Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul

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Overview

God designed men to be dangerous, says John Eldredge. Simply look at the dreams and desires written in the heart of every boy: To be a hero, to be a warrior, to live a life of adventure and risk. Sadly, most men abandon those dreams and desires—aided by a Christianity that feels like nothing more than pressure to be a “nice guy.” It is no wonder that many men avoid church, and those who go are often passive and bored to death. In this provocative book, Eldredge gives women a look inside the true heart of a man ...
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Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul

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Overview

God designed men to be dangerous, says John Eldredge. Simply look at the dreams and desires written in the heart of every boy: To be a hero, to be a warrior, to live a life of adventure and risk. Sadly, most men abandon those dreams and desires—aided by a Christianity that feels like nothing more than pressure to be a “nice guy.” It is no wonder that many men avoid church, and those who go are often passive and bored to death. In this provocative book, Eldredge gives women a look inside the true heart of a man and gives men permission to be what God designed them to be—dangerous, passionate, alive, and free.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A formidable answer to an age-old question: How can a man make himself tolerable and useful while accepting and expressing his primordial maleness--the searching and aggressive urges to conquer what needs subduing, protect the vulnerable, fix what is broken, compete and risk what demands to be risked in himself and the world? The author’s message is set in the Christian tradition without being controlled by its ideology. Eldredge believes that institutions can oppress a man’s heart and keep society from benefiting from his fierce desire to love, do good, fight evil, and go beyond the limits. The exceptional writing and ideational balance (and a sensitive interpretation by Kelly Dolan) make this a compelling effort to integrate the hero’s gritty nature with the public good." 
T.W. © AudioFile Portland, Maine
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780785262985
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/17/2003
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Abridged, 3 CDs, 220 Minutes
  • Pages: 180
  • Sales rank: 476,295
  • Product dimensions: 5.62 (w) x 4.86 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

John Eldredge is a counselor, teacher, and the author of numerous bestselling books includingWild at Heart,Epic,andBeautiful Outlaw. He is the director of Ransomed Heart, a ministry restoring masculinity to millions of men worldwide. John loves fly fishing, bow hunting, and great books. He lives in Colorado with his wife, Stasi.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE:

WILD AT HEART

The heart of a man is like deep water . . .

-Proverbs 20:5 NKJV

The spiritual life cannot be made suburban. It is always frontier, and we who live in it must accept and even rejoice that it remains untamed.

-Howard Macey

I want to ride to the ridge where the west commences

I can't look at hobbles and I can't stand fences

Don't fence me in.

-Cole Porter

"Don't Fence Me In"


At last, I am surrounded by wilderness. The wind in the top of the pines behind me sounds like the ocean. Waves are rushing in from the great blue above, cresting upon the ridge of the mountain I have climbed, somewhere in the Sawatch Range of central Colorado. Spreading out below me the landscape is a sea of sagebrush for mile after lonesome mile. Zane Grey immortalized it as the purple sage, but most of the year it's more of a silver gray. This is the kind of country you could ride across for days on horseback without seeing another living soul. Today, I am on foot. Though the sun is shining this afternoon, it will not warm above thirty here near the Continental Divide, and the sweat I worked up scaling this face is now making me shiver. It is late October and winter is coming on. In the distance, nearly a hundred miles south by southwest, the San Juan Mountains are already covered in snow.

The aroma of the pungent sage still clings to my jeans, and it clears my head as I gasp for air-in notably short supply at 10,000 feet. I am forced to rest again, even though I know that each pause broadens the distance between me and my quarry. Still, the advantage has always been his. Though the tracks I found this morning were fresh-only a few hours old-that holds little promise. A bull elk can easily cover miles of rugged country in that amount of time, especially if he is wounded or on the run.

The wapiti, as the Indians called him, is one of the most elusive creatures we have left in the lower forty-eight. They are the ghost kings of the high country, more cautious and wary than deer, and more difficult to track. They live at higher elevations, and travel farther in a day, than nearly any other game. The bulls especially seem to carry a sixth sense to human presence. A few times I've gotten close; the next moment they are gone, vanishing silently into aspen groves so thick you wouldn't have believed a rabbit could get through.

It wasn't always this way. For centuries elk lived out on the prairies, grazing together on the rich grasses in vast numbers. In the spring of 1805 Meriwether Lewis described passing herds lolling about in the thousands as he made his way in search of a Northwest Passage. At times the curious wandered so close he could throw sticks at them, like bucolic dairy cows blocking the road. But by the end of the century westward expansion had pushed the elk high up into the Rocky Mountains. Now they are elusive, hiding out at timberline like outlaws until heavy snows force them down for the winter. If you would seek them now, it is on their terms, in forbidding haunts well beyond the reach of civilization.

