This is the first of many Eldredge books I have read over the years but still takes the cake as the most impactful book in my life, after the Word, itself. Eldredge also works alongside his wife on several works about the nature of men and women in relationship to their being made in the image of God.
When my friend John recommended the book, he said that this was the book that taught him to love to learn reading. I kind of believed him; then I read the book. The depth and accuracy of his knowledge of the spirit of a man and a woman is almost as if he had placed a wiretap in my room for the last 20 years of post-developmental struggle.
He doesn’t just answer the question, “Who should the man be?” but “Who is the man? How is he created in the image of God? How does he receive his identity? Where does he usually run when things go awry? How come he cannot get his identity from somewhere else? Why does he always end up searching for danger? Why is he rebellious, discontented, maladjusted? These are questions that every honest man will admit he has faced.
What is sad is that Thoreau’s reality of “quiet desperation” is far too often the perpetual existence of men in need, yet we do not cry out because to do so admits that we need and we lean on something else, something greater. We must become children to accept that our identity and our existence is to be lived out of a greater perspective of Father love that comes from one place (I Jn 4:7).
Yet, what did the poet say about this struggle in the 32nd Psalm? “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.” We are often to blame for our own desperation. We fight the help that will really and eternally change every piece of our existence. Jesus, the eternal Son, said Himself “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3). Yet the strongest impulse that you sense in a group of men is posing. Lots and lots of posing. I call it The Act. Everything is okay, I am strong, I have it all figured out, I have need of no one and nothing…it’s a lie and thus we live stretched between two terrifying realities: we must either completely rely on God or we must figure it out all alone.
Motorcycles, guns, fast cars, women, cooking over an open flame. The list goes on. There is something appealing about an activity where you might die: stay on the edge of danger and on the cusp of rebellion. Most men revel at the idea that they are revolutionary, defiant, and bold. Yet it is mostly a farce, and what they fear the most is that they will be tamed and that the whole world will be able to see behind the mask, into their deepest weakness, into the wound, as Eldredge calls it.
The Wound is an essential identification that every man must make distinctively, because that is where Christ meets us with a Sword of Truth – not to emasculate us with “dos and do nots” or to tame us with “shoulds and oughts” but to slice through the scar tissue to the wound and dwell there at our deepest vulnerability. For me, it was neglect and abandonment from my father who never addressed his own wound – the loss of his father, my Papa Troy.
I can honestly look at every man out there who is seeking and not finding and likely in every scenario, they have not taken their wound to Christ but to Jack Daniels and golf and sex. Eldredge calls this search The Question: Do I have what it takes? Am I worth it? Can I do it? Am I a man, I mean am I a real man? Where each man takes his question will determine the direction of his heart. You need only take a look at his Internet history, his calendar, his bank statements to see where he has sought this validation.
I’ll pause here for a moment to make a proclamation and a directive: 1) Any time a man takes his question to a female, any time he goes to the feminine spirit for strength, he will begin to suffer the greatest of tragedies and without knowing it, steal from her what she seeks the most from him – leadership. 2) Christ commands that the way to the Father is through the Son, not through relationships, not through sex, not through porn or hookers or an affair.
Yet, ironically throughout history men have found that easy-out increasingly available everywhere we turn, and yes, many of us have been down those roads, and we also know where they all lead. Sam Jones once told me “How a man manages his stress will show his character and his heart, I mean look at Tiger Woods and Bill Clinton and so many other adulterers; they took their stress to the woman, and look where it has landed them.” David brought his question to Bathsheba, Samson to Delilah, and Jacob to his own mother. They simultaneously opted out of the blessings that the Father had in store.
So where can we go? Who can we turn to? What can we do? How can we fix it? I know, I was asking the same question. The answer might hurt. There is literally nothing you can do. But there is something HE can do for you. If you’re willing to face the frightening sword and to let Him pierce even unto the depths of your heart, he will chasten and hone you. On His strength, he will allow you to test your own. In this analogy, I imagined my dad, who stands about 6ft 4in fighting off a 6- and 8-year-old boys as we tried to bring down the giant, testing our strength against his, fighting for the victory. “Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).
That is His ultimate desire for the Men of God. He wants us to wrestle with Him and to fight beside Him, as He did with Jacob, and we then emerge with a new name, and yes with a limp, haha. I don’t trust a man without limps or lumps. For there is no perfect man, but there is a perfected, completed man in Christ who is filled with the Spirit of Christ.
For what purpose then are we redeemed and renamed and healed? Eldredge suggests that there are three conquests that a man must engage with Him to fulfill his identity: A Battle to Fight, A Beauty to Rescue, and An Adventure to Live. He demonstrates in depth.
A Battle to Fight
You don’t have to look far to find a man looking for a battle to fight. Consider all the causes out there: whether it’s the NRA or the USA, men everywhere are looking for a fight. Deep down they really wish that guy in the checkout isle would give them an excuse to deck them. I dare you to take my parking spot. Don’t judge me if you’ve never felt that way before, but I am willing to bet you have.
The best example I can think of is when Liberty Valance tosses aside Tom Doniphon's steak (played by John Wayne), and you would have thought that the man slapped his mother or put a hole in his hat. The truth is that we all are hard-wired to provide and protect. The wild west remains an epic canvas for the spirit of manhood because it represents this Battle to Fight in its raw, real, rustic sense.
But who do you see in every scene? The Beauty, looking to be rescued.
A Beauty to Rescue
John and Stasi Eldredge also co-author Captivating, the “girls response” to Wild at Heart – a revealing and down-to-earth dispensation of pure womanly wisdom. The pretext is that every woman wants to know that she has her daddy’s heart and that if she never finds this, she will look elsewhere. Men, conversely, need a Beauty to Rescue. Think about every good movie you’ve ever seen…there is always a love story, no matter how masculine the main male character. And he always has to fight for her. This is what she wants to see: her man going to battle for her heart, not taking her for granted or that he loves the convenience of her existence. Why do so many sexually involved relationships before marriage end in hurt? Because she wants to know that she is a catch and that she has value. If she didn’t learn that from Dad, guess what...She might need to know a little extra…this is how she is made.
An Adventure to Live
Why are so many men out there in what seem like stellar marriages struggling spiritually? Because they believe that their greatest accomplishment is being successful, well-dressed, and sensitive, domesticated. The thought sickens me…I am actually sitting in a Starbucks finishing this and all I can think about is getting home to Melissa and maybe going for a trail run or rollerblading on the Greenway, or playing soccer. Men, take initiative. She will appreciate you for it. It will enliven your marriage and bless your life.
For the fairer sex out there that may be reading this, the Adventure to Live is the killer instinct. Burning ants with the magnifying glass, taking out the coyote at 100 yards with the .22 rifle, or pulling the legs off of a grasshopper. We seek it from our youth, and it does not stop. Ladies, don’t roll your eyes. This is the heart of man. If you have a man who is willing to have your back you are among very few, and you should nurture that in him. If you make it a point to control everything he does, you’re not going to like the male that you’ll end up with – I use the word Man sparingly.
Every man was once a boy. And every little boy has dreams, big dreams: dreams of being the hero, of beating the bad guys, of doing daring feats and rescuing the damsel in distress. Every little girl has dreams, too: of being rescued by her prince and swept up into a great adventure, knowing that she is the beauty.