Read an Excerpt
The Way of the Wild Heart Manual
By Craig McConnell, John Eldredge
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2006 John Eldredge
All rights reserved.
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 NIV
And so, you have either read or are reading The Way of the Wild Heart, and while we all may acknowledge that "yes, I'm on a journey," most of us have some real questions of where this will all end. Will anything change—will life get better, easier? Will I ever be able to deal well with sprinklers, teenage children, a changing career landscape? Will life be more fulfilling? Will I just live my "three score and ten" years and die with an ache that I could have done so much more, been so much more? Or can things change and I will find this "journey" taking me more and more into the man I long to be, dream of being, and that God has designed me to be?
We believe you can.
You're beginning a journey by going through this The Way of the Wild Heart Manual. A journey in which you hope to encounter God in a life-changing way. The design of the manual is to, in every way we can, facilitate your meeting him in ways and places that you haven't yet experienced. The beginning of this journey will determine much about the journey itself. A couple of thoughts:
* Start with a surrender of yourself to God and his purposes for you in this manual. We'd suggest you yield your mind, volition, heart, spirit, soul, and masculinity to God and simply invite him to do whatever he'd like.
* Commit yourself to the pace God would have you go through the material, determine to be responsive to his prodding you to take a little more time on a particular section or question, or to take a walk or break and allow in a more natural context for him to speak. A simple way of putting all this is, walk with God.
* Another thought on the pace of this journey: it would be cruel to your heart to set a deadline on finishing this manual if the deadline in any way keeps you from times of reflection, prayer, movie viewing, and various other exercises. You'll find yourself limiting God and quickly moving into the "just get through the material" stride that will profit your heart little.
Christ, I come thirsty and hungry for more of you. I yield myself completely and totally to you. I give you my expectations for this study. I surrender my heart, mind, spirit, and soul to you, inviting you to touch, deliver, speak, heal, counsel, teach, and train me in whatever areas and ways you choose. Protect me from the ploys of the evil one, and I stand in your authority against all distraction, impatience, diminishment, self-contempt, against every lie, deception, and temptation to turn to any other god for comfort. Fill me with your life that I might more fully live in your Larger Story and with you rescue the hearts and souls of many.
Reread/read chapter 1, "The Masculine Journey," before you go any further in this exercise. Don't filter your thoughts here but simply write out what first comes to mind.
What struck you? What stirred you, got your blood pumping? New thoughts? Frustrations?
As you were reading the chapter, what did you want to do?
Do you find yourself anticipating God showing up for you in some profound ways?
Are you a bit anxious of where this all may go and what it may require of you?
Or, do you find yourself a little noncommittal, keeping yourself a little protected and even skeptical ... kind of a "wait and see" posture?
All I was trying to do was fix the sprinklers ...
Sure enough, I couldn't do it, couldn't get the solder to melt into the joint as needed to prevent leaks.
Suddenly, I was angry. I'm trying to play the man and fix my own sprinklers but I can't and there's no man here to show me how and so I'm watching a cute little video for the mechanically challenged and feeling like about ten years old. A cartoon for a man who is really a boy. Armed with information and wobbling confidence, I go back out, give it another try. Another miss.
At the end of the first round I merely felt like an idiot. Now I feel like an idiot doomed to failure. And I'm seething.
Sound familiar? In what situations have you felt like an idiot? (Working on a car or computer, putting together a swing set, fixing an appliance, filling out tax forms, etc.)
The short list: most problems with my cars, learning to fly fish, parenting teenagers, buying our first home, the changes that age is bringing to my sexual relationship with my wife, pulling the third seat out of my Surburban. (Craig)
Reflecting on his reaction, John asks himself, Wow, that part of me says. Have a look at this. What are you so hacked-off about? And realizes, There's no one there to show me how to do this. Why do I always have to figure this stuff out on my own? And I'm also hacked because I can't do it myself, mad that I need help. Now, I do know this—I know that I am not alone in feeling alone. Most of the guys I've ever met feel like this at some point.
