(Excerpts from the book Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge)
The scariest thing for a man is to offer his strength in situations where he doesn’t know if it will make any difference. Or worse, that he will fail. Remember, a man’s deepest Question is, Do I have what it takes? Failure says, No. And that is why most men avoid any situation where they might fail. They fear exposure. They fear it will be discovered that they are not a man.
Given the fact that we live after the Fall, far from Eden, and that a man’s life is plagued by “thorns and thistles,” most situations feel like a test of his strength. There is simply no guarantee of success. That’s why some men won’t play sports. They fear exposure, fear being seen as weak. That’s why other men would rather work late than come home and talk to their wives and children. They know what to do at work; they don’t know what to do in their most important relationships. A man’s basic sin is his choice to offer strength only in those situations where he knows things will go well. And so repentance for a man is entering into the very situations that he fears and offering his strength anyway.
If he fears intimacy, then offering strength means offering intimacy. If he fears failing in his career, offering his strength means taking a promotion or accepting a new and risky project. If he fears standing up for his children against an angry school principal, then standing up for them is what he must do. If he fears committing to a woman he’s been dating for five years, then offering strength is buying her a ring.
In the same way, the scariest thing for women is to offer our beauty into situations where we don’t know if it will make any difference. Or worse, that we will be rejected. For our Questions is, Am I lovely? And to be rejected is to hear a resounding NO. A woman doesn’t want to offer her beauty unless she is guaranteed that it will be well received. But life offers no such guarantees. We, too, must take risks.
A few verses after Peter talks about a quiet heart, he gives us what might be the secret to releasing a woman’s heart and her beauty:
“Do not give way to fear. (1 Peter 3:6)”
Isn’t that why we hide, why we strive, why we control, why we do anything but offer our beauty? We are afraid. We have given way to fear. Just think about your life – why do you do the things you do. Have you asked yourself how much you are motivated by fear?
That is why God says to us, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15). In repentance and rest. He loves it when we, gripped with our doubt and fear that he will not be enough, turn the gaze of our souls to him in hope. He loves to prove himself faithful and more than enough to satisfy our hungry souls. When we do turn to him, our souls rest and we are saved. Again. And again.
We can’t wait until we feel safe to love and invite. In fact, if you feel a little scared, then you’re probably in the right path. Of course it’s scary. It’s vulnerable. It’s naked. God calls us to stop hiding, to stop dominating, to trust him, and to offer our true selves. He wants us to bring to bear the weight of our lives and all that he has given to us, worked into us, and offer it to our world. To entice, allure, and invite others to Jesus by reflecting his glory in our lives. He will give no guarantee that others will enjoy us and respond well.
In fact, we can be sure that there will be times when they do not. Jesus offered like no other, and many rejected him. In those moments or seasons when that happens to us, God’s invitation is to bring our sorrow to him. Not to shut down with, I’ll never try again. But to keep our hearts open and alive, and find refuge and healing in his love.