The Struggles in a Man’s Life

This morning, this is a very interesting presentation that I’m going to make, and it will have, I believe, application to everybody, maybe more to some than others. I want to start by mentioning something in a book that you may have read. Back in the 1970s, it was probably the best-selling piece of nonfiction, at least in the late 1970s, and it was Scott Peck’s book, The Road Less Traveled. I don’t know whether you’re familiar with it or not, but what I find so interesting is the opening line of this book and is simply this. Life is difficult. Life is difficult. And I can truly say that at the age of 55 and working closely with men the way I have over the last eight years; Peck is absolutely right. You know, I don’t care how talented you are, how wealthy you are, how knowledgeable you are, life is difficult and it’s full of pain.

It’s interesting to listen to the words of Moses, probably what, 4,500 years ago. He says, “Seventy years are given to us.” This is from Psalms 90. “Seventy years are given to us and some men may even reach eighty, but even the best of these years are filled with pain and trouble and soon they disappear, and we’re gone.” You know, it was interesting, I had originally planned to talk about something completely different today, but I changed my mind when a man made this observation to Todd Liscomb and then Todd passed it along to me. He said, “You know, in the last year, six or seven men in our community,” and these six or seven men or people that he knew or was acquainted with, he said, “They committed suicide.” He said, “what’s interesting, all of them were in their fifties.” He told Todd, “You know, I really wish Richard would talk about how men tend to withdraw, how we tend to isolate ourselves in reaction to the pain and struggles in our lives. We just withdraw.”

And then it’s interesting. I had a chat with this man who himself had struggled with depression and he seems to really be a very together individual. He made this comment and it really struck me powerfully. He said, “You know, I have never contemplated suicide, but there’s been many times I wish that I was not alive.”

Now, I’m very sensitive to this issue. In the past year, I’ve had two men who are close to me, who have taken their lives, and it’s been a real blow to me. I’m very sensitive to this issue, and that’s not what I’m here to talk to you about this morning, but there are a couple of interesting statistics that I think it’d be good for us to know and to think about. Did you know that eighty percent of the suicides in this country are committed by men? Eighty percent. What’s also interesting is of all those men who commit suicide, ninety percent of them are white males. There was an interesting article in the New York Times saying that researchers are really baffled over why so many middle-aged men are taking their lives.

Now, I have spoken in the past, a number of times, at a large drug and alcohol recovery center here in Birmingham. They work with men and women. And over time, one of the things that I noticed was that for every one woman there was in this recovery center, there were eight or nine men. And in talking to the director about this, he indicated that that was pretty much the national average. And furthermore, he went on to say this, “In almost all cases, these addictions were clearly outer symptoms of deeper and more troubling issues in men’s lives.” I’m not sure how many of you saw the lead article in the February 26, 2007 Newsweek, but it had a picture of a man on the front of the cover and it said, “Men and Depression” and there was a long article on men and their struggles with depression. I just want to read a couple of lines from it because this was a perfect segue into what I want to talk about this morning. It says, “Six million American men will be diagnosed with depression this year, but millions more suffer silently, unaware that their problem has a name, or they are unwilling to seek treatment. In a confessional culture in which Americans are increasingly obsessed with their health, they are reluctant to own up to their mental illness, but the facts suggest that men tend not to take care of themselves and are reluctant to own up to mental illness. Although depression is emotionally crippling and has numerous medical implications, some of them deadly, many men failed to recognize the symptoms. Instead of talking about their feelings, men may mask them with alcohol, drug abuse, gambling, anger, or becoming workaholics.” Listen to this, and it says, “and even when they do realize they have a problem, men often view asking for help as an admission of weakness of a trail of their male identities.”

“Our definition of a successful man in this culture does not include being depressed, down or sad,” says Michael Adis, chair of psychology at Clark University in Massachusetts. “In many ways it is the exact opposite. A successful man in our culture is always up, positive, in charge and in control of his emotions.” Now guys, I am no expert on the issue of depression. It clearly is something that’s very complex and hard to understand, but in preparing for this talk or this presentation, Jay Lloyd and I had lunch with a local psychiatrist, who Jay is friends with, and he said there are many factors that contribute to depression. He said they include biological, psychological situations, or social and spiritual factors as well. But after I kind of shared with him what I was going to present this morning, he told me that one of the best resources he believes out there to understand depression in businessmen was a series, what it turns out is a series of lectures given by a gentleman by the name of Malcolm Smith. These are all on DVD, so I had to sit down and watch them on television and it’s a seminar that he gives all over the country. He’s British, and he shares about his own struggle with depression and he comes from clearly, a Christian perspective. I found what he had to say very revealing and very insightful. In fact, in the very first lecture, he hones in on something that I read to you from Newsweek that men view admitting they are depressed or even asking for help as an admission of weakness and a betrayal of their male identities.