And that is why I come.

And why I linger here still, letting the old bull get away. My hunt, you see, actually has little to do with elk. I knew that before I came. There is something else I am after, out here in the wild. I am searching for an even more elusive prey . . . something that can only be found through the help of wilderness.

I am looking for my heart.

WILD AT HEART

Eve was created within the lush beauty of Eden's garden. But Adam, if you'll remember, was created outside the Garden, in the wilderness. In the record of our beginnings, the second chapter of Genesis makes it clear: Man was born in the outback, from the untamed part of creation. Only afterward is he brought to Eden. And ever since then boys have never been at home indoors, and men have had an insatiable longing to explore. We long to return; it's when most men come alive. As John Muir said, when a man comes to the mountains, he comes home. The core of a man's heart is undomesticated and that is good. "I am not alive in an office," as one Northface ad has it. "I am not alive in a taxi cab. I am not alive on a sidewalk." Amen to that. Their conclusion? "Never stop exploring."

My gender seems to need little encouragement. It comes naturally, like our innate love of maps. In 1260 Marco Polo headed off to find China, and in 1967, when I was seven, I tried to dig a hole straight through from our backyard with my friend Danny Wilson. We gave up at about eight feet, but it made a great fort. Hannibal crosses his famous Alps, and there comes a day in a boy's life when he first crosses the street and enters the company of the great explorers. Scott and Amundsen race for the South Pole, Peary and Cook vie for the North, and when last summer I gave my boys some loose change and permission to ride their bikes down to the store to buy a soda, you'd have thought I'd given them a charter to go find the equator. Magellan sails due west, around the tip of South America-despite warnings that he and his crew will drop off the end of the earth-and Huck Finn heads off down the Mississippi ignoring similar threats. Powell follows the Colorado into the Grand Canyon, even though-no, because-no one has done it before and everyone is saying it can't be done.

And so my boys and I stood on the bank of the Snake River in the spring of '98, feeling that ancient urge to shove off. Snow melt was high that year, unusually high, and the river had overflowed its banks and was surging through the trees on both sides. Out in the middle of the river, which is crystal clear in late summer but that day looked like chocolate milk, logs were floating down, large tangles of branches bigger than a car, and who knows what else. High and muddy and fast, the Snake was forbidding. No other rafters could be seen. Did I mention it was raining? But we had a brand-new canoe and the paddles were in hand and, sure, I have never floated the Snake in a canoe, nor any other river for that matter, but what the heck. We jumped in and headed off into the unknown, like Livingstone plunging into the interior of dark Africa.

Adventure, with all its requisite danger and wildness, is a deeply spiritual longing written into the soul of man. The masculine heart needs a place where nothing is prefabricated, modular, nonfat, zip lock, franchised, on-line, microwavable. Where there are no deadlines, cell phones, or committee meetings. Where there is room for the soul. Where, finally, the geography around us corresponds to the geography of our heart. Look at the heroes of the biblical text: Moses does not encounter the living God at the mall. He finds him (or is found by him) somewhere out in the deserts of Sinai, a long way from the comforts of Egypt. The same is true of Jacob, who has his wrestling match with God not on the living room sofa but in a wadi somewhere east of the Jabbok, in Mesopotamia. Where did the great prophet Elijah go to recover his strength? To the wild. As did John the Baptist, and his cousin, Jesus, who is led by the Spirit into the wilderness.

Whatever else those explorers were after, they were also searching for themselves. Deep in a man's heart are some fundamental questions that simply cannot be answered at the kitchen table. Who am I? What am I made of? What am I destined for? It is fear that keeps a man at home where things are neat and orderly and under his control. But the answers to his deepest questions are not to be found on television or in the refrigerator. Out there on the burning desert sands, lost in a trackless waste, Moses received his life's mission and purpose. He is called out, called up into something much bigger than he ever imagined, much more serious than CEO or "prince of Egypt." Under foreign stars, in the dead of night, Jacob received a new name, his real name. No longer is he a shrewd business negotiator, but now he is one who wrestles with God. The wilderness trial of Christ is, at its core, a test of his identity. "If you are who you think you are . . ." If a man is ever to find out who he is and what he's here for, he has got to take that journey for himself.

he has got to get his heart back.

WESTWARD EXPANSION AGAINST THE SOUL

The way a man's life unfolds nowadays tends to drive his heart into remote regions of the soul. Endless hours at a computer screen; selling shoes at the mall; meetings, memos, phone calls. The business world-where the majority of American men live and die-requires a man to be efficient and punctual. Corporate policies and procedures are designed with one aim: to harness a man to the plow and make him produce. But the soul refuses to be harnessed; it knows nothing of day timers and deadlines and P&L statements. The soul longs for passion, for freedom, for life. As D. H. Lawrence said, "I am not a mechanism." A man needs to feel the rhythms of the earth; he needs to have in hand something real-the tiller of a boat, a set of reins, the roughness of rope, or simply a shovel. Can a man live all his days to keep his fingernails clean and trim? Is that what a boy dreams of?

