January 25, 2018
In case you haven’t noticed: the news lately is full of bad men. I suppose it always is, but in the age of #metoo, it’s hard not to get the sense that every last man is up to no good.
Because of this, because I know better, and because I’ve been fortunate to have so many good men in my life, I’ve made it a point to be on notice for good men doing good things. And in the past few weeks, aside from the usual suspects (my husband, my dad, my colleagues, my friends, my neighbors..), three good men have stood out.
The first: Pastor Dave Armstrong. Pastor Dave wrote a letter for Barb Brouwer’s funeral in which he described the long-time friendship between Dave and Barb, a friendship built on deep theological discussions between two gifted and trained theological minds, a friendship that birthed at least one ministry, and a friendship in which ministry—and life—frustrations and disappointments could be shared and perspectives offered. As I heard Dave’s words about his beautiful friendship with Barb, I couldn’t help but think: What a good man.
The second: Rev. Karl. I met Rev. Karl while guest-teaching at a local Presbyterian church’s Adult Education lunch this past Sunday. During the Q&A, Rev. Karl stood up and expounded on something I’d said about Ruth and Boaz (I’d noted that while Boaz asked that the field workers not molest Ruth, he didn’t say the same about the other women). “Boaz was an enabler,” the pastor said. ”He stopped Ruth from being abused--but not the other women in his fields.” As this pastor continued on about the abuse women have always suffered and the men who have stood by and allowed it, I smiled and thought: What a good man.
The third: Mordecai. While Mordecai has been on my good-man radar for some time now, as we’ve gone through his story these past weeks at Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church, I’ve been touched by his good-man-ness. Consider Mordecai’s remarkable, selfless acts: He takes in Esther, his young orphaned cousin. When she’s taken by soldiers to enter King Xerxes’ cruel contest for queen, Mordecai leaves his home—gives up his livelihood—to follow Esther. Surely, he knows the horror that awaits her. Once there, Mordecai sleeps outside the palace gate, desperate for news of his dear cousin. When Esther becomes queen, Mordecai maintains his post at the gate—a place that not only shows his support for and protection of Esther, but leads to his saving the life of King Xerxes and the Jewish people. Every time I hear or read the story of Mordecai, I think: What a good man.
And not only is Mordecai a good man, when it comes to good men, Mordecai is a model. Aside from Jesus, I can’t think of another man in the Scriptures who stands out as so good—at least to women. Mordecai, like Jesus, is a model of how to good men like Pastor Dave can befriend and work so well with women, as he did with Barb. Mordecai, like Jesus, is a model of how good men like Rev. Karl can notice and speak up against the bad behavior of other men. Mordecai, like Jesus, is a model of how good men sacrifice to support God’s calling for women.
I’m grateful that Mordecai’s model is something I see play out in many ways in this church community—and I pray that the Mordecai (and Jesus!) Model continues to influence the men of this congregation and in the world beyond. Men and women are, after all, better when we are working together as what Carolyn Custis James calls “The Blessed Alliance.” It’s how God created us to be.
As so many of us continue the rhythm of fasting and feasting as we pray for this church and our new pastor, perhaps we can add this to our prayers: That in this world of bad men (and, of course, bad women!), this church is a beacon of good men and good women committed to encouraging and supporting one another to be all God created us to be.
Caryn Rivadeneira is the Worship Coordinator at Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church, and writer extraordinaire.