On Being A Man

Southaven, Ms

By: Mike Upchurch

What is a man?  What defines a real man?  Some say that when Dale Earnhardt, Sr died at Daytona in 2001, NASCAR’s last real man died. Some point to John Wayne as America’s last real man. I must admit, looking across the current landscape of humanity, it’s getting harder to find real men anymore.

That fact brings me to the purpose of this column. I met one. A genuine bona fide real man. As a matter of fact, I was actually friends with him for a number of years. He was by definition everything you’d expect a real man to be.

When people think of Earnhardt and how they defined him as being a man, they might think of his toughness.  In fact he was nicknamed the “Intimidator”, as his driving style was one of fearless bullying and intimidation.

In reflecting on John Wayne, he was a rock solid giant of a man who didn’t back down from anyone. He stood, almost every time in his movies, as one who kept and enforced the Law. In real life he loved God, America, and all that it stood for.

But you don’t necessarily have to be 6’ 4”, or be a bully, to be a man. My friend was around 5’9”. He was however barrel chested and solidly built. He would never back down from a fight. In fact, in his rowdier days, before he gave his heart to the Lord, he’d been known to start a few!  He could empty a bar in his younger wilder days.

My friend was honest. To use one of his quotes, “he was as honest as the day is long.”  He was quick to own a mistake. He took care of his own. He was an excellent provider for his wife and stepchildren for 24 years.

He paid his debts, but he usually paid cash for his purchases. We rode motorcycles together, and he had owned two different bikes over the years I knew him. Paid cash for both of them, saying “If I can’t pay cash for a toy, I don’t need it!”

He loved the Lord. Deeply. He was a man’s man, but would weep sometimes when telling of the Lord’s goodness to him. He was not swayed by popular opinion. He liked things because HE liked them, not because others did. He wore certain clothes because HE liked them, not because they were the trend, though they usually happened to be. He made his own choices. And he would quickly admit when the choice proved wrong. 

He was stout.  A former veteran, he retained that discipline and training throughout his life. He was always armed, but was disciplined in doing so. He held to the adage that he would never pull his 9mm pistol unless he intended to use it. 

He loved his Country and told me once (at age 69) that he would re-enlist to defend it if needed. 

He had a great, reassuring smile. One you’d look for in conversation, because if he was calm and smiling, then you also knew that things were going to be ok in the end. 

He used to stop by my office from time to time, and we’d chat about something he’d read in the Bible, or perhaps a sermon he’d heard, and he wondered what my opinion would be.  For whatever reason he valued my interpretation of scripture, and I was humbled by that.

If you needed something done and he could help, a quick mention to him is all that was needed. He would get it done or see to it that is was done. Yessir, he was a man’s man. He was a real man, and a dying breed.  A man I loved and a man I was proud to call my friend. 

And he was, without a doubt, a friend to all who knew him. He was loved by so many.   He wouldn’t tolerate wrong; whether in politics, or in his church, with his friends, or in life. He was a rock but he was also kind and gentle.  Many of the women who knew him referred to him as a sweet man, but we men knew the strength that lay beneath that sweet facade. He was truly the definition of a man, and someone we should all emulate. 

The man?  His name was James Sipes. We buried him this past Monday, June 24th, 2019.  He gently passed in his sleep. You’d expect a godly man would go that way. His passing has left a void in many hearts. But what he imprinted on those of us close to him is how to be a man. We paid attention. And now we find we’re trying to be like him. Because James was trying to be like the Lord. Full of love, yet filled with quiet strength, and intolerant of evil. 

Rest In Peace Brother James. The Lord knows you deserve the rest!

 James A Sipes
July 31, 1947-June 21, 2019


Pastor Mike