Society at large can't make up its mind about men. Having spent the last thirty years redefining masculinity into something more sensitive, safe, manageable and, well, feminine, it now berates men for not being men. Boys will be boys, they sigh. As though if a man were to truly grow up he would forsake wilderness and wanderlust and settle down, be at home forever in Aunt Polly's parlor. "Where are all the real men?" is regular fare for talk shows and new books. You asked them to be women, I want to say. The result is a gender confusion never experienced at such a wide level in the history of the world. How can a man know he is one when his highest aim is minding his manners?

And then, alas, there is the church. Christianity, as it currently exists, has done some terrible things to men. When all is said and done, I think most men in the church believe that God put them on the earth to be a good boy. The problem with men, we are told, is that they don't know how to keep their promises, be spiritual leaders, talk to their wives, or raise their children. But, if they will try real hard they can reach the lofty summit of becoming . . . a nice guy. That's what we hold up as models of Christian maturity: Really Nice Guys. We don't smoke, drink, or swear; that's what makes us men. Now let me ask my male readers: In all your boyhood dreams growing up, did you ever dream of becoming a Nice Guy? (Ladies, was the Prince of your dreams dashing . . . or merely nice?)

Really now-do I overstate my case? Walk into most churches in America, have a look around, and ask yourself this question: What is a Christian man? Don't listen to what is said, look at what you find there. There is no doubt about it. You'd have to admit a Christian man is . . . bored. At a recent church retreat I was talking with a guy in his fifties, listening really, about his own journey as a man. "I've pretty much tried for the last twenty years to be a good man as the church defines it." Intrigued, I asked him to say what he thought that was. He paused for a long moment. "Dutiful," he said. "And separated from his heart." A perfect description, I thought. Sadly right on the mark.

As Robert Bly laments in Iron John, "Some women want a passive man if they want a man at all; the church wants a tamed man-they are called priests; the university wants a domesticated man-they are called tenure-track people; the corporation wants a . . . sanitized, hairless, shallow man." It all comes together as a sort of westward expansion against the masculine soul. And thus the heart of a man is driven into the high country, into remote places, like a wounded animal looking for cover. Women know this, and lament that they have no access to their man's heart. Men know it, too, but are often unable to explain why their heart is missing. They know their heart is on the run, but they often do not know where to pick up the trail. The church wags its head and wonders why it can't get more men to sign up for its programs. The answer is simply this: We have not invited a man to know and live from his deep heart.

AN INVITATION

But God made the masculine heart, set it within every man, and thereby offers him an invitation: Come, and live out what I meant you to be. Permit me to bypass the entire nature vs. nurture "is gender really built-in?" debate with one simple observation: Men and women are made in the image of God as men or as women. "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen. 1:27). Now, we know God doesn't have a body, so the uniqueness can't be physical. Gender simply must be at the level of the soul, in the deep and everlasting places within us. God doesn't make generic people; he makes something very distinct-a man or a woman. In other words, there is a masculine heart and a feminine heart, which in their own ways reflect or portray to the world God's heart.

God meant something when he meant man, and if we are to ever find ourselves we must find that. What has he set in the masculine heart? Instead of asking what you think you ought to do to become a better man (or woman, for my female readers), I want to ask, What makes you come alive? What stirs your heart? The journey we face now is into a land foreign to most of us. We must head into country that has no clear trail. This charter for exploration takes us into our own hearts, into our deepest desires. As the playwright Christopher Fry says,

Life is a hypocrite if I can't live

The way it moves me!

There are three desires I find written so deeply into my heart I know now I can no longer disregard them without losing my soul. They are core to who and what I am and yearn to be. I gaze into boyhood, I search the pages of literature, I listen carefully to many, many men, and I am convinced these desires are universal, a clue into masculinity itself. They may be misplaced, forgotten, or misdirected, but in the heart of every man is a desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue. I want you to think of the films men love, the things they do with their free time, and especially the aspirations of little boys and see if I am not right on this.

A BATTLE TO FIGHT

There's a photo on my wall of a little boy about five years old, with a crew cut, big cheeks, and an impish grin. It's an old photograph, and the color is fading, but the image is timeless. It's Christmas morning, 1964, and I've just opened what may have been the best present any boy received on any Christmas ever-a set of two pearl-handed six-shooters, complete with black leather holsters, a red cowboy shirt with two wild mustangs embroidered on either breast, shiny black boots, red bandanna, and straw hat. I've donned the outfit and won't take it off for weeks because, you see, this is not a "costume" at all; it's an identity. Sure, one pant leg is tucked into my boot and the other is hanging out, but that only adds to my "fresh off the trail" persona. My thumbs are tucked inside my gun belt and my chest is out because I am armed and dangerous. Bad guys beware: This town's not big enough for the both of us.

