“Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.” 2 Cor. 3:4-5
In Hemingway’s final published book he tells the story of an old man who was attached to a marlin that was dragging him further and further out to sea. This was the greatest catch of the man’s life, and as they fought he reflected on the value of his life.
At one critical moment in the story, the fish jumped revealing his true size and the true fight that laid before this man. In that moment, already exhausted, with his hand cramping, his eye bloodied, the old man realized that all the fishing he had done up to this point meant nothing: “The thousand times that he had proved it meant nothing. Now he was proving it again. Each time was a new time and he never thought about the past when he was [fishing].”
One of the things about being a man, is that it is under constant external threat. Masculinity, unlike femininity, is not something bestowed upon a man, but something that has to be earned and demonstrated and proved.* Each day is a choice we have before us as men to:
- Reject Passivity
- Accept Responsibility
- Lead Courageously
By doing this, we can build the confidence to face the new challenge before us.
As the old man continued to fight against the fish and as the sun began to set on yet another day of struggle, he remembered a story from his younger years.
He recalled an arm wrestling tournament where he struggled back and forth with another man that bled from one day into another. While the observers wanted to call a draw; the two men battled on. Slowly the old man “unleashed an effort and forced the hand of the [man] down and down until it rested on the wood.” It was then, that the old man was granted the name “Santiago El Campeon.”
By recalling this story, Hemingway says that the old man gave himself more confidence to battle this fish. However, this confidence was fleeting for the man, because as soon as the story faded into his memory he looked around at his current situation and realized he was going to have to prove it again. As the sun set, his hand began to cramp again, and he wondered what the night would bring. His daydream snapped as the line tightened and the old man once again felt the need to prove himself.
As men, we either daydream about past glories or need to “prove it” once again. Many of us have created resolutions to “prove” our strength in 2016. Perhaps we will stop looking at internet pornography, or start working out 3 days a week, or do monthly date nights, or spend more time with our kiddos. But as the night closes in around us, we realize that we have placed our confidence in our human frailty. And as our day dreams about a better year snap into focus while the line tightens around us yet again.
We, however, can place our confidence in the True Man who will never leave us. As Paul reminds the Corinthians, our confidence is not in our competency but in Christ alone.
In Jesus Christ we see a God who rejected passivity by coming to this earth for you. In Jesus Christ, we see a man who took responsibility for our sin by dying on the cross for you. In Jesus Christ, we see a man who led courageously as he left the tomb empty inviting us to follow Him to give meaning to our lives.
As men, we struggle to provide and protect those under our care; we struggle to instruct and guide those who follow us; we struggle to make ourselves present and available to those who need us. With those burdens pulling on us, where do we–as men–draw our confidence?
*Don’t worry, more information on this in order to prove it to you will be forth coming once I get around to writing my dissertation, but you can help me collect data on this if a) you are a man. Register here.