Why do you get hacked off?
Who do you have in your life to show you how to deal with imposing circumstances, such as a relational, emotional, or spiritual issue? If you have no one, are you aware of a desire to have someone you can turn to?
This is perhaps the defining vow or compelling force of my adult life: You are alone in this world and you'd better watch it 'cause there isn't any room for error, so Get It Right. The detached observer in me says, Wow—this is huge. You just hit the mother lode. I mean, jeez—this has defined your entire life and you've never even put it into words. And now here it is and you know what this is tied to, don't you? Lying there in the dark of my bedroom, the broken sprinkler system lying in misery just outside the window by my head, I know what this is about.
It's about fatherlessness.
Has it occurred to you that maybe all this anger, drivenness, the avoiding of difficult situations, perhaps the paralysis and the fear, is about "fatherlessness"?
Are you free to even call it that? Or does doing so feel like a slam against or betrayal of your father (if you have one)?
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. It cannot happen any other way. To become a man—and to know that he has become a man—a boy must have a guide, a father who will show him how to fix a bike and cast a fishing rod and call a girl and land the job and all the many things a boy will encounter in his journey to become a man.
This we must understand: Masculinity is bestowed. A boy learns who he is and what he's made of from a man (or a company of men). This can't be learned in any other place. It can't be learned from other boys, and it can't be learned from the world of women.
A boy becomes a man only through the active intervention of his father and the fellowship of men. It cannot happen any other way. Put words to your reaction to this thought.
What does this statement stir up in you? Is it:
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 itbecauseI didn't need anyone else."
Impatience: "Journey? Process? Not interested. I'm looking for something quicker."
Yes!!!: "A map and a compass. Thank God!"
If you didn't have masculine guides to bestow masculinity, where did you turn instead?
As a young boy/man, who were your models? Who are they now?
Where did you look for your definition/understanding of masculinity? How about now?
When I was young, my father would take me fishing early on a Saturday morning. We'd spend hours together out there, on a lake or a river, trying to catch fish. But the fish were never really the issue. What I longed for was his presence, his attention, and his delight in me. I longed for him to teach me how, show me the way. This is where to drop that line. This is how you set the hook. If you can get a group of men talking about their fathers, you'll hear this core longing of a man's heart. Whatever the details might be, when a man speaks of the greatest gift his father gave him—if his father gave him anything at all worth remembering—it is always the passing on of masculinity.
What memories does John's story of his father stir up in your heart?
They're too brief, too sparse to be memories; they seem more like moments that passed so quickly. They could have had an impact but for their brevity or they were diminished by the conflicting messages that quickly and more definitively followed. A moment of my step-dad helping me fish (followed with a complaint that I can't do anything myself). He and I pitching a pup tent together (followed by "here, let me do it right"). I wish I had memories, but my moments for the most part were disappointing to say the least. As an older man, I see the result of not having a father. (Craig)
What were the greatest gifts your father gave you?
Life will test you. 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.
Think through the seasons and stages of your whole life. What have been the tests/storms you've faced?
What question about your life or your masculinity haunts you?
Whatever the question, you simply must not rush through it ... give it time. What were the weak places in you as a man that were revealed?
Where and how have you "stayed" in what you can handle and "steered clear" of everything else?
What we have now is a world of uninitiated men. Partial men. Boys, mostly, walking around in men's bodies, with men's jobs and families, finances, and responsibilities. The passing on of masculinity was never completed, if it was begun at all. The boy was never taken through the process of masculine initiation. That's why most of us are Unfinished Men. And therefore unable to truly live as men in whatever life throws at us. And unable to pass on to our sons and daughters what they need to become whole and holy men and women themselves.
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 were honest about how we often feel and view ourselves, it's true, isn't it? What are your thoughts here?