Capes and swords, camouflage, bandannas and six-shooters-these are the uniforms of boyhood. Little boys yearn to know they are powerful, they are dangerous, they are someone to be reckoned with. How many parents have tried in vain to prevent little Timmy from playing with guns? Give it up. If you do not supply a boy with weapons, he will make them from whatever materials are at hand. My boys chew their graham crackers into the shape of hand guns at the breakfast table. Every stick or fallen branch is a spear, or better, a bazooka. Despite what many modern educators would say, this is not a psychological disturbance brought on by violent television or chemical imbalance. Aggression is part of the masculine design; we are hardwired for it. If we believe that man is made in the image of God, then we would do well to remember that "the Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name" (Ex. 15:3).

Little girls do not invent games where large numbers of people die, where bloodshed is a prerequisite for having fun. Hockey, for example, was not a feminine creation. Nor was boxing. A boy wants to attack something-and so does a man, even if it's only a little white ball on a tee. He wants to whack it into kingdom come. On the other hand, my boys do not sit down to tea parties. They do not call their friends on the phone to talk about relationships. They grow bored of games that have no element of danger or competition or bloodshed. Cooperative games based on "relational interdependence" are complete nonsense. "No one is killed?" they ask, incredulous. "No one wins? What's the point?" The universal nature of this ought to have convinced us by now: The boy is a warrior; the boy is his name. And those are not boyish antics he is doing. When boys play at war they are rehearsing their part in a much bigger drama. One day, you just might need that boy to defend you.

Those Union soldiers who charged the stone walls at Bloody Angle; the Allied troops that hit the beaches at Normandy or the sands of Iwo Jima-what would they have done without this deep part of their heart? Life needs a man to be fierce-and fiercely devoted. The wounds he will take throughout his life will cause him to lose heart if all he has been trained to be is soft. This is especially true in the murky waters of relationships, where a man feels least prepared to advance. As Bly says, "In every relationship something fierce is needed once in a while."

Now, this longing may have submerged from years of neglect, and a man may not feel that he is up to the battles he knows await him. Or it may have taken a very dark turn, as it has with inner-city gangs. But the desire is there. Every man wants to play the hero. Every man needs to know that he is powerful. Women didn't make Braveheart one of the best-selling films of the decade. Flying Tigers, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Magnificent Seven, Shane, High Noon, Saving Private Ryan, Top Gun, the Die Hard films, Gladiator-the movies a man loves reveal what his heart longs for, what is set inside him from the day of his birth.

Like it or not, there is something fierce in the heart of every man.

AN ADVENTURE TO LIVE

"My mother loves to go to Europe on her vacations." We were talking about our love of the West, a friend and I, and why he moved out here from the East Coast. "And that's okay for her, I guess. There's a lot of culture there. But I need wildness." Our conversation was stirred by the film Legends of the Fall, the story of three young men coming of age in the early 1900s on their father's ranch in Montana. Alfred, the eldest, is practical, pragmatic, cautious. He heads off to the Big City to become a businessman and eventually, a politician. Yet something inside him dies. He becomes a hollow man. Samuel, the youngest, is still a boy in many ways, a tender child-literate, sensitive, timid. He is killed early in the film and we know he was not ready for battle.

Then there is Tristan, the middle son. He is wild at heart. It is Tristan who embodies the West-he catches and breaks the wild stallion, fights the grizzly with a knife, and wins the beautiful woman. I have yet to meet a man who wants to be Alfred or Samuel. I've yet to meet a woman who wants to marry one. There's a reason the American cowboy has taken on mythic proportions. He embodies a yearning every man knows from very young-to "go West," to find a place where he can be all he knows he was meant to be. To borrow Walter Brueggeman's description of God: "wild, dangerous, unfettered and free."

Now, let me stop for a moment and make something clear. I am no great white hunter. I have no dead animals adorning the walls of my house. I didn't play college football. In fact, in college I weighed 135 pounds and wasn't much of an athlete. Despite my childhood dreams, I have never been a race car driver or a fighter pilot. I have no interest in televised sports, I don't like cheap beer, and though I do drive an old jeep its tires are not ridiculously large. I say this because I anticipate that many readers-good men and women-will be tempted to dismiss this as some sort of macho-man pep rally. Not at all. I am simply searching, as many men (and hopeful women) are, for an authentic masculinity.

