When I taught high school, one of the science teachers told me about a fascinating assignment he gave to his class one day. They went outside and sat down on assigned places on the lawn. Then he marked out for each of them a tiny square piece of ground and told them to watch and record what happened there over the entire class period. Of course, there was resistance and exclamations of dismay. To spend 45 minutes staring at a 6“ x 6” plot sounded more like punishment than an assignment. But as the resistance gave away to resignation, they started. At first, they saw nothing but grass, but as they got still and looked closer, they began to see new things: the soil’s texture, the varieties of grass, small insects crawling, weeds intermingled with the grass, and new growth sprouting up in the dead thatch. The more they watched, the more they saw. Of course, the point of the assignment was not the particulars, but the general truth. There is so much more going on below the surface. But we have to stop in order to see it.
One of our more pervasive sin patterns is the tendency to stay on the surface of things and blind to all the richness underneath. This is especially true with men. We are not so much drawn to depth as to bigness. There is a penchant to chase bigger numbers, bigger effects, bigger influence, bigger plans, bigger crowds, bigger anything. It gets summed up in the well-known platitude: Go big or go home. But the bigness is thin, brittle, vaporous. It slips through a man’s fingers the more he grabs at it. There is nothing in bigness but smoke and fume that flits away in the wind, ending in a whimper.
But let’s change the platitude: Go deep or go home. What could that mean? I think this way is resisted at first, but it is the way of truth and the way of liberation. It is the way of God’s kingdom. What happens when a man chooses to go deep? Here are three things:
1. Stop and Take in Creation
This could be fly-fishing or backpacking, a walk in the woods or a stroll on the beach. There is refreshment from drinking in the beauty of God’s world. But like those science students, we start to notice the intricacies of the created order. We are taken in by the smells and sounds, by the colors and hues. There are also truths here for us. Jesus pointed to the grass and the flowers as examples of how the Father will provide for us (Matt. 6:25-34). I think there are many more like that in nature. But we have to stop and go deep.
2. Stop and Take Stock of Your Heart
This is an opportunity to listen to your heart and note what you find there. Men are notorious for being resistant here, citing they aren’t the "touchy-feely" type. Sadly, most men in this place still feel, but it’s usually only blankness and anger. Even sadder is realizing that masculinity itself is not a behavior but a feeling. Only the man who has walked into the deep places of his heart can own himself as a man. The best way to begin this is to note desire. Each morning I try to name and write out my deepest desire. It’s such a revealing exercise. For in those deep desires, a man will find the Father of his heart calling out to him.
3. Stop and Take Note of God Himself
One of the Psalms says it so poignantly: “Yet I am always with You...” (Ps. 73:23). That’s right. Every minute of every day. It’s not only that He is with us. We are with Him. Every small blunder and cataclysmic sin is a function of forgetting this. We stay on the surface of reality. We forget and don’t look beyond the screen of the physical. And we pivot into a new mode of believing that we are on our own and it’s up to us to figure life out. In comes the striving and anxiety, the fear and the scrambling. We don’t go deep and go AWOL in our souls. We forget there is a Father. Forget a man’s greatest calling is to be a beloved son. Forget that we are never alone. The monastic orders used to stop and have nine times of prayer through the day. I used to think that was overdone. No more. To stop and go deep for a few minutes throughout the day now feels like a bracing shower or a crackling fire. It’s life.
The greatest adventure a man can take is not going big. It’s going deep.
Here he will find his manhood, his true heart, and the Father of his heart calling Him.
Anybody ready to dive in?
Bill Delvaux is a graduate of Duke University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has been a church planter, a high school Bible teacher, and a running coach. Six years ago, he pioneered Landmark Journey Ministries to help men connect their stories to God’s story through retreats and spiritual direction. His newest book, Heroic: The Surprising Path to Manhood, will be released in April 2019. His greatest claim to fame is being married to Heidi for 32 years and having two amazing daughters, Abigail, and Rachel. He and his wife currently reside in Franklin, TN.