You know guys, in one sense, aren’t we really all affected by this? I mean it is why we hide our true selves from other people, we isolate ourselves, regardless of the pain we’re experiencing.

It’s amazing how we hide ourselves from others. Anthony De Mello, who was a Jesuit priest and psychotherapist, made this observation. He says, “Look at your life and see how you have filled this emptiness with people. As a result, they have a stranglehold on you and your life. See how they control your behavior by their approval and disapproval, they hold the power to ease your loneliness with company, to send your spirit soaring with their praise, to bring you down to the depths with their criticism and rejection. Take a look at yourself spending almost every waking moment of your day placating and pleasing people, whether they are living or dead. You live by their norms, you conform to their standard. You seek their company, you desire their love. You dread their ridicule, you long for their applause and you meekly submit to the guilt they lay upon you. You are terrified to go against the fashion and the way you dress or speak or act or even think.” You know, I think this explains what he’s just said. This explains why men are so lonely, and as Thoreau said, “They live lives of quiet desperation.”

Now, in preparing this, one of the things that I have realized, there is a question that every single one of us is always asking ourselves. And you know what? Often, we’re not even aware of it. And the question is, what are other people thinking of me? What are other people thinking of me?

I want to share with you a couple of examples of this from my own life. Two weeks ago, my son, my oldest son, Dixon, has the flu. He’s almost 13 and he’s the only child I have who is big enough and strong enough to cut the grass. Well, he has the flu. My yard needs to be cut, we’ve had all this rain, it was dry, and it was about to rain again. It’s about 5:30 in the afternoon and I decided I’m going to get out and cut the grass. We don’t have a big yard, so I get out there, I get the lawn mower — Dixon has a low-grade fever — I’m about to crank the lawnmower up. He walks out just to say hello. I’d just gotten home and he wants to chat with me for a second and about this time my neighbor pulls up. She’d been to the grocery store and she gets out and she’s unloading the groceries and we wave. And she looks at me and I’m here to cut the grass. She looks at my big son right next to me and I crank the lawnmower up and I start cutting the grass and he walks inside. And while I’m cutting the grass, I began to think, ‘I wonder what she’s thinking. She’s probably thinking that that son of mine is mighty lazy for not helping his dad.’ I really did. And then I start thinking, ‘I wonder what she’s thinking about me. Weak father lets his son go inside and sit on his duff while he cuts the grass.’ I’m pushing that lawn mower thinking about that as she’s putting her groceries up, I’m sitting there thinking, ‘What is she thinking about me?’

About 5 or 6 years ago, this was when my children — I have three children, who were four, six and seven then — very stressful time in my life, very stressful time in my marriage, and one day my wife says, ‘we need to go to counseling’, and I said, ‘okay, that’s fine.’ Well, I’m meet my wife at the counseling office, and I pull up in front of this office building where this big counseling practice is; it’s a very nice office building, and, in fact, I knew several people who worked there and as I get out of my car, I start thinking, ‘What am I going to tell somebody if I see them and they asked me what I’m doing there? What am I going to tell them?’ I walked into the office and it’s a big office and there were a lot of people in there. And I’m looking around thinking, ‘I hope I don’t know anybody.’ Now think about it, if I was walking into my physician’s office, in fact, Tom Brown is here this morning, it wouldn’t bother me a lick, but I’m going to see a counselor and they’re going to look at me and say, ‘What’s wrong with him?’ And ironically, and by the way, the counseling went great, very helpful. Well, one day I did walk in there and there was a guy in there I knew and he looked at me and I looked at him and boy, we both felt uncomfortable. I think he said, “Hey, how are you doing?” I said, “I’m doing great!” And I’m sure he was thinking, ‘Well, if you’re doing great, what are you doing here?’

