I am revisiting John Eldridge’s Wild At Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul, which came highly recommended by several men in the church in the Philippines for which I work. Author Eldredge makes a case for the universal need of every man to live a life of adventure and risk, claiming God designed man to be dangerous, and Christianity leads many men to abandon these dreams and desires to be a hero or warrior in favor of becoming a “nice guy.” He further asserts that it is no wonder many men avoid church, and those who go are often passive or bored.
The first time I encountered Wild At Heart, I was offended on some level. I felt Eldredge’s definition of masculinity was too limiting to his concept of what it meant to be a man; he who did not actively seek the outdoors, or sought out danger, or felt the inner need to have a “damsel in distress” to rescue, was not, by Eldredge’s whole-scale definition, a real man. (One Amazon.com reviewer, Edward Vasicek, asserts, “God does not only bless the Esaus, but also the Jacobs.” Correct!) Of course, my surface interpretation was flawed in itself and missed the point; I was nitpicking, or grasping at straws, in an attempt to justify the direction I’d chosen for my life.
If I were to go back in time, when I was a boy, the happiest times were, in fact, the “wild times.” Given my urban upbringing, which significantly limits adventure by Eldredge’s definition, it was a wonder I’d managed to have “wild times” at all. But there were those rough-and-tumble times that I actively did seek out. I didn’t like the beach, but I did pretend I was a pirate digging for treasure. I once packed my clothes in a towel, tied it to the end of a broom, and told my mom I was running away. The wrestling moments with my brother, the thrill of car chases, the joy of succeeding at a game, any game… there was something wild in my heart. Where did it go? And for all the pseudo-effeminate antiseptic candor of my childhood-turned-teen years-turned adulthood, was there something deeper, darker, and wilder that God had planned for me?
I must underscore that this is not some knee-jerk reaction to some self-help book that I decided to pick up. No, more than anything, I have struggled with masculinity – not sexuality – all my life. More people would describe me as a “nice guy.” Certainly not “dangerous,” and most certainly not “masculine.” More than anything, the legacy of masculinity that I want to learn more about (and potentially reclaim, if I am to buy into Eldredge’s assertion that my life is far from masculine by his definition) is essential for generations to come. To reclaim the essence of masculinity in its broadest scope, therefore, becomes imperative. Not out of a desire to change – for I am essentially happy with how God made me, save for the obesity, which is my own doing, not God’s – but out of a desire to be all that He’s destined for me to be. And I know I am not alone.
Men like me are not “traditional men.” We don’t play basketball, we don’t hike in the woods, we don’t necessarily enjoy playing with guns. (Laser Tag, however, rules all!) We like computers; we like air-conditioning; and we like watching movies that don’t necessarily involve Arnold S, Sylvester S, Steven S, and other action stars with bulging biceps and family names that start with S. However, I agree with Eldredge on one crucial point: we all want that adventure. Whatever softness we may have – and that can often, as I’ve learned in my life, be interpreted as homosexuality – can and will change when we look at our lives as something ordained for adventure by a dangerously wild yet gently loving God.
My adventure has been my life with Cathy, but I realize that it’s been years since I looked at my life and relationship as an adventure that God has ordained for me. So a mindset change IS in order. Years of softening will take years of hardening to “undo,” but I know it will be worth it. As a God-servant, as a husband, as a father, as a friend, and as a worship leader, I am given the responsibility of being God’s ambassador in every circumstance, and if I take this life as the adventure that it should be, it is clear that the only way to do so is to seek out that danger and that unpredictability, and the only way to do that is, ironically, to be secure in my relationship with God to know that He will protect me and grow me secure in every essence of my being.
Let the adventure begin!
How do you define masculine? Post your definition in the comment section on or before October 31, 2009, and one of you (via electronic raffle) will win an audio CD of John Eldredge’s Wild At Heart.