My friend, Jeff, has a 3-year-old son named Elliott, who was born with hydrocephalus—a fluid buildup inside the skull that leads to brain swelling. It is life threatening. This medical condition has caused their family to go through a great deal, especially in this little guy’s first year of life. Now, quite healthy, Elliott has shunts surgically implanted in the back of his head to drain the fluid into his digestive system.
Jeff met a young man named Michael May, 20, who also has hydrocephalus and is now an avid runner, despite his condition. Jeff invited Michael to come meet Elliott. Jeff told his son that Michael had shunts just like him and that he, too, was a walking miracle. Elliott’s 3-year-old response was, “He has shunts? Just like me?”
When Jeff introduced the two, Elliott gently asked Michael, “Hi. Can I see your shunts?” Michael knelt down and said, “Sure.”
Even at 3, Elliott, like all of us, just wants to know he is not alone in his circumstances. We all look for those who will empathize, not just sympathize, with whatever our limitations and challenges are. We long to relate and connect in our struggles. But that doesn’t mean we will respond openly, as Elliott and Michael chose to when they met.
What if someone walked up and asked you about your condition? Something like …
“Can I see your insecurity?”
“Can I see your depression?”
“Can I see your addiction?”
“Can I see your business failure?”
“Can I see your unemployment?”
“Can I see your divorce?”
“Can I see your doubt?”
“Can I see your hopelessness?”
“Can I see your broken heart?”
As men, we work all our lives to cover up and hide some of the greatest strengths we have to offer each other … our personal weaknesses. Does that sound like a contradiction? Culturally, it is. Spiritually, it is not.
How many men could you encourage, motivate, minister to, if you just opened up where you struggle and let someone see your “shunt?”
Just like Elliott’s little life was changed by a fellow struggler of hydrocephalus, we can impact people by answering those questions with, “Sure. I got nothing to hide and everything to gain—by encouraging you.”
If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you’ll lose it, but if you let that life go, you’ll get life on God’s terms. —Luke 17:33 MSG