Read an Excerpt
Fathered by God PARTICIPANT'S GUIDE
By John Eldredge
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2009 John Eldredge
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSESSION 1
The Masculine Journey
Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. - Jeremiah 6:16
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. - 1 Corinthians 13:11
The world in which we live has lost something vital, something core to understanding life and a man's place in it. For the time in which we live is a fatherless time. I mean this in two ways. First, most men and most boys have no real relationship with their earthly fathers, so they have no one to guide them through the jungles of the masculine journey. They are-most of us are-unfinished and unfathered men. Or boys. Or boys in men's bodies.
Our way of looking at the world has changed. We no longer live, either as a society or even as the church, with afather-view of the world, a view centered on the presence of a loving and strong father deeply engaged in our lives, to whom we can turn at any time for the guidance, comfort, and provision we need. But this is actually an occasion for hope! Because the life you've known as a man is not all there is. There is another way, a path laid down for centuries by men who have gone before us. A marked trail. And there is a Father ready to show us that path and help us follow it.
I started the video session talking about trying to repair my '78 Land Cruiser. And in the introduction to this guide, I told the story of looking on the Internet to figure out how to solder the copper pipes for my sprinkler system.
* Describe a time when you've felt foolish or as though you were "less of a man."
* What about this session on the masculine journey stands out tot you? What do you find yourself reacting to most strongly?
A boy doesn't become a man simply because he gets older. Becoming a man is a process. A boy has a lot to learn in his journey to become a man, and he becomes a man only through the active intervention of his father and the fellowship of men. He needs someone to show him how to throw a fastball, call a girl, and land the job.
* Do these realities stir up in you ...
Hopelessness?-"I never had that ... I'll never be the man I want to be," or, "There's no one who can guide me."
Pride/Arrogance?-"I'm a self-made man who made it because I didn't need anyone else."
Impatience?-"Journey? Process? Not interested. I'm looking for something quicker."
Yes!-"A map and a compass. Thank God!"
Most of us fake masculine strength. We present ourselves to the world as having an external masculinity that, internally, we know we don't. Our journey involves coming to the point of admitting that we are unfinished men who need fathering.
* Where are you on the continuum of seeing yourself as an unfinished man?
* Say a little more about why you chose that point on the continuum.
* Where are you on the continuum of acknowledging you can't dot this yourself, that you need someone to guide you?
* Say a little more about why you chose that point on the continuum.
We aren't meant to figure life out on our own. God comes to us as Father. The primary way he presents himself in Scripture is as Father. The truth is, he has been fathering us for a long time-we just haven't had the eyes to see it.
* What's your internal reaction to the thought that God wants tot father you?
* Have you experienced God as a Father? If yes, describe the situation or event.
Most of what God has been trying to do in my life is to come to me as a Father and initiate me. And most of what I've viewed as hassle, trial, or abandonment has actually been occasions where God was either trying to surface an unfathered place in my heart or take me through an experience to provide the fathering I need.
* Do any of the following statements describe the way you view the hassles, disappointing people, and challenges of life?
"I'm just an idiot."
"God has abandoned me."
"God is surfacing areas he wants to father me in."
Or maybe something else: " _________________________."
* What is God currently doing to "initiate" you?
CLOSING THOUGHTS AND PRAYER Press play on your DVD player. The remaining portion of the video will lead you through a few final thoughts and a prayer.
If you're truly wanting to embrace the untamed journey Christ has planned for you, you won't be satisfied thinking about this just once a week. This section is designed for you to study the topic further on your own after your group meets. So make some time throughout the week (on your lunch break, instead of watching TV at night, or in the early morning) to read through these questions and consider what God's saying to you here.
* * *
The first discussion time can begin slowly and feel awkward. You can be vulnerable and honest with one another, which is initially uncomfortable but ultimately rewarding. Or you fake it, hide, or pose, and who wants to live that life?
* How did the group conversation and interaction go this week? Did you find yourself reluctant to share your thoughts? Did you temper them or regret saying too much? * What did God impress you with or say to you as you were meeting with the men? * As a boy or a young man, where did you look for your definition or understanding of masculinity? * How about now?
