When I was in middle school, I thought that my P.E. coach was the manliest man in the world because he had a deep voice, he yelled every day and he apparently didn’t believe in syllables.
He said that a lot. Loud. It means, “Sit down, boys!” At least I think it does. Every time I heard it, I sat down.
Looking back, the only bad thing about Coach Williams is that, like every other P.E. coach in the 1980s, he wore coaching shorts. If you’re not familiar with coaching shorts, they’re a close cousin to cut-off jean shorts except for instead of denim they’re made out of polyester. And, however short you imagine jean shorts being, coaching shorts were usually an inch or two shorter. Oh, and they were usually maroon or some other color that no rational man would otherwise choose for a pair of pants.
The other thing about coaching shorts is that they were custom made for coaches. This means that the polyester allowed room in the front for the coach’s gut as well as a little extra flexibility in the back pocket for a can of Skoal.
When I was a young middle schooler wondering what it meant to be a man I figured that if I was half the man that Coach Williams was I would be okay.
I even bought my own pair of coaching shorts but I didn’t bother with the deep voice and yelling. Half the man.
It turns out that it was perfectly acceptable in the 1980s to wear coaching shorts if you were a coach. If you were 12, people just made fun of you.
So much for that example of manhood.
I recently spent some time in a hospital room visiting a church member. As usual, he was very soft spoken and he was wearing one of those gowns that looks like a dress that they make you wear in hospitals.
I was only in his room for a few minutes but that was long enough for him to tell me about his wife. For a long time she suffered from the same disease that sent him to this hospital room. He told me about how he always took his wife to the doctor and how finally their doctor taught him how to care for his wife at home. He learned how to help his wife to take preventative measures in order to keep things from getting real bad and how to spot the signs that let him know that she needed help, even before she knew that she needed help.
He took care of his wife like this for a long time before she finally died.
Most of us don’t usually associate hospital gowns and IVs with manliness. Yesterday I did. The man I visited can’t fight, hunt, run marathons or fix a car. He doesn’t have a deep voice and, thankfully, he doesn’t wear coaching shorts. But he is a real man. He’s a real man because he knows what it means to give of himself for the good of his wife. He’s a real man because he faithfully loved his wife until the end, just like Jesus told him to.
My two sons will probably never see me take the transmission out of our car. They’ll never watch me skin a buck or run a trotline. But they will see me kiss their mother and they will see me empty the dishwasher for their mother.
I hope that my boys are learning from me what it means to be a man.
I hope that each son will follow the example of Christ when it comes time for him to love and serve his own wife.
I hope that they never wear coaching shorts.