What was I really concerned about? What do people think? What are people going to think? You know, this was the question that I think that many men ask when they buy a new car, when they try to decide what neighborhood to move in, what country club to join. We think about this with our children. You know, if they’re stars and they do great things, it’s a reflection on us or we begin to wonder if they get thrown in jail or get in trouble, you know, what are people going to think about me the parent? You know, back in February, I spoke on the issue of identity and I said that most men get their worth, their value and sense of identity from other people and their opinions of us. You know, in years past, if you think about it, if you go back to let’s say 100 years ago, 200 years ago, manhood and masculinity was all about character. It was about being a devoted and loving husband and father. It was measured by what you contributed to the community and the impact you had on the lives of other people.

Malcolm Smith says, though, “that we have a new equation to measure a man’s life.” He says, “For me as a man today, life is all about about what I do and how successful I am at what I do.” And I’m always wondering, ‘What do you think about what I do? How do you rate what I do and what happens if I fail at what I do or I am mediocre at what I do?’ You know, because of this, I truly believe this explains why many men today truly are not driven to succeed. They are driven not to fail. Remember what Tim Keller said? I shared this once before, “that we are terrified to fail because failure is like a psychological death in the eyes of so many men.” And let me tell you what I’ve realized is that what we’re dealing with is a form of shame. It’s a form of shame. When I was worried about what my neighbor thought about when I was cutting the grass, it was a form of shame. When I worried about people seeing me in a counseling office, it was a sense of shame. We somehow have come to believe that real men should not experience fear. They shouldn’t experience inner pain, and real men should never get depressed. So, what do we do? We naturally just hide ourselves from others, fearing that if you ever really found out what’s going on in my life, you wouldn’t value me. You might not even want to have anything to do with me.

You know, the problem is if this is the way that we’re currently living our lives, your life is going to be full of pain and loneliness, which will only increase as the years go by. And this is why I believe, and this is an incredible assertion, but this is why I believe Dr. Martin Seligman, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, made this incredible statement. I did some research on him; he is a world-renowned authority on depression, and abnormal psychology. And he made this assertion in the publication, Psychology Today, it was titled “Boomer Blues.” And this is what he said, “The Baby Boom generation, which is many of us, the Baby Boom generation is the most depressed generation in the history of the world.”

Now, I don’t know how you can make a statement like that. But this guy is the expert, so what he said had to have some validity to it. And as Malcolm Smith says, “It is shame that destroys men’s lives.” So, what do we do about this? How do we deal with this?

Well I’ve got two thoughts that I want to share with you this morning, but before I do, there’s something very important everybody I think needs to know, and this comes from a book called True Faced, a fairly new book and, and three guys wrote the book.  I don’t know how three men can collaborate to write one book, but that’s what they did. And they basically describe our desire to hide our true selves from others. They call it wearing a mask, that as we go through this life, we all wear masks and they made this very important comment. They say, “You are not a freak of nature if you have resorted to this strategy of hiding yourself from others and wearing a mask.” He says, “Every man does this.” In their collective wisdom, they believe that eventually everyone’s mask will begin to crack. And I believe that this major economic recession that we have experienced and are currently in, has cracked many men’s masks. If it’s happened to you, your first thought may be, this is a calamity in my life. This is horrible. And yet these guys contend that it could be the best thing that ever happened to you. They say, “Imagine if you stay isolated and hidden from other people your entire life.” They say, ‘not only will you be lonely, but you’ll never really be able to love anybody. You’ll never trust anybody because you’re always going to be wondering, what are they thinking of me?” And most significantly, they say, “You can never be an authentic man. You can never be you.” And ultimately, they say “You’ll miss out on the life God intended for you.” So, this morning I want to share two thoughts with you as we consider this issue.

The first thought is, and I just wrote this thought out, “coming out of the darkness.” You know, it’s crucial that you no longer remain hidden from other people. You have to come out of isolation with somebody, somebody in your life. You know, we were designed, guys, to be relational. We are relational beings and we know this is inherent to us as people because if we were not, you know, you’d never get lonely And yet loneliness plagues men’s lives.

A doctor, John Caccioppo, a professor at the University of Chicago, a neuroscientist and psychologist, has written a book on loneliness. And there was a write up on this book in Forbes magazine. This is very interesting what he says. He does not come from any Christian point of view at all. He says, “The pain of loneliness is like a trigger in our lives, just as the ache of hunger, which means you need to eat food to survive.” He said, “Loneliness is a warning sign that you need to truly connect with others if you’re going to survive.” He says, “Loneliness can kill you. Loneliness can kill you.”

