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.
As you can see by the title, I have stretched the bounds of the PBP series by including this paperback that fits into zero of my pockets yet is still a relatively quick and thoroughly enjoyable read. I must say, I have a bias in choosing this book because its author is a man who encouraged me when he had no idea that I was doubting and struggling with my faith. He told me one sentence which carried me through college and my early adult life, and that still echoes on my heart today, "I love you, and I am proud of you." That is the Rhodes way: plain and simple from a heart of compassion.
Kevin Rhodes is no stranger to the literary community. You would also enjoy some of his other works: Shadows of Good Things to Come, A Consequence of Legitimacy, and What God Hath Joined Together. He is the minister of the Granbury St. church of Christ in Cleburne, TX, and also has a great deal of experience in the academic community and in the personal working of discipleship in the home, work, and church. If you were to meet him at the store, in the worship assembly, or in the classroom, he is the same man, with the same commitment to serve one purpose - Following Christ.
The tone of the book is bold, simple, didactic, and passionate, like the gospel message it conveys. If I could distill the book into one sentence, it would be, Discipleship with the Lord Jesus is simple when you allow it be defined by Him.
Rhodes walks the reader through a series of challenges and exhortations to connect them to the fellowship of Christ that occurs when the denial of self is full and complete. The first several chapters focus on the obstacles to true discipleship: tradition, contemporary doctrine, selfish ambition, materialism, and excuse-making. Rhodes submits that discipleship occurs in a progression, and it is not solely based on performance but on the heart of a follower to submit because he longs to be disciplined by a Father who has an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient perspective and Who knows what is best for His children.
Many many ask the question, "What is it with all this talk about 'authentic discipleship'...seems pretty simple to me." Discipleship is certainly simple, but to think it is easy is to vastly underestimate the potential cost of following Christ daily and the blessings that will follow. Restoration is an ever-present need for anyone seeking to emulate someone or something. If you're going to be something or do something, be it. Do it. There is no in between. If you're not it, become it again by following His pattern.
Life is a vacuum that we operate in that causes the following to be true: There is no standing still; God is either propelling you forward or you're being pulled forever backward by another, darker force. If you have not pursued the way of the Savior, you haven't followed him either. If you have not earnestly sought the heart of the Savior, you cannot see yourself in His image. If you cannot walk in faith behind the Savior, you're walking by human sight and operating from a short-term perspective that will land you on your behind right back where you started - or even further back.
The difference between being a Christian and a disciple, is much like the difference between a rectangle and a square. Not all rectangles are squares, but the best square out there cannot help but be an awesome rectangle. Being a true disciple would assume that a person would become a Christian through burial in baptism to become united with the blood of Christ (Romans 6:3f). Discipleship, however, begins in pursuit of Christ and exists in a progressive momentum that consumes all things in the life of a follower, beginning at salvation and continuing unto death (Rev 2:10). There are many who claim to be Christ-like whose time, money, effort, and mental capacity is spent for 6.5 days of the week on themselves. A disciple perceives his or her life as a daily opportunity to serve the Creator by giving Him glory through his values, priorities, judgments, spiritual works, disciplines, self-denial, relationships, and eternal longevity. So while all disciples cannot help but become Christians, not all Christians choose to be discipled.
Anything short of this "authentic discipleship" simply adds distance to the great gulf that exists between the Almighty God and His people (Isaiah 59:1-2). A disciple realizes that his citizenship, purpose, wealth, and health are all primarily spiritual and that the physical aspects of gain in this life flow out of the grace and mercy of the savior. Rhodes gives examples of people who have lost their way because of their pursuit of the dollar bill, status, a charismatic reputation, or leadership value. Never follow a man who is not himself being led by Christ (Matthew 15:14).
