Those were two of the last words my spiritual director said to me today. As one online dictionary says, it means to, "act in accordance with one's beliefs, especially inspite of criticism." Wow, that is packed. So my spiritual director is telling me I need to "act...inspite of criticism". That is a hard one.
Let's face it guys, most of us like the approval of our cohorts, friends, neighbors, and family members. We like to feel respected, honored, and appreciated. I would think most of us are good guys, good Christian men, trying to follow Our Lord's wishes and plans for our lives. And yet, I would venture to say that many of us are also caught between our desire to follow God and our desire to be appreciated.
Well, it may be easy to please the boss by completing a project on time and under budget. It may be wonderful to treat our precious spouse to a night out, complete with wine and chocolates. It can also be rewarding to have a "daddy date" with our kids and treat them to a fun day out with the man of the house. So where is the courage needed for that stuff? There is no criticism there. Heck, we will get a lot of pat's on the back for that kind of stuff.
No, the criticism comes in when you rattle cages, rock the boat, and stir the pot. If you have read Dr. Dilsaver's book, this blog, and any deep Catholic literature on patriarchal leadership you know what I am talking about. It is so counter-cultural, so against the status quo, that it never fails to induce criticism. Let me give you some recent real-life examples:
1. "Are all of those kids yours?" Cashier at Wal-mart.
2. "Haven't you had enough? I have two and they are driving me crazy!" Stranger in a retail store.
3. "What are you Mormon or something?" Another stranger in a retail store.
4. "You home school? Aren't you worried your kids will be lonely, after all, they need to learn about the real world." Former Co-worker.
5. "That's nice and all, but it can't work for us (speaking about manly leadership in the home)" Relative.
6. Try finding a home for a family of nine that isn't in the city.
7. "What are you, some kind of Leave It To Beaver family, that is just weird." Acquaintance learning that my wife asks permission for things.
I am sorry, but I have to stop there. It is stirring the pot a bit much already. I could go on and on, but the challenge is this: Do we exchange man's approval for God's? Whom are we seeking to please? If we are honest with ourselves we will face up to the fact that we are falling short of His designs and plans for us and our families. He is asking for it all! How much are we willing to give?
The word courage has the root word from the french for "heart". St. Luke quotes our Lord as saying, "And he said to them: You are they who justify yourselves before men, but God knoweth your hearts; for that which is high to men, is an abomination before God." (Luke 16:15) God knows our hearts, He knows the truth, He knows what we are trying to hide from Him and trying to hide from ourselves. It takes courage to face this, to face our shortcomings, our fears, and our faults. It also takes courage, it takes heart, to give God our all, and live completely and radically for Him. It will take courage to stop justifying ourselves and stop seeking that which is important to modern culture, which is an "abomination before God" and start following Christ, no matter the cost. So, do we have the courage to exchange man's approval for God's?
If any of this rings true, please post a comment or contact us.