Diving Into Wild At Heart By John Eldredge: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul
"There few things worse than being a man and living a passive, dull, and apathetic life." - Craig Groeschel
As part of my 9-month-long leadership development group at Gwinnett Church, we’re exploring numerous books. We first read and discussed Bo’s Cafe, about one man’s journey through a struggling marriage (and his own issues of the soul).
Next up, we’re diving into Wild At Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul by John Eldridge. In his book (which you can check out on Amazon here - affiliate link) Eldridge explores four concepts (The Question, The Wound, The Beauty, and The Adventure) as he dives into, 'what is masculinity?'.
Join me in this blog post as I explore Wild at Heart and these four concepts. If you have not read the book, you can check out the following videos and my commentary along the way. Get a glimpse into the soul of every man.
Wild Life With John Eldredge
"God is calling you to the wild life... A life that is lived courageously and in bold obedience to the God who loves you." - Craig Groeschel
In the following introductory video to Wild Life, John encourages us men, to embrace the adventure that awaits. And through the adventure, it's important we have a safe place with other men to share and discuss our insecurities and challenges (do you have this?).
As he dives into the topic, he reminds of the Genesis story of Adam and Eve, and how relevant it is to us today.
“I run in the path of your commands, for you have broadened my understanding.” King David, Psalm 19:32
There were several points of reflection that came to mind as I watched the preceding video. In the message, John poses the question, what does it mean to be a man? And, what does it look like to be a man in the different channels of our life? Work, home, community? Are we falling into passivity in one or all of these areas or are we living an intentional life? These questions and others are common among us men, and they go back to the beginning.
Made in the image of God, men want to create, to seek adventure, to win the tough battles, and fall in love with the beauty (our co-warrior). It's through this tough journey of pain and sorrow that we warriors (metaphorically speaking nowadays) must embrace responsibility and establish a mastery of the world.
To help us effectively seek out this adventure, its helpful to ask ourselves if there is a vocational place in our life where we come alive. One of those places for me is writing, especially here on this blog. I get the opportunity to create and share the adventure I'm wading through day-to-day and year-to-year. My contract consulting work is another opportunity to live this out (while also getting paid).
What about you? What are the most energy-inciting opportunities that you've come across in your vocational journey?
I also resonated deeply with the idea that such a complex world was created for us humans partially, for us to explore it deeply. There is so much in our world and universe to be discovered. It seems as if there is no end to what we can learn and explore. And God intentionally designed the universe to draw us near to Himself.
And for Adam, it was Eve who was his beauty. She provided intimacy and unconditional love but was also mysterious. Thankfully, this first man no longer had to live in loneliness but could now thrive with a co-warrior; one who was different but also complimentary.
But, in light of the adventure, potential, and pleasure (through relational intimacy with the opposite sex) there is also great brokenness in those that guide us, others who love us, and in the man who looks back at us in the mirror.
We long for authentic love, and intimacy, failing to know and act on how to healthily pursue it. Unfortunately, most men try to fix their problems without diving into the heart. Instead, we fill the void through achievement (the adventure) or women (the beauty). It's in this intersection where we find that something inside us needs to be healed. Life is tough, and along the way, we face the guilt and shame of our history and the impact of those who raised us.
But, God (the perfect father) is at work, restoring our hearts. He's healing us of our wounds and dismantling our false understandings.
"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." - Proverbs 4:23
Am I doing it right?
As surprising as it may seem, that is what most men have wondered at some point along the journey. It's also the struggle of what we know we ought to do and our failure in actually doing it.
When we are doing well, we can feel on top of the world. After failing, we can quickly fall into a depression. In the early manhood years, there is a roller coaster of ups and downs.
Eldridge explores this journey in the following video and I share my thoughts on this part below.
As men, we seek deep profound affirmation from our fathers, and where that is lacking we seek it out from other mentors and leaders around us (positive and negative influences). But while we can seek out that external guidance and support (and often we need it), the core of our masculinity is resolved on the inside, and by facing our fears head-on (which can be part of the adventure).
As we mentally wrestle with whether or not we have what it takes, we men are also facing situations and challenges that allow us to grow into the men we truly want to become. And our vulnerability through the process is critical to how well we can navigate the circumstances while also allowing us to transform from the inside out.