I really enjoyed the third chapter, "Leaving the Cares of the World Behind." Rhodes suggests that materialism is not just having a lot, but placing more value on what you have (idolatry) or do not have (covetousness) than on your spiritual worth. I know many people with almost no physical possessions whose primary goal is to have and to gain, yet they are faced with rejection at every turn because their spiritual depravity blocks God's blessings for them. I also know some very poor people whose every moment is spent in service to others and in blessing others to the measure that they have been blessed. The latter are rich in spirit and following Christ. They work hard only to give back because they know where their treasure lies. In stark contrast, you have the the executive big shot or the career woman who chases the dollar bill for 60-80 hours per week for a family and a home and a car that they never get to enjoy. Rhodes suggests that God's glory is not in the constant pursuit of fiscal wealth but in the pursuit of the riches of the glory of God (Matthew 13:11f).
I was speaking with a mentor of mine last night who talked about his desire to be so excited, even after the productivity of a full day, to come home and to spend some time with Jesus in the prayer closet and to internalize and to dispense the gleanings from the Spirit. This is the desire that the true disciple chases day and night: to be wrapped up in the thoughts of Christ and in His Holy Spirit.
Follow Me came to me at a crucial time, as good books always do, and it was a blessing to read and to review my notes, knowing that this work can bless others. I pray that you purchase a copy from iTunes or from Amazon and go through it one chapter a day, or even a chapter a week and to focus on one principle at a time, knowing that you'll only draw closer to a Savior who is calling you and who longs to have a relationship with you.
May God bless your reading and study of the scripture and this book be a beacon on your journey.
This is not the first time that I have read Edwin Cole's Maximized Manhood, and I know it won't be my last. The original copy of the book was a prized possession until I passed it on to a brother in need. I believe that for the conscientious reader, it is a good habit to read a book, mark it up, and pass it on!
Maximized Manhood is but one of Cole's many works regarding Marriage and Family topics. The subtitle of the book is "A Guide to Family Survival, " and appropriately so. Despite the title, this would be an amazing book to read as a couple to get together-together on what it means to be a man and a woman, and a family unit.
Between its 15 chapters and 175 pages, the work represents one of the most comprehensive studies of what God commands the man to be. He doesn't ask. He gives directives. If a man is created in God's image, how is he created? Is he weak and weary, like the portrait of Jesus that pop culture has come to embrace, or is he the rock, the stronghold, the velvet-covered brick?
Because there is a "Man Book" stigma that usually accompanies the literature addressed to men, Cole takes time to address some pre-conceived notions in their extremes that have endangered the identity of the Christian man in his household, business, and social life. He goes into detail about what it means to be truly surrendered to God's image of the male spirit and life.
If it were up to television and music, every man would have to make the decision as to whether he would become a Macho Man or a Pansy. I can totally relate to this since I have some friends who are very BOLD and some that are more GENTEEL. You can likely recall times huddled around a fire, or an engine, or a broken pipe, or guns, or a fishing hole where your manhood was tested. Can you build a fire, fix a car, stop a leak, load and unload a gun, bate a hook, etc? Is that the extent of our Manhood? That we be useful? Maybe that is part of it.
The author takes care to explain the other side of manhood. Not only that he can be depended on to deliver results, but also that he lead from the front in developing and fostering a spiritual intimacy that goes beyond sex and physical touch.
If a woman does not believe that she possesses these things in a marriage or while dating, it's likely that her perception is reality and that she'll look elsewhere. And sadly, women often do. They run to their romantic love stories and their gossip magazines while the "male" (I use the word 'man' sparingly in this context) runs to his porn, beer, friends, golf, work, guns, sports, fishing, camping, etc...
A man is only more of a man when he becomes more surrendered to the Father. He is only more of a disciple when he becomes more disciplined by the Father. And He is only more a leader when he is led by the Father.
Surrendered, Disciplined, Led. That is God's real intention for the Christian man. AND God's intention is that the best kind of man is a Christian, because who better should a man imitate that the Son of God, the incarnation of the Father, Himself?
I was tempted to include a brief chapter summary of all 15 sections, but I believe that you should read the book yourself. It's worth it. A relationship with your First Father is worth it. Your marriage is worth it.