There’s a gentleman over at Beeson Divinity School who I’ve gotten to know. I wouldn’t say he’s a good friend, but he’s a really fine guy. His name is Dr. Mark Searby. He teaches over there and he shared with me some information from a longitudinal study. I don’t know if you know what a longitudinal study is. You know, oftentimes, a psychologist or sociologist will take groups of people and they’ll study them for a period of time and try to come to certain conclusions. A longitudinal study though, is a study that lasts over decades and this particular study, they studied 200 men and they studied their lives from the day they graduated from college over a 40-year period. Now listen, I’m going to read this to you. They were trying to discover the factors which distinguish the healthy men from those who were deceased or disabled. The crucial distinguishing factor discovered was not salt intake, diet or weight. The key was self-disclosure. The healthy group reported the consistent presence in their lives of at least one person with whom they could share their thoughts, their feelings, whom they could be transparent and vulnerable. So, I’m suggesting that you think about your life, but particularly, I want to ask you to think about the men in your life, think about the issue of friendship and how important that is.

Dr. Tim Keller, in one of his sermons, made some interesting observations on friendship. He says, “The book of Proverbs clearly indicates that you will never be a wise person unless you are great at choosing, forging and keeping great friendships. Proverbs 18:24 says, ‘There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.’” He says, “A sibling will always be there for you in the midst of adversity, but it does not mean you’re close or have much in common with them. A friend, on the other hand, is someone that you have chosen.” Keller says, “Friendship can bring into your life, something that family cannot bring, that romance cannot bring, that nothing else can bring.” He says, “We are a culture that focuses on romantic, erotic love and friendship is not valued as much. The reason is that friendship is not a biological or sociological necessity. It is the only love that is deliberate. It does not push itself on you like maybe your wife or your children.” He says, “The busier and more frenetic a culture, good friendships are squeezed out. Yet the book of Proverbs is clear. You will not have the life God wants for you without good friends. In fact, many lives are ruined,” he says, “because of the lack of friends or having the wrong friends. In this life, you may have many good acquaintances.” You know, we do. We have all kinds of men that we say,‘yeah, they’re good friends, but they’re really guys we hang out with, we play golf with, we drink beer with, but that’s not real friendship. He says, “Friendships today are much more difficult to come by because we’re such a highly mobile society. We have less time to forge friendships. People move frequently, are traveling on business, on pleasure and have second or third homes. Without realizing it, modern people relegate friendships to a place of low priority.” And then finally he says, “Men have a longing for friendship, which they really need, but they don’t have.” He says, “If you really think about it, the reason we probably don’t have the type of friendships God intended for us to have, is because we are not the friends we should be because we’re afraid to come out of hiding and take off our masks.” So, I would challenge you, is there somebody in your life you can go to, maybe two or three guys?

You know, there’s a man I’ve been meeting with — he’s not here today because he’s gotten with a couple of his college friends and they’re having the first meeting today to gather, to talk about the issues of life, to talk about themselves. He’s making an effort to do this. I challenge you to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with a close friend. Find somebody that you can really be yourself with and you can share what’s going on with your life, because if you do, it’ll change your life and it’ll change your relationship with that person. Well, you may want to consider joining one of the groups that Jay Lloyd has started. He has groups of men that meet, and they get together. I talked to one of the guys that’s in one of these groups and he says it’s kind of talk therapy. It’s a group of men, they get together, it’s very confidential, and they just talk about the struggles in their lives. And Jay, as the counselor, kind of leads the discussion. And from all I can discern, it’s been very, very fruitful. If you’re interested in that, contact us. Indicate it on that card.

You know, it’s kind of interesting. All of this is so important because when you get right down to it, when you come out of hiding, you know one of the things you realize is you’re not in this alone. You’re not the only person who struggles with these issues. I think that’s an encouragement. It can be an encouragement. Malcolm Smith says, “When you bring what you are ashamed of to the light, the shame loses it power in your life. It loses its power over you.” And Philip Yancey says, “I know what happens in human relationships when I remain at a shallow level. With casual friends, I discuss the weather, sports, upcoming concerts and movies, all the while steering clear of what matters most. As a result, the relationship goes nowhere, but on the other hand,” he says, “relationships with other men deepen as I trust them with my secrets, when I trust them with what’s really going on in my life.” You know, it just seems that the power to honor the truth, guys, to speak it openly, is at the heart of being a healthy, authentic man and I would remind you of Jesus’ powerful words, “The truth will set you free.”