“Adam, where are you?” - God, Genesis
While we may not always appreciate it, the story of Adam and Eve from the Biblical book of Genesis has profound truth to our situation in the here and now. If you've read my story, you know how my journey to move across the country and launch the business was part of my way to run and hide from my sin and those that loved me. It's in this state that we desperately want to be vulnerable without the judgment we expect will likely follow.
And through this journey, we men wonder this one question. Do we have what it takes?
Some of us men have had a positive experience with our father, and we must learn to let go and embrace God. For others who have a negative experience with their father, they must learn to trust and let God in.
But, regardless of how positive or negative our father-son experience was growing up, our dads were not perfect. Thankfully, God steps into our lives and fills those gaps and heals our wounds.
John explores this wound idea further in the following video with my thoughts below.
Yes, the vow.
I can recall making a vow not to ever place myself in a situation where I could fail and be subject to the subsequent chastisement. Another was that I would not put myself in a situation where I would succeed greatly for fear of corruption.
As subtly as we make these vows, we also quite arrogantly think the wounds we have, the ways we've been hurt by our father won't affect us. We'll learn to navigate around them but still fall subject to these generational patterns.
As we learn from this in our own journey, we now have a choice and opportunity to turn the generational tide in a positive and better direction. My grandfather did this for my dad, and my father did it for me. My opportunity is to look at where I can take the next step to provide an even better blessing and generational inheritance for my children.
We are sons of God. While we search for validation, we come to appreciate how much our father and son relationship was to our being and identity. We want to be adored, loved, and wanted. When we don't get the delight from our father we crave and need, we often seek it out from achievement and women (more on the beauty in the following video).
As cliche' as it might seem to you or me, God is our perfect heavenly father. And it is He who fills in the gaps to demonstrate his love. Thankfully, we experience a model in Jesus and the words from a perfect father we all have access to.
“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” - God
“...People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” - Jesus
Our wives pull us in and help us feel like a man, but ultimately, what they give, even when done well, is not enough to satisfy and deliver the contentedness we need from God. This video explores this aspect of masculinity.
“There is Nothing more powerful than beauty.” - John Eldridge
As we seek to love and serve our wives, there is often confusion between what they want or need, how that is communicated, and the ways in which we respond (or fail to). To our wives, they wonder if they will be loved, be made a priority or instead forgotten and neglected.
In the early years of my marriage, I often abandoned my wife in pursuit of a business adventure, something I now regret. As I hear this topic explored in the preceding video, it reminds me of the Stages of Commitment concept where I explore how we move along the spectrum in relation to others towards (or against) a common goal. Eventually, its the clash between our individual intentions and the reality we must contend with.
And, as we men and husbands take on the adventure and fight the battle of providing for our family and making our community better, we're often in a war that is wearing. We want our wives to be our cheerleader, but often they can be the one taking shots at us.
This makes the journey more difficult and can often justify our decision to pursue outlets to medicate or escape the challenges we feel unequipped to handle and overcome. Its the process of pushing through this, reflecting in the mirror, and taking up courage to do the right and good thing even when it could lead to failure, that transforms us into the leader we must become. And it is this action that attracts The Beauty.
As we go out on our journey to pursue the adventure, we're faced with the challenge of the man we want to be versus who we actually are at this moment. In this next video around the campfire, Eldridge and the surrounding young men explore the final topic of adventure.
Have you taken the time to define what it means to be a man? To set the standard of the type of man you want to become? Are you dreaming, wondering what your life could be like? Are you willing to sacrifice and delay that dream, for what matters?
As we pursue our adventure (externally in a literal sense, or metaphorically in a variety of directions) how much do we trust God to guide us along the way? How vital have we placed him in our pursuit? Is He only of value when we want his direction or do we walk with him day-to-day?
As I found in my story, my way of doing things slowly and surely deteriorated into chaos. It wasn't until I set my ego aside and asked God to show me his way that this chaos was redirected towards order and structure. Through this process, God dismantles our false sense of self, heals our wounds, and eventually sets us free.
"They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations." Isaiah 61:4
With new eyes to see, we can stop pretending and be ourselves. We know we are loved and cared for by God, and we can confidently pursue the adventure ahead. Through the surrender of our self-reliance, we grow and change into the son of a perfect heavenly father.