CowboyUp75Jesus called.  He said he wants you to man up!  Or as they often say here in Oklahoma, “Cowboy up!”

We all go through periods of dependence and reliance on others.  It’s part of life, part of the maturing process.  When we’re kids, we rely on our parents and family to take care of us.  They shelter us, protect us from the harsh world, and give us a safe environment during that stage of our vulnerability.  Slowly, as we grow, we learn the ropes and develop the skills needed to survive on our own. But even after that, sometimes life throws us a curve ball, the world we’ve constructed for ourselves collapses, and we again need help. We may go through another period of relying on others, borrowing their strength while we cope with our crisis.  We can end up staying on friends’ couches for a few months. We may need to borrow money or bum rides from people because we lost our own wheels.  But then comes the time when we’ve re-established our own structure, we’ve picked up the pieces and reassembled them. We can move back out of our friends’ apartments, off their couches, and get our own wheels again — and usually just in time.  Friends and family can only stand the strain of carrying the extra weight for so long, and their patience runs thin. But this is natural. This is the cycle of life, and life isn’t easy.

But becoming self-reliant is only the first stage of growing up.  We then learn to help carry others in times of their need and dependence.  For most of us, this means a family of our own.  We move past just taking care of ourselves, and take on the responsibility of providing and caring for them.  And this is where “Man Up” comes to play.

The phrase basically means to “act like a man.”  It means, when things get tough or when we’re confronted with difficult situations, we face them and tackle them head on.  We go from the weak and wimpy position of “I can’t handle this” to a stronger, more positive “can do” attitude.  The expression “Cowboy up” goes farther, bringing in the characteristics of being tough, hard-working, self-reliant and uncomplaining. It means when you get bucked off your horse, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back on.  You push through.  You “shut up, quit your bitchin’, and take it like a man.”  As one example I read recently neatly put it: “What would John Wayne say if he heard you complaining over a little hard work? Cowboy up, man!”

What does this mean in real life?

If you’re single, it means standing on your own two feet, taking care of yourself, cutting the apron strings or slapping that impression of your friend’s sofa off your butt.  What good are you to anyone if you can’t even help yourself? If you’re married, it means taking care of your spouse, making sure his or her needs are met — materially, financially, emotionally and sexually.  If you’ve got family, it means you put their needs above yours.  You put a roof over their heads and food on the table. If money is tight, they eat before you do.  They get the new clothes before you do.  They get to demand your time before you can settle in to a quiet night in front of the TV or go out with the boys for your own recreation time.  Your focus moves off yourself and on to them.  And for everyone, it means being more dedicated at work, taking greater responsibility for your own actions, and doing it all as an expected part of being an adult, not as though you’re doing anyone else a favor by showing up and doing what you get paid to do.

If we are to live healthy and productive lives, we need grow out of our own self-absorption.  If we are perpetually complaining about how hard our life is, or about what a raw deal we got, then we are not only not moving forward in our own destinies, but we’re also of no use to others. We’re really just taking up space on this planet.  And God have mercy on us in the next life.

More than just action, though, “man up” is an attitude.  You embrace the self-reliant spirit.  You accept responsibility for your actions, for your life, and then from that position of strength, you can take on the extra burden of helping others.  This is the spirit God put in us.  Not of weaklings and whiners, but of overcomers and helpers.  Then you can look at your life and take pride in your accomplishments.  You won’t need to feel deficient or ashamed when compared to the achievements of others, because you had your own mountain to conquer and you did it.  Only when you’ve scaled your own mountain can you effectively play sherpa to others struggling with their ascent.

But this is an era when we’ve prolonged adolescence to drag out our carefree days as long as possible, when companies have gone under due to self-serving greed and corruption, when jobs have been lost due to laziness and lack of accountability and personal responsibility, when nearly half of all marriages end because of lack of personal strength and moral conviction, and when more and more children lead broken lives because of their broken families.  In this time, now more than ever, we need men and women willing to make greater demands of themselves.  We need people who will bite the bullet and do the hard work — for their own sake and for the sake of others they touch.  This is a time for men and women of fiber, of guts, of internal strength.  This is a time when we need to look closely at our every action and weed out destructive selfishness, and a “what’s in it for me” mentality.  The world around us is crashing, people are hurting, and we are too preoccupied with ourselves, our own ambitions, desires, and the search for the easy road.  It’s time to wake up and snap out of it.  Whether you like it or not, people are counting on you.

Jesus called this morning.  And he wants you to man up.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. … But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.  (Gal 6:2-5)