When winter fails to provide an adequate snow base, my boys bring their sleds in the house and ride them down the stairs. Just the other day, my wife found them with a rope out their second-story bedroom window, preparing to rappel down the side of the house. The recipe for fun is pretty simple raising boys: Add to any activity an element of danger, stir in a little exploration, add a dash of destruction, and you've got yourself a winner. The way they ski is a perfect example. Get to the top of the highest run, point your skis straight downhill and go, the faster the better. And this doesn't end with age; the stakes simply get higher.

A judge in his sixties, a real southern gentleman with a pinstriped suit and an elegant manner of speech, pulled me aside during a conference. Quietly, almost apologetically, he spoke of his love for sailing, for the open sea, and how he and a buddy eventually built their own boat. Then came a twinkle in his eye. "We were sailing off the coast of Bermuda a few years ago, when we were hit by a northeaster (a raging storm). Really, it came up out of nowhere. Twenty-foot swells in a thirty-foot homemade boat. I thought we were all going to die." A pause for dramatic effect, and then he confessed, "It was the best time of my life."

Compare your experience watching the latest James Bond or Indiana Jones thriller with, say, going to Bible study. The guaranteed success of each new release makes it clear-adventure is written into the heart of a man. And it's not just about having "fun." Adventure requires something of us, puts us to the test. Though we may fear the test, at the same time we yearn to be tested, to discover that we have what it takes. That's why we set off down the Snake River against all sound judgment, why a buddy and I pressed on through grizzly country to find good fishing, why I went off to Washington, D.C., as a young man to see if I could make it in those shark-infested waters. If a man has lost this desire, says he doesn't want it, that's only because he doesn't know he has what it takes, believes that he will fail the test. And so he decides it's better not to try. For reasons I hope to make clear later, most men hate the unknown and, like Cain, want to settle down and build their own city, get on top of their life.

But you can't escape it-there is something wild in the heart of every man.

A BEAUTY TO RESCUE

Romeo has his Juliet, King Arthur fights for Guinevere, Robin rescues Maid Marian, and I will never forget the first time I kissed my grade school sweetheart. It was in the fall of my seventh-grade year. I met Debbie in drama class, and fell absolutely head over heels. It was classic puppy love: I'd wait for her after rehearsals were over, carry her books back to her locker. We passed notes in class, talked on the phone at night. I had never paid girls much attention, really, until now. This desire awakens a bit later in a boy's journey to manhood, but when it does his universe turns on its head. Anyway, I longed to kiss her but just couldn't work up the courage-until the last night of the school play. The next day was summer vacation, she was going away, and I knew it was now or never. Backstage, in the dark, I slipped her a quick kiss and she returned a longer one. Do you remember the scene from the movie E.T., where the boy flies across the moon on his bike? Though I rode my little Schwinn home that night, I'm certain I never touched the ground.

There is nothing so inspiring to a man as a beautiful woman. She'll make you want to charge the castle, slay the giant, leap across the parapets. Or maybe, hit a home run. One day during a Little League game, my son Samuel was so inspired. He likes baseball, but most boys starting out aren't sure they really have it in them to be a great player. Sam's our firstborn, and like so many firstborns he is cautious. He always lets a few pitches go by before he takes a swing, and when he does, it's never a full swing; every one of his hits up till this point were in the infield. Anyway, just as Sam steps up to bat this one afternoon, his friend from down the street, a cute little blonde girl, shows up along the first-base line. Standing up on tiptoe she yells out his name and waves to Sam. Pretending he doesn't notice her, he broadens his stance, grips the bat a little tighter, looks at the pitcher with something fierce in his eye. First one over the plate he knocks into center field.

A man wants to be the hero to the beauty. Young men going off to war carry a photo of their sweetheart in their wallet. Men who fly combat missions will paint a beauty on the side of their aircraft; the crews of the WWII B-17 bomber gave those flying fortresses names like Me and My Gal or the Memphis Belle. What would Robin Hood or King Arthur be without the woman they love? Lonely men fighting lonely battles. Indiana Jones and James Bond just wouldn't be the same without a beauty at their side, and inevitably they must fight for her. You see, it's not just that a man needs a battle to fight; he needs someone to fight for. Remember Nehemiah's words to the few brave souls defending a wall-less Jerusalem? "Don't be afraid . . . fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes." The battle itself is never enough; a man yearns for romance. It's not enough to be a hero; it's that he is a hero to someone in particular, to the woman he loves. Adam was given the wind and the sea, the horse and the hawk, but as God himself said, things were just not right until there was Eve.

Yes, there is something passionate in the heart of every man.

