I’ve had some funny looks over the last few weeks – well, more funny than usual. People have looked at the growth above my upper lip and for most the penny has dropped – “Oh-it’s Movember!” – or as it’s known in Cymru – “Tashwedd!” (Tachwedd is November in Welsh). For the last couple of years I’ve joined thousands of other men in growing a moustache in order to raise the profile of men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and men’s suicide. Men are notorious for wanting to keep any problems, whether they are health-related or anything else, to themselves and trying to give the appearance that everything is alright and that they can handle anything.
When I was growing up many of the tough male role models on TV supported a moustache and several of my sporting heroes also favoured such facial hair in order to appear more fearsome. One of these heroes was Tommy Smith! Tommy Smith is probably most well known for his appearances in the red of Liverpool, but in 1978 he joined John Toshack’s Swansea. I will never forget his “Welcome to Swansea” chest-high “tackle” on Osvaldo Ardiles in a League Cup tie at The Vetch Field. Smith insisted after the game that he had merely wanted to acquaint Ardiles, who had recently joined Spurs after helping Argentina win the World Cup, with the realities of football in Britain! Tommy was as hard as they come and the legendary Bill Shankly once said of him: “Tommy Smith wasn’t born, he was quarried!” But not even Tommy Smith was indestructible! I’m not and neither are you!
There’s a well-known saying: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” If you’re not in a hard battle right now thank God, but undoubtedly sometime in the future you will be. So I’m doing Movember both to raise money for these causes, but also to say we are all in this together. We need each other!
Even in the church community there are men who have no close male friends that they can talk to about the issues that are really concerning them and to fight alongside them when life gets tough. That’s when the enemy is able to pick them off. Since April in our church in Swansea we have been meeting fortnightly as a group of around ten men to work through CVM’s “The Code”. For many of these men, who live busy lives, it would probably be easier to stay at home and watch TV after working all day, but they would all agree with me that we are steadily growing closer to Jesus and also closer to each other. As it says in Proverbs 27 v 17: “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”
As this year comes to an end and a new one is just around the corner, you may not be growing a moustache but you can make a commitment to stand with other men. As you think ahead to 2020 can I encourage you to start up or to get involved in a small group of men who will support one another. Getting a pile of the new version of “The Code” and working together through the studies would be a great place to start. But be warned – it’s likely to change your life and the lives of all the other men in your group! You’ll find yourself saying: “I will stand alongside you and you will stand alongside me. Together, with God’s help, we’ll get through this battle one way or another – and what’s more we’ll be victorious!”