Now my second thought, kind of my concluding thought is this. Several years ago, I spoke with a man who ministers to men who’ve really lost their way, whose lives have imploded. Generally, these are men who have cheated on their wives and their lives are just a mess, and he made this observation. He said, “I’ve noticed in these men’s lives,” he says, “without exception, first they have no real connection with any other men in their lives. None at all.” And then he said, “And they have no connection at all with God.”

You know, I read where Gerald May, who just died recently, he was a very well-known psychiatrist, wrote a very popular book on suffering called The Dark Night of the Soul. He said this, “After twenty years of listening to the yearnings of people’s hearts, I am convinced that human beings have an inborn desire for God. Whether we are consciously religious or not, this desire is our deepest longing and our most precious treasure.” Guys, do you know why God put us here? He put us here so that He could love us. He put us here so He could love us with an unconditional love. Malcolm Smith contends that, “As men, we are so dysfunctional because we do not know and experience this unconditional love in our deepest experiences. We are dysfunctional because deep in our hearts, we believe we are loved based on what I do, how I perform. You will love me if I do well in this life.” And when we do this, guys, when we live our lives this way, we’re setting ourselves up for major disappointment because my worth as a man should not be based on what I do, but instead should be based on who I am in the sight of God. I want to ask you to think about this. I ask you to go back in your imagination. For you who are married, but I’m sure we’ve all experienced this, and think about the experience of falling in love with your wife, well, just the experience of falling in love. I want to tell you, there is nothing greater in this life than the experience of falling in love and when I think about falling in love with my wife, Holly, the one thing I remember in that first five or six month period, right before we got engaged, I thought about her all the time. And she thought about me all the time. And you know what? During that period when you and when I fell in love, I guarantee you felt great about your life and you know why? You knew that you really mattered to somebody.

I don’t know how many of you were here two years ago, really, two- and one-half years ago, I shared a story that was in the Wall Street Journal. It was January of 2007 and it was about American soldiers in Iraq. It was about a squadron of men and their squad leader was a guy by the name of Jason Dunham. They were manning a checkpoint and a white Land Rover drives up and there’s a man in it. And they stopped the car and they asked him to get out and he gets out and they start searching his car and somehow a skirmish develops. He doesn’t cooperate with them and they start struggling with him and he pulls a grenade out of his pocket and throws it on the ground. He’s willing to die, but he’s going to kill all these Americans and it says Jason

Dunham, the squad leader quickly took his helmet off, put it over the grenade, and then lay down on it and it blew up and it killed him. Everybody else in the squad, the squadron was fine, no scratches. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor for this brave action. In this article, as he was soon to receive this award from President Bush, it says, in the audience was a Corporal Miller. He was one of the men who was saved. He was there, and the article said, “He was still struggling with what it means to receive that much love.” You see, Jason Dunham fell on that grenade because he cared about the men in his squad. He apparently loved them, and he realized how important their lives were and how much they really mattered. I share this because this is the heart of Christianity, because in one sense at the cross, Jesus fell on the grenade for us, because the Bible says He loves us with an everlasting love. We really matter to him. He covered the condemnation and wrath that we deserve because He loves us, and we really and truly matter to Him.