THE FEMININE HEART

There are also three desires that I have found essential to a woman's heart, which are not entirely different from a man's and yet they remain distinctly feminine. Not every woman wants a battle to fight, but every woman yearns to be fought for. Listen to the longing of a woman's heart: She wants to be more than noticed-she wants to be wanted. She wants to be pursued. "I just want to be a priority to someone," a friend in her thirties told me. And her childhood dreams of a knight in shining armor coming to rescue her are not girlish fantasies; they are the core of the feminine heart and the life she knows she was made for. So Zach comes back for Paula in An Officer and a Gentleman, Frederick comes back for Jo in Little Women, and Edward returns to pledge his undying love for Eleanor in Sense and Sensibility.

Every woman also wants an adventure to share. One of my wife's favorite films is The Man from Snowy River. She loves the scene where Jessica, the beautiful young heroine, is rescued by Jim, her hero, and together they ride on horseback through the wilds of the Australian wilderness. "I want to be Isabo in Ladyhawk," confessed another female friend. "To be cherished, pursued, fought for-yes. But also, I want to be strong and a part of the adventure." So many men make the mistake of thinking that the woman is the adventure. But that is where the relationship immediately goes downhill. A woman doesn't want to be the adventure; she wants to be caught up into something greater than herself. Our friend went on to say, "I know myself and I know I'm not the adventure. So when a man makes me the point, I grow bored immediately. I know that story. Take me into one I don't know."

And finally, every woman wants to have a beauty to unveil. Not to conjure, but to unveil. Most women feel the pressure to be beautiful from very young, but that is not what I speak of. There is also a deep desire to simply and truly be the beauty, and be delighted in. Most little girls will remember playing dress up, or wedding day, or "twirling skirts," those flowing dresses that were perfect for spinning around in. She'll put her pretty dress on, come into the living room and twirl. What she longs for is to capture her daddy's delight. My wife remembers standing on top of the coffee table as a girl of five or six, and singing her heart out. Do you see me? asks the heart of every girl. And are you captivated by what you see?

The world kills a woman's heart when it tells her to be tough, efficient, and independent. Sadly, Christianity has missed her heart as well. Walk into most churches in America, have a look around, and ask yourself this question: What is a Christian woman? Again, don't listen to what is said, look at what you find there. There is no doubt about it. You'd have to admit a Christian woman is . . . tired. All we've offered the feminine soul is pressure to "be a good servant." No one is fighting for her heart; there is no grand adventure to be swept up in; and every woman doubts very much that she has any beauty to unveil.

BY WAY OF THE HEART

Which would you rather be said of you: "Harry? Sure I know him. He's a real sweet guy." Or, "Yes, I know about Harry. He's a dangerous man . . . in a really good way." Ladies, how about you? Which man would you rather have as your mate? (Some women, hurt by masculinity gone bad, might argue for the "safe" man . . . and then wonder why, years later, there is no passion in their marriage, why he is distant and cold.) And as for your own femininity, which would you rather have said of you-that you are a "tireless worker," or that you are a "captivating woman"? I rest my case.

What if? What if those deep desires in our hearts are telling us the truth, revealing to us the life we were meant to live? God gave us eyes so that we might see; he gave us ears that we might hear; he gave us wills that we might choose, and he gave us hearts that we might live. The way we handle the heart is everything. A man must know he is powerful; he must know he has what it takes. A woman must know she is beautiful; she must know she is worth fighting for. "But you don't understand," said one woman to me. "I'm living with a hollow man" No, it's in there. His heart is there. It may have evaded you, like a wounded animal, always out of reach, one step beyond your catching. But it's there. "I don't know when I died," said another man. "But I feel like I'm just using up oxygen." I understand. Your heart may feel dead and gone, but it's there. Something wild and strong and valiant, just waiting to be released.

And so this is not a book about the seven things a man ought to do to be a nicer guy. It is a book about the recovery and release of a man's heart, his passions, his true nature, which he has been given by God. It's an invitation to rush the fields at Banockburn, to go West, to leap from the falls and save the beauty. For if you are going to know who you truly are as a man, if you are going to find a life worth living, if you are going to love a woman deeply and not pass on your confusion to your children, you simply must get your heart back. You must head up into the high country of the soul, into wild and uncharted regions and track down that elusive prey.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction xi

Chapter 1 Wild at Heart 1

Chapter 2 The Wild One Whose Image We Bear 21

Chapter 3 The Question That Haunts Every Man 41

Chapter 4 The Wound 61

Chapter 5 The Battle for a Man's Heart 79

Chapter 6 The Father's Voice 99

Chapter 7 Healing the Wound 121

Chapter 8 A Battle to Fight: The Enemy 141

Chapter 9 A Battle to Fight: The Strategy 159

Chapter 10 A Beauty to Rescue 181

Chapter 11 An Adventure to Live 199

Chapter 12 Writing the Next Chapter 221

Epilogue 223

Appendix: The Daily Prayer 225

A Prayer for Sexual Healing 230

Excerpt from Fathered by God 235

About the Author 256

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First Chapter


CHAPTER ONE:

