I recently watched a documentary called Free Solo about a professional rock climber named Alex Honnold. He attempts to climb the rock face affectionately known as El Cap in Yosemite National Park without the use of any ropes or safety equipment. It takes two years of planning in which he must memorize every hold to reach the top of the 3,000-foot granite wall. It’s never been climbed this way before, and it’s described in the movie as competing for an Olympic gold medal but if you lose you die. Spoiler alert, the movie won an academy award, he’s famous now and the movie isn’t rated R so he probably makes it.
Since watching it, I have done what any self-respecting man would do get completely obsessed with the sport of rock climbing and make it my new life’s mission to replicate what he has done and top it. Well, maybe not top it. But maybe, you never know. Whatever my future climbing achievements may or may not be there was something about this particular feat that left me wanting.
There seems something inherent in us that when we see someone do the impossible, we want to experience it for ourselves. You might not all relate to climbing as I did but there is something similar you can translate it to. For many it’s sports of a different nature. Whether it be hockey, football, skateboarding or getting a six pack there was once a dream you had that remains unfulfilled. There could be other unfulfilled dreams too like finding a good job or a failed business venture.
The issue I see is not in having these dreams but rather in a lack of focus. This can happen in many areas of life. But these new goals can be fleeting and come and go quickly. I’ve spoken with many other men who relate to this feeling. And I fall victim to it often. So much that my wife jokes that my hobby is finding my next hobby.
It basically comes down to what should I pursue and what should I ignore. The complicated part is that somewhere in all your random ideas and goals is the person God has designed you to be. This is why it can feel so tempting to pursue every ambition because it might truly be coming out of a God given desire. But it should be clear to most of us that it’s impossible to pursue every idea that enters our mind.
There also still needs to be allowance in these areas. I think men need to be adventurous. We should take risks, play sports, ride motorcycles (my wife won’t like that one) shoot guns, fish, hunt and set things on fire. Side note, If you’re reading this and you’re thinking to yourself I already do all these things and still have free time, it means you’re single and should volunteer more. For men who are married with kids there is and should be some conflict in reaching this balance. But again, it’s about bringing back into focus what and who you’re called to be.
So what’s a man to do? Well, it’s not to simply give up all your passions and just work your knuckle to the bone for nothing other than to say you provided. You should pursue what you love so long as it doesn’t distract you from your main mission. It’s more about knowing what and why you are giving certain things up. That actually puts you back in control. How you do this can be equally complicated and will be unique to each person. But the common denominator is that we all must take the time to carefully, thoughtfully and prayerfully consider the ideas that don’t seem to let go. To see how they are beneficial to the work we are called to do and the families we our called to care for. As men we are all called to serve our community and love our families. To give joyfully in our church and continue to grow in our relationship with God. These are the areas you don’t want to screw up.
But we are also called to inspire. Which is why we can so easily be derailed. There are always going to be other men doing more exciting things than you. You just might be missing all the hard seasons of work they first put in. Those difficult seasons might be where you find yourself right now.
I think this is where legacy comes into play. Truly putting yourself out there leaves something for future generations to carry on. We might not achieve our current goals now but that’s not the point. Your passionate attempts could inspire your kids, grandchildren and even your great grandchildren and give them something to discover. How great is it when you discover some forgotten story or insight about a past relative? You instantly feel connected.
Now, this isn’t supposed to be a pull yourself up by the bootstraps message. For some, their circumstances are incredibly difficult to rise above. But even for those men it’s important to remember that we are also inspired by those who try and fail vs those who never try at all. If you’re still not sure what filter to run these thoughts through I’ll leave you with this. You will fail at many things in this life. Don’t fail at bringing honour to God. Don’t fail at being a husband. And don’t fail at being a father. After this, I think the rest will follow.
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Kevin has been married to Jerrah-Lee 11 years. They are currently raising one human girl and one human boy. He loves spending time with his family, traveling and seeking out mildly life threatening situations. Although his wife does not fully support this last hobby, he hopes to raise kids that do.