Jessica asked me this question the other day, and it wasn’t nearly as easy to answer as it might initially sound. I had to answer it on multiple levels.
I had to answer it practically. Practically, experientially, I wasn’t doing great. If life is a series of peaks and valleys then I think I was scraping the bottom of a valley somewhere. From a practical, factual perspective, I probably logged in between a 2 or a 3.
I also had to answer it emotionally. Surprisingly, my emotions were significantly higher than my factual reality—probably somewhere around a 6. However, before you conclude that I’m too out of touch, or living in a dream world, I should probably mention that my emotions were tied to my third answer.
I also had to answer Jess’ question positionally. I told her, “My circumstances are a 2.5; my emotions are a 6, but my determination is a solid 10. It’s true that I’m a little weary, but my posture, my position—my commitment to keep on running—has never been higher.”
There’s precedent for this in the Bible. After Gideon and his troops routed the Midianites in Judges 8:4 they were described as “weary yet pursuing” and something interesting happened. Divine strength found them as they ran.
Sometimes we can Sabbath (we can regroup, recoup, and withdraw), but sometimes life requires us to run all night. If you are in a running season, please don’t stop and don’t despair. God’s grace knows how to find you even while you run!
That’s what the ancient proverbs writer said, and it still rings true today. We, humans, love the illicit and the forbidden.
Why is this?
Why is forbidden fruit so tempting? Why do we crave the things that aren’t healthy for us? Why do we want what we probably shouldn’t have?
The answer is…we actually don’t. We don’t want the illicit; we don’t want the counterfeit—we actually DO want the authentic and the good.
The problem is that goodness usually requires some up-front payment, whereas the illicit doesn’t charge us until a little later on—it’s like a quick and easy credit card transaction that satisfies today but makes us pay tomorrow. Goodness and beauty make us work for it on the front end, and if we aren’t willing to pay that price we’ll turn to lesser substitutes that can hurt us on the back side.
King David understood this. Throughout his life, he walked both paths: the illicit and legitimate, and his conclusion was clear. True satisfaction (the kind that lets you sleep at night and brings life to your soul) only comes from what is good. In fact, David said that when our desires touch God’s goodness it’s so satisfying that it’s almost like we start aging in reverse. He said that God “satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles” (Psalm 103:5).
Jesus agreed with David. He said the Kingdom of God—the reality of the goodness of life in God—was like a treasure buried in a field. It took some work and it cost a life to find it, but once found, it was worth every cent of payment.
My father passed away unexpectedly last week, and I haven’t known what to write. I’ve wanted to post something honoring and affirming of him, but creativity is still escaping me. I think I will share a portion of a tribute letter that I read to him at his recent 70th birthday party. Last December our family gathered to honor his birthday and affirm him via tribute statements (the sentiment that was expressed from my mom, my brothers and sister, and all of the in-laws and grandchildren was PHENOMENAL). I presented my tribute in the form of a recommendation letter.
To whom it may concern…to young men everywhere in this generation:
I am writing to wholeheartedly and without reservation recommend my father, David Jackson, to you as a model of noble manhood. For the forty-five years of my life he has never wavered in his commitments to love, loyalty, devotion, wisdom, and strength. These virtues were hard-won. His path was not an easy one. The cultivation of manhood never is, but his path was particularly severe—he was bounced between his father and stepfather as a child, adrift after losing his mother as a teen, buffeted by the social upheavals of his generation, and then drafted into Vietnam while practically still a boy.
He didn’t glide through those times unscarred; no one becomes a man without taking on scars. And nor was he unflawed. His flaws and demons run as deep as anyone’s…but the mark of noble manhood is the willingness to never give up the fight.
As a boy, I watched him model strength, determination, and tenacity, as he changed the course of his personal and family histories. I watched him bear the weight of a community, as he reinvented himself from rebel to guardian angel. And yet the rebel never fully went away.
That’s another mark of authentic manhood—remaining ever true to who you really are. Despite the shifting roles from young husband to father to older man and grandfather, he has remained steadfast to his core, guiding values. I really haven’t ever seen him slip.
He modeled faith and spirituality, and a willingness to repent and heal our family. That takes the most courage of all—owning life’s regrets and then pioneering new realities.
Self-help books abound in our day and age, but noble manhood isn’t something that is carbon copied or mass-produced. If you follow my urging and set my dad as your pattern, you won’t be following a well-worn path. There haven’t been many men like him. In fact, he once told me that there were only ever four truly “cool” men: Elvis Presley, James, Dean, Clint Eastwood, and himself. 🙂
But if you want to follow a trail that winds through great highs and deep lows, through extreme joys and unthinkable sorrows, and then back into sunlight again, his is the path to follow.
As a husband, father, grandfather, woodsman, surfer, poet, worshipper, law enforcement officer, and friend, he has excelled, and I am convinced that he will make a worthy addition to your Noble Manhood Hall of Fame.
I love you, Dad.