Through the years I’ve seen men struggle with their personal purity, many to victory and freedom. But sadly, some to their own demise. As I reflect on their struggles, I notice many battles are lost by a simple lack of discipline. Proverbs 5:23, “He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.”
The Puritans used to say, “The devil comes over the hedge at its lowest point.” That’s vivid imagery that should capture our attention. Hedges are good. They are meant to shield and protect. Yet many men have holes in their hedge. This post is meant to help patch those holes.
Allow me to make two qualifiers: First, I am writing to men, in particular younger men. Second, my wife has read, approved and endorsed the content below. I’m sure yours will as well.
Men, I’ve listed below seven “high hedges” deserving of our consideration.
Seven | Discipline your solitude.
Solitude is good. It’s a spiritual discipline. And yet, undisciplined solitude can lead to great folly and sin. Let’s be honest – being alone is a vulnerable place and time for many men. A switch is flipped when no one knows where we are or what we are doing. If you must be alone, whether at home or in the hotel, have a plan. Spend time in the lobby, shoot basketball outside. Guard against sloth and sensuality. Our private and public lives must match.
Six | Shorten your conversation.
Generally speaking, men are visual and women are emotional. Thus, casual conversation is often a trap. The longer you talk the more emotion. Details can lead to intimacy. Keep your verbal exchanges brief and above board. Be careful about emotions, details, and body language.
Proverbs 10:19, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”
Five | Keep your distance.
I appeal to Billy Graham’s “Modesto Manifesto.” Never be alone in a car, at lunch, in a meeting at work, etc., with a woman that is not your wife, mother, sister or family member. If you’re traveling, drive separately. If you’re meeting for lunch, invite a third person. If you have a meeting, open the door, invite a secretary. Bottom line: keep yourselves in the eyes and ears of the public.
Let me take it a step further: Young man, you have no business giving another woman a hug. You know what I’m talking about. Shake hands, fist bump, etc. If you feel like your distance makes it slightly awkward – good. I’d rather be awkward than the alternative.
Four | Tailor your texts.
I have seen more mess come from texting than anything else. It is the gateway to disaster. Texting is like whispering in someone’s ear. It’s a discrete conversation between two parties, without tone or context. It’s the devil’s playground. You’d type things on your phone that you would never say in person, nor maybe even have the opportunity.
Let’s ask the question — would your wife be ok if you repeatedly whispered in another woman’s ear? Of course not. Then stop texting. Don’t be stupid. (How’s that for being spiritual?!)
Three | Limit your social media.
Social media is far from social. It is augmented, mediated reality. The word “media” (plural of “medium”) is the means by which something is communicated or expressed. Translation: What you are viewing on your screen is not real. That’s why we can have thousands of “friends” and still be alone.
What we view on social media are the human experiences of real life, yet coming to us by way of a filter, a medium, able to contort the images and information we view. Thus, we are to keep our heads about us. We are to understand and respect the medium. Behave yourselves, men. Mediated reality is not real reality.
Two | Know your bedtime.
Create the habit of going to bed at the same time as your wife. For some, your work schedules simply don’t match. But for most, it’s simply a matter of getting on the same rhythm. Strive to close out the day together. Benefits will abound. It will shore up your schedule through the day. It will build intimacy and accountability in your marriage. Most of all men, it will not leave you alone in the late hours of the night (see above, “Discipline your solitude”). Your wife is a hedge. And so is your bedtime. Don’t miss that.
One | Kill your phone.
I’ve intentionally saved this one for last. I’ve found the cell phone to be the biggest hole in the hedge. Let me be crystal clear: Turn. Off. Your. Phone. I mean — off, like “slide to power off” off.
You have likely been on your phone all day. It’s now time to get off the grid and be present with your family. At the very minimum, let your mind cool. Emails can wait. Work will be there in the morning. Communicate with your work and cooperate with your wife in order to make this happen. Have a plan, work the plan. As a word of personal testimony, I turn my phone off regularly at 8:00p.m. If people need me, they can call my wife. To this date, I’ve missed very few calls. I’m not that important. My guess is, neither are you.
Jesus told his disciples to get radical—real radical— with their fight against sin, “if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away,” (Matt 18:8). His metaphor is meant to communicate the severity of the sin and gravity of the fight. Men, do what you have to do. That will look different for each of us. It may mean you have to be a little awkward. Or you may have to be inconvenienced.
Men, in all the matters listed above, you must know yourself. A healthy sense of distrust is in order for us all. Not to make us live in fear, but to make us lean in boldly to the grace of Jesus Christ. We must live lives of dependence on him. He is in your corner, fighting your battles. He suffered the cross to make you pure. Set your eyes on victory and freedom, by his power alone.
Here are some resources that may help you with your hedges:
Disciplines of a Godly Man by Kent Hughes
Point Man by Steve Farrar
Finally Free by Heath Lambert