Life will test you, my brothers. Like a ship at sea, you will be tested, and the storms will reveal the weak places in you as a man. They already have. How else do you account for the anger you feel, the fear, the vulnerability to certain temptations? Why can't you marry the girl? Having married, why can't you handle her emotions? Why haven't you found your life's mission? Why do financial crises send you into a rage or depression? You know what I speak of. And so our basic approach to life comes down to this: we stay in what we can handle, and steer clear of everything else. We engage where we feel we can or we must-as at work-and we hold back where we feel sure to fail, as in the deep waters of relating to our wife or our children, and in our spirituality.
Has life tested you? It takes some guts to admit that you fit the descriptor "partial men, boys, mostly, walking around in men's bodies." And yet, if we are honest about how we often feel and view ourselves, it's true, isn't it?
* In what "worlds" do you feel like a partial man?
In your career?
In the wild?
In the world of finance, personal budget, money management?
With a woman?
As a father?
In the spiritual world ... with God?
With mechanical things?
In the arts?
* What specifically makes you feel as though you're lacking in these areas?
* How has your journey taken you through those areas in your past and your present? Has God spent time initiating you in those parts of your life?
At any point in a boy's or man's life, God is primarily initiating him. So much of what we misinterpret as hassles or trials or screwups on our part is, in fact, God fathering us, taking us through something in order to strengthen us, or heal us, or dismantle some unholy thing in us. This is a distinctly masculine venture.
* What hassles, trials, and difficulties might God be currently using to initiate you?
We don't know much about stages of development in our instant culture. But God is a God of process. An oak tree starts as an acorn. The Bible was written during a span of more than a thousand years. And a man begins as a boy. Far better for us-and for those who have to live with us, who look up to us-to rediscover the God-ordained stages of masculine development and honor them, live within them, and raise our sons through them.
* Does the process involved in the masculine journey encourage ort discourage you? Why?
* Why is God the only one who can properly father you, properly initiate you?
Spend time with God in prayer, asking him to give you an honest and accurate understanding of the events in your life and his role in them. Welcome him as your Father.
* * *
Father, it is you who lures me; it is you who has revealed a greater and deeper need for you; it is you who makes me hunger and thirst for more. I come to you, Father, as an unfinished man. I come needy; I come asking you to make me a whole man, a strong man, an initiated man. I invite you to disrupt, heal, encourage, deliver, convict, and counsel me as you desire. I surrender myself entirely to your fathering of me.
Father, do this for me. Initiate me. I invite you. I give you permission to do whatever you desire that my journey would culminate in my living the full life you have for me as a man. Open my eyes to all you have for me in each of the stages. Come for me, Father, come for me. Amen.
Next week your group will discuss the second DVD segment, "Boyhood." In order to be prepared to share your thoughts with your group, read chapter 3 from Fathered by God this week prior to your group meeting.
Keep me as the apple of your eye. - Psalm 17:8
How gladly would I treat you like sons. - Jeremiah 3:19
We now begin our journey by looking backward, to what our lives as boys were like. More important, we want to examine what they were meant to be. So much of the way we approach life as men was set in motion in our youth-some of it for good, and some not so good. We want to recover what was good and find healing for all that was not.
* Boyhood is full of adventure and exploration. What is your favorite memory of exploring or adventuring from your childhood?
Recalling your boyhood can raise wonderful memories of innocence, exploration, growth, and wonder. It can also surface some of the most painful events of your life.
* As you watched this session on boyhood, where did you find your heart and mind wandering? What stood out to you in this session? Any strong reactions?
When God set Adam in the garden of Eden, he set his son in a world that was, at the very same moment, safe and secure yet full of mystery and adventure. There was no reason whatsoever to be afraid, and every reason to dare. Such is the world God intended for a boy. And like Adam, we are the beloved son, the apple of our Father's eye.
* How comfortable are you being referred to as "the beloved son"?
