I cant believe Im writing this…
but I just got a serious lesson in manhood from reading “the Wizard of Oz”. My sister loved the movie growing up, so I always assumed it was more of chick-flick movie more than anything. I realized that was shallow and completely arbitrary, but its true. Sorry, if my shallowness and presupposition offends you. I picked up the book in a used book store on a whim and began reading today. If you haven’t read it, let me warn you: “IT IS MUCH DIFFERENT FROM THE MOVIE (in a very weird and creepy sort of way).” I became fascinated as the story written in 1900 so effectively diagnosed men in Church 114 years later and my journey as a man in the Church…please let me explain.
Dorothy’s well known companions, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion, are rather unknown. They arrive in the story and move forward without any background. The book, however, tells their stories as they are introduced to Dorothy and join in her travels
The Scarecrow was made by a farmer and taken out the field. As he explained to Dorothy, “the old crow comforted me, saying: ‘If you only had brains in your head you would be as good a man as any of them, and a better man than some of them. Brains are the only things worth having in this world, no matter wheter one is a crow or a man.” The scarecrow struggled with his worth and purpose because he was unable to think and dwell on life. His lack of brains and experience enslaved him to the pole on which he perched.
The Tin Man told his story when he joined the travelers. As a woodsman, he had given his heart in love to a munchkin girl who lived with an old woman who refused to let her leave. The old woman employed the services of the wicked witch of the East to stop the Tin man from marrying the girl. The witch caused the woodsman’s axe to slip as he was cutting wood, chopping off both legs, both arms, his head, and finally dividing his chest. Luckily, the muchkin Tin smith was able to make him a body of tin, but sadly not a heart. As he was chopping wood one day, a rainstorm came in and he rusted in place. During the year prior to Dorothy and the Scarecrow’s arrival, he had plenty of time to think: “It was a terrible thing to undergo [rusting in the woods], but during the year I stood there I had time to think that the greatest loss I had known was the loss of my heart. While I was in love I was the happiest man on earth; but no one can love who has not a heart…”
The cowardly lion’s story as he was the last to join the band, goes like this:
“I suppose I was born that way [a coward]. All the other animals in the forest naturally expect me to be brave, for the Lion is everywhere thought to be the King of Beasts. I learned that if I roared very loudly every living thing was frightened and got out of my way…It is my great sorrow, and makes my life very unhappy. But whenever there is danger my heart begins to beat very fast.”
Poor thing…he’s a coward.
For the Scarecrow it was brains, for the Tin Man it was a heart, and for the Cowardly Lion it was courage. For me it was all three. As I grew up in the Church, I realized I had no brains, no heart, and no courage. My ability to think “christianly”, with a Theistic worldview, and deeply about scripture was non-existent. As a young man my faith was about as deep as one of those plastic pools people put on their front lawns. I had given my heart away and lacked the understanding of heart issues to the point were I was unable to connect with God in worship and unable to connect with others. Men don’t care about things…no crying, no emotion. When issues arose, battles needed fought, and people needed protected, I turned into the cowardly lion because I understood that to be a Christian man, I needed to be nice and non-confrontational. Christian men are door mats because after all Jesus did say “turn the other cheek.” The idea of what it means to be a Christian man has been so largely misunderstood that we might as well follow the yellow brick road with Dorothy.
It needs to stop with this generation. The young men in our churches need to find their brains, keep their hearts, and develop the courage to battle in this world. I was blessed to be given a mind by older men who displayed a diligence in study, the purpose of doubt, and the gift of answers. My heart was rekindled by examples of worship and service. Passionate men showed me that injustice needs to be fought at all times and that it takes courage to do so.
While serving in the church I saw many men (especially leaders) who had fallen into the role of scarecrow, tin man, or lion. Sadly, I to became a part. But if I have learned anything, its that manhood is a journey…not the yellow brick kind, but definitely a journey. We as men need to commit ourselves to feeding our brains, keeping our heart, and stoking our courage. The only thing that can do that is not Oz, but a growing relationship with the man, the Lord Jesus Christ. His example, his ministry, his teaching will change life itself. I am convinced it will give us brains, keep our hearts, and enflame our courage.