I want to read a story as I wind this down that, hopefully will pull this all together. It’s from Donald Miller’s book, Blue Like Jazz.  He says, “A long time ago, I went to a concert with a friend of mine, Rebecca. Rebecca can sing better than anybody I’ve ever heard sing. I heard this folk singer was coming to town and I thought she might like to see him because she was a singer too. At the concert, between songs, he told a story that helped me resolve some things about God. The story was about his friend who was a Navy Seal. The folk singer said his friend was performing a covert operation, freeing hostages from a building in some dark part of the world. His friend’s team flew in by helicopter and made their way to the compound and stormed into the room where the hostages had been in prison for months. The room, the folk singer said, was filthy and dark. All the hostages were curled up in a corner, terrified. When the Seals entered the room, they heard the gasp of the hostages. They stood at the door and called the prisoners, telling them that they were Americans. The Seals asked the hostages to follow them, but the hostages wouldn’t. They sat there on the floor and hid their eyes in fear. They were not of healthy mind and didn’t believe their rescuers were really Americans. The Seals stood there, not knowing what to do. They couldn’t possibly carry everybody out. One of the Seals, the folk singer’s friend, got an idea. He put down his weapon. He took off his helmet and he curled up tightly next to the other hostages, getting so close his body was touching some of theirs. He softened the look on his face and he put his arms around them. He was trying to show them he was one of them. None of the prison guards would have done this. He stayed there for a little while until some of the hostages finally started to look at him, finally meeting his eyes. The Navy Seal whispered that they were Americans and were there to rescue them. ‘Will you follow us?’, he said. The hero stood to his feet and one of the hostages did the same, then another and another, until all of them were standing and ready to go.” The story ends with all the hostages safe on an American aircraft carrier. Miller says, “You know, I never liked it when the preachers said we had to follow Jesus. Sometimes they would make Him sound angry, but I like the story the folk singer told. I liked the idea of Jesus becoming a man so that we would be able to trust Him. And I like that He healed people, that He loved them, and He cared deeply about how people were feeling. When I understood that the decision to follow Jesus was very much like the decision the hostages had to make to follow their rescuer, I knew then that I needed to decide whether or not I should follow Him. The decision was simple once I asked myself, is Jesus the Son of God and are we being held captive in a world that’s filled with brokenness and pain and loneliness, and do I believe that Jesus can rescue me from this condition?”

You know, the Bible describes Christ as a rescuer. In Galatians 1:3-4, it says, “The Lord Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins so that he might rescue us.’ In Colossians 1:13-14 it says, “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and He transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.” Guys, Jesus is a rescuer. Another word that’s used in the Bible is that He is one who comes to save. He is a Savior. I find this interesting; you mention the name of Jesus out in our culture, and people say, don’t talk about Him. He’s trouble. I don’t want to have anything to do with Him. He’ll disrupt my life. And yet in Luke 9:56, He says, “I didn’t come to destroy men’s lives. I came to save them.” And guys, when a man truly grasps this and gets it into his life, it will radically change the way he sees himself and his sense of worth and dignity as a man, because he will realize he is of great value to God and his life truly matters. But like these hostages in the story, you’ve got to be willing to say yes to Jesus, that you’re willing to let go of your life and you will follow Him. And this is where so many men refuse, and in my work, I find many men, will be presented with this and they’ll say no. They’ll say no.

You know, towards the end of his life, C.S. Lewis made this simple conclusion. He puts this, I believe in two of his books, The Problem of Pain and then in one of the last books he wrote. He came to this simple conclusion about all of us. He said, “In the end, there really are only two kinds of people in this life.” And you have to ask yourself this morning, which kind of man am I? He says, “There are only two kinds of people in this life. The first are those who say to God, ‘I want Your will done in my life. My life is Yours. I want to follow You. I want to be rescued.’”

He says, “The second are those who say, ‘I want my will done. I want to live this life my way. I want to live for me.’” And Lewis says, “You’re in one camp or the other.” And this is why when you read what he says, this is why hell finally made so much sense to him, because he says, “Hell is the greatest monument to human freedom.” He said, “In the end, He gives people what they want most, and that is freedom, including freedom from God Himself, if that’s what they want.”

So, as we leave this morning, I want to conclude with these final words from the book of Ecclesiastes. You know the writer of Ecclesiastes speaks of all the wealth and all the pleasure and all the knowledge that he gained over the course of his life. And he concludes this, that all worldly pursuits are a “meaningless chasing after the wind.” And he ends the book of Ecclesiastes as an old man with these words. He says this, and I ask you to listen to him as we close, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them.’ Remember Him, give your life to Him before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken, before the pitcher is shattered at the spring or the wheel broken at the well and the dust returns to the ground from which it came.”

Let me close us in prayer. “Lord, we, in our heart of hearts, acknowledge that it’s so easy to hide ourselves from others, to live our lives always wondering, what are people thinking about me. Lord, I pray that we’d let go of this approach to life, that we would relinquish our lives to You, for in the end [inaudible] [unintelligible] and to live for You and Your will, Lord to live for ourselves. I pray, Lord, we would have the wisdom and the strength and the courage to follow You. Lord, I thank you for each of these men here this morning and thank you for their friendship, thank you for their lives. I thank you for the community we live in. Lord, we’re grateful for our families and just all that you blessed us with. For we pray these things in Christ’s name.”


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