WILD AT HEART

The heart of a man is like deep water . . .
–Proverbs 20:5 NKJV

The spiritual life cannot be made suburban. It is always frontier, and we who live in it must accept and even rejoice that it remains untamed.
–Howard Macey

I want to ride to the ridge where the west commences
I can't look at hobbles and I can't stand fences
Don't fence me in.
–Cole Porter
"Don't Fence Me In"

At last, I am surrounded by wilderness. The wind in the top of the pines behind me sounds like the ocean. Waves are rushing in from the great blue above, cresting upon the ridge of the mountain I have climbed, somewhere in the Sawatch Range of central Colorado. Spreading out below me the landscape is a sea of sagebrush for mile after lonesome mile. Zane Grey immortalized it as the purple sage, but most of the year it's more of a silver gray. This is the kind of country you could ride across for days on horseback without seeing another living soul. Today, I am on foot. Though the sun is shining this afternoon, it will not warm above thirty here near the Continental Divide, and the sweat I worked up scaling this face is now making me shiver. It is late October and winter is coming on. In the distance, nearly a hundred miles south by southwest, the San Juan Mountains are already covered in snow.

The aroma of the pungent sage still clings to my jeans, and it clears my head as I gasp for air–in notably short supply at10,000 feet. I am forced to rest again, even though I know that each pause broadens the distance between me and my quarry. Still, the advantage has always been his. Though the tracks I found this morning were fresh–only a few hours old–that holds little promise. A bull elk can easily cover miles of rugged country in that amount of time, especially if he is wounded or on the run.

The wapiti, as the Indians called him, is one of the most elusive creatures we have left in the lower forty-eight. They are the ghost kings of the high country, more cautious and wary than deer, and more difficult to track. They live at higher elevations, and travel farther in a day, than nearly any other game. The bulls especially seem to carry a sixth sense to human presence. A few times I've gotten close; the next moment they are gone, vanishing silently into aspen groves so thick you wouldn't have believed a rabbit could get through.

It wasn't always this way. For centuries elk lived out on the prairies, grazing together on the rich grasses in vast numbers. In the spring of 1805 Meriwether Lewis described passing herds lolling about in the thousands as he made his way in search of a Northwest Passage. At times the curious wandered so close he could throw sticks at them, like bucolic dairy cows blocking the road. But by the end of the century westward expansion had pushed the elk high up into the Rocky Mountains. Now they are elusive, hiding out at timberline like outlaws until heavy snows force them down for the winter. If you would seek them now, it is on their terms, in forbidding haunts well beyond the reach of civilization.

And that is why I come.

And why I linger here still, letting the old bull get away. My hunt, you see, actually has little to do with elk. I knew that before I came. There is something else I am after, out here in the wild. I am searching for an even more elusive prey . . . something that can only be found through the help of wilderness.

I am looking for my heart.


WILD AT HEART

Eve was created within the lush beauty of Eden's garden. But Adam, if you'll remember, was created outside the Garden, in the wilderness. In the record of our beginnings, the second chapter of Genesis makes it clear: Man was born in the outback, from the untamed part of creation. Only afterward is he brought to Eden. And ever since then boys have never been at home indoors, and men have had an insatiable longing to explore. We long to return; it's when most men come alive. As John Muir said, when a man comes to the mountains, he comes home. The core of a man's heart is undomesticated and that is good. "I am not alive in an office," as one Northface ad has it. "I am not alive in a taxi cab. I am not alive on a sidewalk." Amen to that. Their conclusion? "Never stop exploring."

My gender seems to need little encouragement. It comes naturally, like our innate love of maps. In 1260 Marco Polo headed off to find China, and in 1967, when I was seven, I tried to dig a hole straight through from our backyard with my friend Danny Wilson. We gave up at about eight feet, but it made a great fort. Hannibal crosses his famous Alps, and there comes a day in a boy's life when he first crosses the street and enters the company of the great explorers. Scott and Amundsen race for the South Pole, Peary and Cook vie for the North, and when last summer I gave my boys some loose change and permission to ride their bikes down to the store to buy a soda, you'd have thought I'd given them a charter to go find the equator. Magellan sails due west, around the tip of South America–despite warnings that he and his crew will drop off the end of the earth–and Huck Finn heads off down the Mississippi ignoring similar threats. Powell follows the Colorado into the Grand Canyon, even though–no, because–no one has done it before and everyone is saying it can't be done.

