For over all the glory there will be a covering.

(Isaiah 4:5)

 

If ever my son asks me to define, in a single word, the essence of manhood, I think I’ll be ready. I’ll take him to Isaiah, read him this enigmatic prophecy of the Kingdom of God, and underline the one crucial word: covering.

But I’ll have to explain that I didn’t actually learn the lesson reading Isaiah. I learned it when an unexpected providence made me manager of our local Christian bookstore. Suddenly, a callow young man with neither business nor administrative experience found himself responsible not only for the smooth and profitable operation of a thriving store, but also for the guidance and safety of several other dedicated employees–all of whom happened to be ladies!

Looking back, it seems to me that somehow, in my day-to-day relationship with these women, God quietly but unalterably granted me a revelation of the gist of manhood: to be a man, I discovered, was to stand for the Father in his world, and to cover–that is, to protect and provide for–the creatures he entrusts to our care, especially women and children.

The revelation came, I am sure, in the little things: figuring out how to schedule lunches or days off so the ladies wouldn’t get needlessly tired or miss events that were important to them; sending them home sick, even when they wanted to stay; lifting heavy boxes from their arms; stepping in between them and difficult customers; even coaxing the owner to give them a raise!

And what was the payoff in all these little chivalries? Well, beyond the love and respect of my staff, it was simply this: I experienced my manhood. Why? Because I experienced my God covering these women through me, his man. Having granted me a small stewardship of his authority and loving oversight, he fulfilled me as a man.

If we are Christians, the Kingdom that Isaiah foresaw is here, though we do indeed groan till it appears in its fullness. Therefore, over all our assemblies—over our personal walk with Christ, our home, our place of work, our church, our chosen sphere of service in the community—a glory should be seen: an orderliness, an integrity, a beauty, a holy joy.

But it can only be seen if there is a covering over the glory.

And there can only be a covering if God can get his men.

Father, you know how difficult it is for men to be men, especially in our day, when the world has turned gender roles upside down. You know how difficult it is to lead when we would rather follow; to fight when we would rather run. At a time when so many of your children have been abandoned by the men in their lives, help us to become “overcover agents.” Help us more and more to provide and protect, whether spiritually or physically; to cover the weaker vessels whom you are pleased to entrust to our care. In the Name of Him who showed us the way. Amen.