In this current series of posts about some of the foundations in the development of my God Buddy concept, I included my recognition for the need to read and study to become a more godly man. Another book I read early on was John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart which helped me understand God’s design for my manhood.
While Eldridge’s book has been positively reviewed for its influence on Christian men, it has also been soundly critiqued for stereotypes of masculinity and femininity in a way that some consider incomplete, culturally dictated, and old-fashioned.
Personally, I found the book confirmed what I was beginning to see and read about: there is growing confusion about manhood and a trend in men becoming more passive, passionless, and even culturally neutered in some regards. After reading articles about the “decline of men” and the “wounded male psyche”, I felt Eldridge’s book rightfully describes the soul of man and how we relate both practically and psychologically to our world.
About Wild at Heart
The thesis of Wild at Heart is two-fold. First, God has placed within the heart of every man an overpowering desire for “a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue”. Eldridge writes “Every man wants to play the hero. Every man needs to know that he is powerful”, which is the essence of a man’s soul to help him navigate life’s challenges.
“Life is not a problem to be solved, it is an adventure to be lived.”–John Eldridge, Wild at Heart
Second is that the church does not fulfill these desires because it fails to discern the true nature of masculinity and defines the ideal Christian man as merely being “a Nice Guy”.
“The Big Lie in the church today is that you are nothing more than ‘a sinner saved by grace.’ You are a lot more than that. You are a new creation in Christ.”–John Eldridge, Wild at Heart
Eldridge and others like David Murrow suggest that the church does not meet the needs of men these days. According to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, women are more likely than men to say religion is “very important” in their lives (60% vs. 47%), are more likely to pray daily (64% vs. 47%), and attend religious services at least once a week (40% vs. 32%). In fact, females outnumber men so much that some churches have changed decor, music and worship styles to try to bring more men into their congregations.
John Eldridge wroteWild at Heart to help men discover the secret to their soul, recover their masculine heart, and delight in the strength and wildness in which men were created. He says the “masculine heart” and “feminine heart” reflect the image of God but that men are not living as God intended since many live with a “wounded heart” as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden.
“God is fiercely committed to you, to the restoration and release of your masculine heart. But a wound that goes unacknowledged and unwept is a wound that cannot heal. A wound you’ve embraced is a wound that cannot heal. A wound you think you deserved is a wound that cannot heal.”–John Eldridge, Wild at Heart
Eldridge then reminds us that our sin has been dealt with Jesus’ death on the cross, which helps us heal and rediscover our original heart.
My Adventurous Heart
When I first read Wild at Heart, I actually resonated with much of Eldredge’s message since I certainly had a desire for adventure.
My own father was an outdoorsman prior to his recent bouts with cancer. He bow-hunted and rifle-hunted (you should see all the mounted animals in his home!), went on annual Canada fishing trips with his clients, and still rides a Harley Davidson motorcycle, albeit now the three-wheel “tricycle” kind. Dad has many friends with whom he shared his adventurous activities, which showed me the value of having male friendships.
In my youth, our family participated in an archery club. We also took many camping and fishing tips. My younger brother still loves to hunt but I never really took to shooting guns. I do love to fish, hike, camp, and play many sports that challenge me physically since I love the competition and enjoy being in God’s Creation.
On Maleness and Femaleness
These days, any opinions or discussions on masculinity and femininity are often deemed divisive. John Eldredge believes the unique tenants that God hard-wired into males helps us navigate, protect, and provide.
Now, that doesn’t mean a female can’t do the same but most agree that many men are wired differently for risk and adventure. Sure, there are men who still act like boys and display “toxic masculinity”; just as there are antagonistic feminists. But men will use their “good masculinity” once they understand its God-given intent and give themselves a proper outlet for it.
Over the years, my viewpoint has become sharper that God created men and women are uniquely in His image with equal value and rights. We also remain different in more ways than biology and contemporary sociology would say. In fact, the more today’s culture squashes or neuters the unique traits and emotions of both men and women in an effort to create “sameness”, the more we distort God’s original design for humanity.
I personally don’t see that Eldredge promotes anything in his book that approximates machismo, patriarchy, or male domination of women and other men. His overall message is that men need to find their center in God through the heroic figure of Jesus Christ.
Eldridge also suggests that once men address the “father wound” many suffer from their lack of being mentored with positive masculinity by their fathers and other godly men, they can rightly live as God intended. He encourages men to find healing all their wounds (more on that in a later post) so they can enjoy a relationship with the God who loves and honors them as men.
I also understand many men don’t have the same sense of adventure and risk-taking and that these traits aren’t inherent to the experience of middle-class and upper-middle-class life that many may enjoy. However, it does help to find how to live into our unique male traits to become a man with a proper view of masculinity possible.
So how does this relate to God Buddies?
God Buddies Adventure Together
My belief is that all men need some risk-taking, adventure and passion to become more like our ultimate role model, Jesus Christ. Having a few GBs will help you find the right balance of adventure and purpose to keep your soul from becoming weak and vulnerable to temptation and sin.
I also commend Eldridge’s efforts to convince fathers to steer their boys in a more masculine direction. I hope and pray that my life shows my three now-adult sons how to become a godly man, father, and husband who does life with adventure, passion, and purpose.
During recent years, I have found an outlet for adventure and excitement with some of my God Buddies who fish, play golf, camp, and bike. We still get-away each spring to the Northwoods of Wisconsin for a long weekend of fellowship and outdoor activities. This get-away helps maintain my sense of adventure and helps me enjoy the outdoors.
So whether you agree with John Eldridge’s viewpoint or not, I encourage you to discover (or recover) your God-given wild heart. Live with excitement and adventure as if you are riding the proverbial amusement park thrill-ride rather than enduring life on a boring merry-go-round in which every day is the same and passionless.
How do you experience risk-taking adventure in your life?
Feel free to comment below.