Daniel's 28th Birthday Story
If you have been my friend for the past few years, you know that I share a story that I find significant on every birthday. This year I am turning 29. I am at the cusp of leaving being a 20-something. I will expound upon what the 20s were like for next year's birthday story. In the meantime, here is a significant story about my 28th year.
The song that comes to mind for year 28 is Ben Rector’s “ What Makes a Man.” “Is it the things you've done, the places that you've been?
Chasin' down some dream you've been imaginin'
Or is it making peace with who you are and where you stand?
I'm trying to find what makes a man.”
Year 28 has been full of significant life changes. A house, the closing of my mental health practice, and discovering that we are expecting a baby girl. These liminal moments of life, the crossings of a threshold into an unknown, play a role in my identity formation and how I view my manhood. I have been thinking, on multiple fronts, about what it means to be a man.
What is a man as he closes a business he began? I consider what it means to be a provider (when I am not the highest earner in the household). What do I consider being a man as I raise a daughter?
The idea of “being a man” can be somewhat sensitive for those who grew up in Christianity. What I am talking about for year 28 has nothing to do with fundamentalist views of Biblical manhood. While there is some merit to Biblical manhood, I am rejecting fundamentalist Biblical manhood as my goal.
If I look at year 28 from a fundamentalist Biblical manhood perspective, I fear I have failed. I was not the breadwinner for my family. I consider my wife as an equal. She has just as much ability to be full of the Holy Spirit and minister to others (even men). I cry far too often, submit myself to serving others, and reject violence altogether. I can not be considered the strong head of the fundamental Biblical household.
Luckily, those views of manhood have never played a huge role in my life. I am thankful for the example of my father, who was indeed the provider of the family but did not take his breadwinning as a means to dominate. My dad has always considered his family, and I think he has submitted to my mom as much as she might submit to him. My dad, and multiple other men in my life, have been a better example to me of what it means to be a man.
Over year 28, my answer to the question of what makes a man is not to be more Biblical. What I think makes a true man is to become more like Christ.
As I closed my business, I did so with thankfulness. I am grateful for the clients I got to work with. The measure of my manliness in business is not in building an empire but in being faithful to what is required at present.
When searching for a new job, I wanted to find a role that provided for my family's spiritual, emotional, and physical needs. I found this possible, even if I make less money than my wife. I now work remotely, my desk right next to Gwendolyn’s desk, and we can support one another in ways we have never gotten to before. Supporting her in prayer and encouragement is a better marker of being a man than making $5000 more than her a year.
As I look forward to being a father, I see myself as uniquely prepared for this role. First and foremost, I long for Autumn Joy Eccles to know Christ’s love. I don’t care if she sees a father who is a successful businessman, a rough and tough guy, or the head of his house. The type of man I want to be for Autumn is a father who carries weight for his family. I want to show her how deep the love of Christ is for her by being more Christlike myself. This man feels some emotions! This man nurtures. This man is present.
I exit year 28 more assured of what makes me a man. What a privilege it is to love deeply and carry weight for others. A liturgy in closing: “Lord, May I invest my moments well in the coming year and all the years to follow, living life always with the end in view, in pursuit of that eternal prize that will allow me to look ever with gladness and never with regret upon the passing of my years as each subsequent birthday will be but the marking of a step nearer to the final fulfillment of all I have so hoped and labored for. “ - Every Moment Holy, McKelvey.