It is hard to admit this! God has done so very much in my life and with that being true, I am so aware of how much more he has to do. This phrase, "partial men, boys, mostly, walking around in men's bodies," is a haunting phrase. I want God to show me where this is true. I realize I am not yet the man I want to be, the man God longs for me to be ... and in my unfinished places I live, relate, and act too often as a boy in a man's body. I long for the maturity God has for me. (Craig)
Older men, it's hard and humbling to admit that you are an unfinished man (without giving up), that your journey missed some essential components to your masculinity. Can you acknowledge this?
At 53 years old, so much of me wants to avoid these questions. There's a sense that I ought to be further along than this. There has to be redemption in the honesty and desire that facing these questions produces. (Craig)
There are boys and young men and men our own age around us who are all very much in need—desperate need—of someone to show them the way. What does it mean to be a man? Am I a man? What should I do in this or that situation? These boys are growing up into uncertain men because the core questions of their souls have gone unanswered, or answered badly. They grow into men who act, but their actions are not rooted in a genuine strength, wisdom, and kindness. There is no one there to show them the way.
What are the questions about your masculinity you'd love to have answered?
In your life, what are/have been the results of not really knowing whether or not you are a man?
And so the masculine initiation is a journey, a process, a quest really, a story that unfolds over time. It can be a very beautiful and powerful event to experience a blessing or a ritual, to hear words spoken to us in a ceremony of some sort. Those moments can be turning points in our lives. But they are only moments, and moments, as you well know, pass quickly and are swallowed in the river of time. We need more than a moment, an event. We need a process, a journey, an epic story of many experiences woven together, building upon one another in a progression. We need initiation. And, we need a Guide.
React to the paragraph above. What all does it provoke in you?
Yes! Living under the pressure of immediate and quick maturity produces legalistic externalists. I want the godliness, the masculinity, the maturity that takes time. Yes, I wish it were faster! (Craig)
Does the reality of masculine initiation being a journey, a process that unfolds over time, encourage or discourage you? Why?
We aren't meant to figure life out on our own. God wants to father us. The truth is, he has been fathering us for a long time—we just haven't had the eyes to see it.
How new is the thought that God wants to father you? What's your internal reaction to that thought?
The idea is not new. For years, I've talked, taught, preached about God wanting a personal intimate relationship with us. But internalizing this has never been deeply done till recently. My internal reaction is that I would love to know God as my Father, but I'm not sure fully how to "get there." (Craig)
He wants to father us much more intimately, but we have to be in a posture to receive it. What that involves is a new way of seeing, a fundamental reorientation of how we look at life, and our situation in it.
First, we allow that we are unfinished men, partial men, mostly boy inside, and we need initiation. In many, many ways.
Be still and quiet, then reread the paragraph above. Can you allow God to father you?
Father, it is you that lures me, it is you that has revealed a greater and deeper need for you, it is you that 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.
Second, we turn from our independence and all the ways we either charge at life or shrink from it; this may be one of the most basic and the most crucial ways a man repents. I say "repent" because our approach to life is based on the conviction that God, for the most part, doesn't show up much. We must be willing to take an enormous risk, and open our hearts to the possibility that God is initiating us as men—maybe even in the very things in which we thought he'd abandoned us. We open ourselves up to being fathered.
Ask him to speak to you here. Linger and listen. What must you repent of?
What I am suggesting is that we reframe the way we look at our lives as men. And the way we look at our relationships with God. I also want to help you reframe the way you relate to other men, especially you fathers who are wondering how to raise boys. The reframing begins when we see that a man's life is a process of initiation into true masculinity. It is a series of stages we soak in and progress through. And as for God, I believe that what he is primarily up to at any point in a boy's or a man's life is initiating him. So much of what we misinterpret as hassles or trials or screw-ups 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. In other words, initiate us—a distinctly masculine venture.
Excerpted from The Way of the Wild Heart Manual by Craig McConnell, John Eldredge. Copyright © 2006 John Eldredge. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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