known (being fully loved despite God knowing all he has done), he will not have the security and confidence to operate in a healthy manner in those primary relationships around him -- whether family, friends, church, or community.
As the men in North Carolina heard, a key relationship in which this sonship must manifest is with one's wife. So many men are lacking one or more aspects of what it means to be a true son of God, and they act out and try to find this need and security with their wife. Men: she can never meet your needs; only God can. If we don't realize this and get right with our Father, we will always struggle to really live fully and love others unconditionally, and ultimately we will not be able to fully make an impact for God.
Acting out and trying to find security, love, identity -- and all the other things that God wants to give his true sons (but which many men have not received) -- is not limited to one's wife. It can extend to all of those around us -- children, parents, family members, friends, co-workers, bosses, and others. If we are not secure in being fully loved and fully known by God, and we do not accept all that God wants to give us as our true, good, fully loving Father -- we will act out and try to find identity, purpose, and healing (but we are really just bandaging over our wounds) elsewhere.
While this past week's Stand Courageous conference focused on equipping and encouraging men, this is an important message for women as well. Women need to fully accept that they are His daughters first and foremost, in order to be secure and not try to find deep and full love (the all-encompassing love that goes into our innermost recesses) elsewhere -- whether in a man, friends, or anyone else.
As Bishop Larry Jackson shared in North Carolina, only God can fully satisfy, equip, and empower men to be the spiritual leaders they were created to be. A man needs to strive closer than ever to the Lord -- not so he can lord it over people around him, but so that he is better equipped to even further lay down his life for his wife and those around him.
This dependance on the Lord is what our own General Jerry Boykin spoke about as well to the men assembled in North Carolina. If anyone has confidence to stand on his own background and toughness, it's General Boykin. In the course of his 36 years serving our nation (which included helping form the original Army Delta Force and at one point included commanding all the Army's Green Berets), he saw action in some of the most pivotal and key moments on our nation's modern military history.
As the men at Stand Courageous heard, General Boykin was part of Operation Eagle Claw, an attempt to free the 66 American hostages being held in Iran after revolutionaries seized the U.S. embassy in 1979. What students of this military history may not know, however, is how General Boykin leaned on God during the heat of the operation when all else seemed to be failing. During helicopter refueling in the dark Iranian desert, one of the pilots suffered vertigo and crashed into the top of a C-130 airplane holding the fuel. The C-130 caught fire with 45 of General's fellow soldiers -- his brothers -- stuck inside. Yet General stopped and prayed -- a "10 second prayer" -- "Father, please don't let these men die." All of a sudden, men started pouring out of a door in the side of the C-130, jumping through the flames onto the desert floor below. God had shown up.
That isn't the only time General Boykin called out to the Lord, and it wasn't the only time that God showed up -- through operations to free the people of Grenada, hunting down the evil, shadowy Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega, to the well-known Black Hawk Down incident in Somalia. While in Somalia, General Boykin lost fellow soldiers. He told the men assembled how his heart broke at this. As his doctor lay dying after getting hit by a mortar shell, and grabbed General's hand, General pleaded with God to not let him die.
His heart was pouring out, much like our own Lord Jesus's heart was poured out when his dear friend Lazarus died. "Jesus wept," John 11:35 records, and we know the Lord was burdened deep within his spirit for his friend. Yet God showed up, and Lazarus was raised from the dead. As General pleaded with the Lord, pouring out his heart for his friend and fellow soldier, God brought that doctor back from what seemed like the very brink of death. General Boykin fought for his friend -- in prayer. As he often wielded lethal weapons in real life, in this case General fought for his friend by the power of the Holy Spirit.
General Boykin's account of this story (and many others) are told in his book: "Never Surrender: A Soldier's Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom." He truly is a treasure to our nation, and while the stories are riveting in so many ways, what he would really want you to take away from this account is his own dependence and reliance on the Lord. While to the human eye it can look like weakness, our bending the knee and calling out to God for help is where we find our greatest strength. As the men in North Carolina heard, when we humble ourselves and look to him, we "may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16 (ESV)).
The men of America (indeed all Americans) need to hear this message. Who better qualified to convey it than General Jerry Boykin?