The River Between Us

By AbbyA

JMathis’ piece on the softness of men is so refreshing. For those of us who have been through a lot in our marriages, with our father figures or even with God, we forget how much the same we are with our fellow brothers. Whether they are husbands, brothers, dads, sons, boyfriends, the river we feel between us is not so large or vast. Bindu was so right when she talked about the hunter within us  – – whether we are fishing for shoes or fishing for men. The cross over is as large as the river between us.

I’m here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Yesterday, I celebrated my second Father’s Day without my dad, and today, my 36th birthday. Since I got married nine years ago, had my babies and started a business, there has been a part of me that lacked confidence. It played out like feeling other moms knew more or had more experience than me. Or, that who I am wasn’t accomplished enough. I have all of this fruit around me, but didn’t feel I had the authority to acknowledge these good things were flowing out of the good in me.

There has been a certain amount of healing in the last few days. I have recognized how much my dad loved me. Without dredging the details, my dad was highly esteemed and very important in the lives of thousands of people over the years. Many of those people got to be around and spent a lot of time with my dad. Hundreds of these people came to his funeral, hundreds more wrote in his online guest book. I love how much he was loved. I spent a lot of time over the last year and a half longing for and wanting to be some of those individuals. I felt like they somehow “got more” or were on the “inside.” And, I was on the outside. Just the sort of thing that contributes to the killing of confidence. Because the “she” inside of me was just a little girl when he became so far away.

Call it my mother’s intuition or her extraordinary relationship with the Lord, “she” asked me, just the other day, to pray about receiving the great love my dad had for me. God showed me that, to my dad, I am more valuable than the air he breathed. It changed my heart. It has brought me leaps and bounds in the way of feeling justified. Comfortable with who I am, not as the smarty twenty-something. But as the mother, wife and friend that I am.

I will wrap it up by saying that there is sometimes a river between us. Male and female in the roles of father-daughter, husband-wife, mother-son. But there also is the cross over. That would be our Lord Jesus Christ who always makes a way to remove the space in between. My prayer for each and any one of you is that wherever you find the empty space or wherever you see the questions marks in your life, that you would seek Him to find the healing you need to be the full person God made you to be. I am quite sure that the river was meant to freely flow between us. Only He can make life this beautiful.

The True Softness of Men

By JMathis

My poor husband has been throwing up all night. No, not like out of a scene from Animal House, but rather a tragic case of Father’s Day food poisoning—think more like from the recent movie, Bridesmaids. For him, this Father’s Day will definitely be one for the record books, but certainly not in a way that he will want to relive. Hip hip hooray for Father’s Day.

So, in between puking sessions, I am seeing his vulnerability and his dependence on me. Cowering and shaking, his pure, infantile nature is coming through. He only wants the nurturers in his life surrounding him right now—me and my mom, but more importantly, he calls for his mommy. This is not the tough-guy husband I am used to seeing.

My husband’s impenetrable exterior, shielded by walls of sarcasm, bite and vinegar, has collapsed by the side of the bed.

My salty pirate of a husband has become a puddle of tears and whimpering.

My daughter wakes up and starts crying loudly in the middle of the night for her pet manatee, Hammy, which of course, is nowhere to be found tonight. I am beyond exasperated and quietly swear to throw Hammy “where the sun don’t shine” once his whereabouts are determined. Why can’t she quiet herself and let her father be the baby for once—just for tonight? She never wakes up like this, so, why of all nights is she making a ruckus like this? This is her daddy’s night to be babied, and yet, that just does not compute in her playbook.

In all of this madness tonight, I am realizing the true softness of men.

I am seeing that they are not so different from us women. They cry when feeling hurt, raw and exposed. It’s just that their tears are not allowed to be seen by the public. Society has taught them quite masterfully that tears are “women’s work” and are meant to be suppressed and squashed.

It is only in these rare moments of physical pain that the tears involuntarily roll down their cheeks.

The pressure to be financially successful, to be a provider to all of mankind, is all-encompassing for men and is relentless. They invented the rat race and now they fall prey to it daily—never allowed to get off, lest their manhood be called into question.

We cannot see their tears and frustration with the demands placed on their shoulders by society, family and friends. Yet, it is there, day after day, like a crushing weight. Little boys are taught to be tough from day 1, under all circumstances, regardless of the amount of strain that is put upon them.

This inability to deal with these lifelong pressures causes some men to emotionally and/or physically lash out, while causing other men to retreat into the cave of no feelings, no emotions, no weakness. In either case, it is a harsh cup out of which they drink. Yet, they partake daily because this is what they are taught to do from the very beginning of time.

Women—while we love to laugh and joke about the Neanderthal men in our lives, we cannot forget that they bleed just like us. The only difference is that their mommies and daddies told them to suck it up and “take it like a man”, while we were allowed to release our pain with our tears. In many ways, our childhoods were much more liberating than theirs.

On this day after Father’s Day, take a long, hard look at the men in your life. Have you really thought about the worries and fears that plague them internally? Have you ever waded deep to find the vulnerability that exists behind their hard shell? Have you stepped into their souls to help them search for their true softness? Or, have you too, succumbed to society’s views and expectations for men?

Pray earnestly for the men in your life. Pray for their soft, squishy interiors—the emotions, the feelings, the tears—which are never seen. Pray that their vulnerabilities are allowed to be seen by the Lord, and that their hearts are exposed to receive healing, nurture and unconditional love from their God. Pray for them to seek dependence on God as part of their daily, indestructible armor.

Pray that they are allowed to be babied from time to time.

After all, they bleed like us and cry like us.

They just need the Lord to show them that it’s okay to expose their true softness.