“God, make me a man with thick skin and a soft heart. Make me a man who is tough and tender. Make me tough so I can handle life. Make me tender so I can love people. God, make me a man.”
— Darrin Patrick, Church Planter (2010)
On the day of my induction to pastoral ministry at Lakeside Baptist Church in Perth, Western Australia, the very day I write this in fact, I was given this quote, above, that rings with the drone of ancient truth through the Spirit in me. It was given to me by a younger man, a high-performance athlete, a man after the heart of God in being a real man; a man I have the utmost respect for because of the ardency through which he adheres to the truth in his life. So, when he gave me a special hand-written note—with the quote inscribed within it—it was the most treasured object and interaction I took from the day.
The note was both an encouragement and a challenge.
I could not help exploring this wisdom from God through his faithful servant. The note was signed off, “Much love & HAZAK.” An encouragement and challenge.
Be Strong (Hebrew: Hazak)
The core of the message, the precious ore that is reclaimed in the words, presented as a stockpile of manly beauty, is to be strong. But to be strong is to be shrewd around what it really means.
To have thick skin and a soft heart is no easy task; perhaps there is nothing harder. But this is the inevitable task for the man of God—the man resonating Christ from within and permeating outwards.
The prayer I was given reflects the prayer I’m sure God wants all of us men to pray. Being that it’s a prayer from the Spirit of God, himself, to me, through this faithful brother in Christ, it shall be my prayer now, too.
To be strong is not much to do with physical strength, though at the same time it is everything about the application of courage that underpins physical strength in the heat of battle. It seems to me that the strength we apply in a physical battle is that selfsame strength we apply in a spiritual battle. It comes from within; from the Holy Spirit within, bound upon our obedience to the Spirit.
Such strength to “be strong” is manifest in the perfect balance of having thick skin yet a soft heart; a thing I will now ever strive for. Thick skin is for the challenges and pressures of life—some of which are relational. A soft heart is all relational; the ability to allow others their success even if at a personal cost.
God, make me a man; honest with myself, honest with others as much as you will allow, and above all honest with you. My honesty will join your blessing to make me thick-skinned yet soft-hearted. Then I will be a man. AMEN.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.
Dedicated to Ben Beran.