Saturday, July 7, 2012

Bandit's Dad Was A Smokey

When I bought my VMax motorcycle I was talking with my daughter, Ariel, about naming it and I came up with Sharky's Machine. As Ariel and I both enjoy watching the San Jose Sharks together along with the motorcycle being teal in color it kind of fit. The name Sharky's Machine is actually for an 80s action film starring Burt Reynolds. It's a typical guy film with a tough as nails cop and lots of bullets and a few explosions. It also features still one of the coolest stunts ever as a bad guy gets shot and falls through a high rise window. This week had AMC showing one of the most intense films of all time Deliverance. I'm sure I can find some time to write about the intensity and symbolism there, but I'll just leave it as getting to see Burt Reynolds with a broken bone sticking out of his leg is not for the faint of heart (if him getting his finger tips cut off in Sharky's Machine doesn't turn you stomach enough).

When I think of Reynolds I also think about a quote I heard at a men's group meeting with the Fight For Manhood. This is one of the most significant ministries I have been involved in and I highly recommend for you to check it out. Before I get to the quote just think of who Burt Reynolds is. At one time he was the biggest box office draw in the world. His hit movies include Smokey And The Bandit, The Longest Yard, and Gator to name a few. He has fame, fortune, the affection of glamorous women and was a star high school athlete. I know growing up he was considered the cool guy laughing at authority, making his own rules and carving out his own path. In many respects, he is the world's definition of a man's man. He has had all the world has to offer.

Ecclesiastes 2:10-11
I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
    I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
    and this was the reward for all my toil.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
    and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; 
    nothing was gained under the sun.

Reynolds, like so many other men with riches, power, and fame are like Solomon. Yet somehow, having all the world had to offer didn't fill the void for either man. Here's the quote that rings in my brain so often when I think of Reynolds. It sounds a bit like my experience:

Burt Reynolds in Parade Magazine:
My dad was the chief of police, and when he came into the room all the light and air went out. There's a saying in the south - no man is a man until his dad tells him he is. It means that someday when you're 30 or 40, grown up, this man whom you respect and love and you want to love, you hope he'll put his arms around you and tell you, "You're a man now, and you don't have to do all those crazy things you're doing and get into fistfights and all that to defend your honor. You don't have to prove anything to me. You're a man and I love you." But my dad and me, we never hugged and never kissed and we never said "I love you." No we never even cried together. So what happened was later, I was deseperately looking for someone who would say, "Burt you're all grown up now, and I approve of you, I love you, you don't have to do those things anymore." But that didn't happen and I was lost inside. For most of my life, I couldn't connect - I was incomplete; and I didn't know then what I needed to know. 

There's so much in this quote I've spent a lot of time mulling over what he's saying.
One thing that stands out is how desperate he needs his father's love, acceptance and validation. Sadly, like most of us it never happened. Even worse, it seems that his dad was an intimidating presence. I wonder if my children would think that growing up, when I entered a room I sucked the air out? Our society has removed the father's all important role of giving identity to our children. We don't realize that we have been empowered by God to give a masculine love and validation. Our culture almost mocks the concept of rites of passage. I know that I wish that somewhere along the way someone gave me the consistent validation and masculine love I so desperately needed. As an example, my son in law who has served in the military (including a tour in Iraq), graduated college and won the heart of my most precious daughter obviously had not received that validation. The night before the wedding I gave him my own awkwardly presented but heartfelt and truthful personal validation. I told him that I was proud of him; that I would accept him, love him and treat him as my own adult son; and I told him that in my eyes he is a man. We hugged. At the wedding, before giving him Ariel's hand, I told him again that I'm proud of him. This is all so true. He is a good man and a man worthy of God's love. My continual prayer is that he daily becomes more and more confident of those facts.

Another surprising thing is that Reynolds wanted his dad to say "grow up and start acting like a man and that you don't have to prove anything to me." It's sad to see so many men who are desperately seeking validation. It's a vain exercise in of itself. Look at so much of the self glorification going on the music industry, on the playing field and on the political platform. Why can't we see past ourselves? Beyond that there are so many in their twenties and beyond who are still living like boys: consumed by their Xbox, cable TV, hobbies, and sports. I'm definitely not against personal pursuits, but how all consuming they can become (basically addictions). We so desperately need someone to tell us the truth: we're men and called to step up and live beyond our own pleasures; that we are committed to the well being and protection of others.
Also, what is clear from Reynolds is that we need to show our vulnerable emotions. I know I have a lot of growth to do in this area. Tragically, our society has so narrowly defined what a man is (Jason Gaddis calls it the The Man Box) that any emotion beyond anger is weak, for sissies, or is somehow an indication that you're homosexual. Sadly, showing emotion for a boy will invite ridicule. We learn to stuff our emotions and become incomplete and detached. We so desperately need dads who are willing to cry, hug, kiss and show genuine emotion. It is a long journey for most men to get there, but my prayer is that we can get there. Our wives, children and our world needs us to be more integrated intellectually and emotionally.
I'm sad to hear that at the time that Burt Reynolds made this quote, he had enough self realization that he knew he was lacking. He was lost inside, he couldn't connect with others, he was incomplete and didn't know what he needed to know. That is a great description of how I lived a large part of my life. Without the direction of an earthly father we will feel lost. Even with a good earthly father, his weaknesses and sin will leave gaps in our development. Only God can fill that gap. Only through His intervention and the placement of others who will walk the journey with you will you find the answers. I know for me it's a complicated, difficult journey but I am blessed with great friends with whom I owe a debt I could never repay. I also have a great God who did intervene in my life. He has somehow broke through all of the hurt and confusion and guided me to a better place. My hope is that whether we are an international superstar or just a regular guy with a family and a mortgage we all find what is lacking.
Hebrews 12:1-3
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

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