* How or when, over the course of your life, has God brought to you a sense that you are his beloved son?
The Father longs for us to know we are his beloved sons. It's a theme of Scripture he drives home through story and teaching. Jesus walked through the world knowing he was the Beloved Son, the favored one. It's what enabled him to live as he did. We were meant to know this too. This relationship was meant to be our secret, our joy also. But there are few who came through their boyhoods with such knowledge intact, without a trace of doubt.
* What will have to happen for your position as "beloved son of God" to be the foundation of your identity?
* How might that change your life?
* What (in a practical sense) does it mean to you to think of God as your Father?
* Do you expect God to show up each day as your Father?
Men are reluctant at times to acknowledge that they have been wounded. There's a macho misperception that tells us that admitting to a wound is to somehow admit, in essence, that you're not a man ... because a real man could never really hurt.
* How were you wounded as a boy?
* In what ways does your wound continue to define your life?
God is not willing to simply let our woundedness be the end of the story. Not in any man's life. Filled with compassion, our Father God will come as a loving Father and take us close to his heart. He will also take us back to heal the wounds, finish things that didn't get finished. He will come for the boy, no matter how old he might now be, and make him his beloved son.
* Can you imagine God coming to heal and restore your soul? Tot make himself known as your Father? Why or why not?
CLOSING THOUGHTS AND PRAYER
Press play on your DVD player. The remaining portion of the video will lead you through a few final thoughts and a prayer.
Take some time this week to read chapter 3 in Fathered by God again and answer these questions on your own after your group meeting.
* * *
* How did the group conversation and interaction go this week? Was it hard to remember your boyhood, or did a lot of memories flood your mind?
* What did God impress you with or say to you as you were meeting with the men?
* What have you learned about God's plans for you, his design for your life as a man?
The enemy's one central purpose is to separate us from the Father. He uses neglect to whisper, You see-no one cares. You're not worth caring about. He uses a sudden loss of innocence to whisper, This is a dangerous world, and you are alone. You've been abandoned. He uses assaults and abuses to scream at a boy, This is all you are good for. And in this way he makes it nearly impossible for us to know what Jesus knew (that he was God's Beloved Son), makes it so very, very hard to know the Father's heart toward us. The details of each boy's story are unique, but the effect is always a wound in the soul, and with it separation from and suspicion of the Father.
* In what way was your boyhood stage cut short? How did that contribute to your wound?
* Regardless of the successes or failures of your earthly father, have you found God to truly be a Father to you? Someone who cares and wants to give you good gifts? Be specific.
This is the message of Jesus: There is a good and loving Father who cares deeply and passionately for you. He yearns to be your Father now. He will draw near, if you'll let him. No matter how old you are, your true Father wants you to experience being his beloved son, and all the joys of boyhood that go with it.
* Describe a way you might let the joys of boyhood back into your heart.
Being God's beloved son requires that we open our hearts, which will take us back into some of our deepest wounds, into the cynicism and resignation that shut our hearts in the first place.
* Why does God require that we open our hearts before he can actively engage us as our Father?
* As you finish this chapter, what do you sense God saying to you about being the beloved son? Capture those thoughts now, for they will be quickly forgotten or stolen.
Confess your wounds and ask God to enter your life as a compassionate Father, ready to heal and restore your souls.
* * *
Father, what did I miss here, in this stage? Did I know I was the beloved son? Do I believe it even now? Come to me, in this place, over these years. Speak to me. Do I believe you want good things for me? Is my heart secure in your love? How was my young heart wounded in my life as a boy? And Jesus, you who came to heal the broken heart, come to me here. Heal this stage in my heart. Restore me as the beloved son. Father me. Amen.
Next week your group will discuss the third DVD segment, "Cowboy." In order to be prepared to share your thoughts with your group, read chapter 4 from Fathered by God this week prior to your group meeting.
Excerpted from Fathered by God PARTICIPANT'S GUIDE by John Eldredge Copyright © 2009 by John Eldredge. Excerpted by permission.
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