And so my boys and I stood on the bank of the Snake River in the spring of '98, feeling that ancient urge to shove off. Snow melt was high that year, unusually high, and the river had overflowed its banks and was surging through the trees on both sides. Out in the middle of the river, which is crystal clear in late summer but that day looked like chocolate milk, logs were floating down, large tangles of branches bigger than a car, and who knows what else. High and muddy and fast, the Snake was forbidding. No other rafters could be seen. Did I mention it was raining? But we had a brand-new canoe and the paddles were in hand and, sure, I have never floated the Snake in a canoe, nor any other river for that matter, but what the heck. We jumped in and headed off into the unknown, like Livingstone plunging into the interior of dark Africa.

Adventure, with all its requisite danger and wildness, is a deeply spiritual longing written into the soul of man. The masculine heart needs a place where nothing is prefabricated, modular, nonfat, zip lock, franchised, on-line, microwavable. Where there are no deadlines, cell phones, or committee meetings. Where there is room for the soul. Where, finally, the geography around us corresponds to the geography of our heart. Look at the heroes of the biblical text: Moses does not encounter the living God at the mall. He finds him (or is found by him) somewhere out in the deserts of Sinai, a long way from the comforts of Egypt. The same is true of Jacob, who has his wrestling match with God not on the living room sofa but in a wadi somewhere east of the Jabbok, in Mesopotamia. Where did the great prophet Elijah go to recover his strength? To the wild. As did John the Baptist, and his cousin, Jesus, who is led by the Spirit into the wilderness.

Whatever else those explorers were after, they were also searching for themselves. Deep in a man's heart are some fundamental questions that simply cannot be answered at the kitchen table. Who am I? What am I made of? What am I destined for? It is fear that keeps a man at home where things are neat and orderly and under his control. But the answers to his deepest questions are not to be found on television or in the refrigerator. Out there on the burning desert sands, lost in a trackless waste, Moses received his life's mission and purpose. He is called out, called up into something much bigger than he ever imagined, much more serious than CEO or "prince of Egypt." Under foreign stars, in the dead of night, Jacob received a new name, his real name. No longer is he a shrewd business negotiator, but now he is one who wrestles with God. The wilderness trial of Christ is, at its core, a test of his identity. "If you are who you think you are . . ." If a man is ever to find out who he is and what he's here for, he has got to take that journey for himself.

he has got to get his heart back.


WESTWARD EXPANSION AGAINST THE SOUL

The way a man's life unfolds nowadays tends to drive his heart into remote regions of the soul. Endless hours at a computer screen; selling shoes at the mall; meetings, memos, phone calls. The business world–where the majority of American men live and die–requires a man to be efficient and punctual. Corporate policies and procedures are designed with one aim: to harness a man to the plow and make him produce. But the soul refuses to be harnessed; it knows nothing of day timers and deadlines and P&L statements. The soul longs for passion, for freedom, for life. As D. H. Lawrence said, "I am not a mechanism." A man needs to feel the rhythms of the earth; he needs to have in hand something real–the tiller of a boat, a set of reins, the roughness of rope, or simply a shovel. Can a man live all his days to keep his fingernails clean and trim? Is that what a boy dreams of?

Society at large can't make up its mind about men. Having spent the last thirty years redefining masculinity into something more sensitive, safe, manageable and, well, feminine, it now berates men for not being men. Boys will be boys, they sigh. As though if a man were to truly grow up he would forsake wilderness and wanderlust and settle down, be at home forever in Aunt Polly's parlor. "Where are all the real men?" is regular fare for talk shows and new books. You asked them to be women, I want to say. The result is a gender confusion never experienced at such a wide level in the history of the world. How can a man know he is one when his highest aim is minding his manners?

And then, alas, there is the church. Christianity, as it currently exists, has done some terrible things to men. When all is said and done, I think most men in the church believe that God put them on the earth to be a good boy. The problem with men, we are told, is that they don't know how to keep their promises, be spiritual leaders, talk to their wives, or raise their children. But, if they will try real hard they can reach the lofty summit of becoming . . . a nice guy. That's what we hold up as models of Christian maturity: Really Nice Guys. We don't smoke, drink, or swear; that's what makes us men. Now let me ask my male readers: In all your boyhood dreams growing up, did you ever dream of becoming a Nice Guy? (Ladies, was the Prince of your dreams dashing . . . or merely nice?)

Really now–do I overstate my case? Walk into most churches in America, have a look around, and ask yourself this question: What is a Christian man? Don't listen to what is said, look at what you find there. There is no doubt about it. You'd have to admit a Christian man is . . . bored. At a recent church retreat I was talking with a guy in his fifties, listening really, about his own journey as a man. "I've pretty much tried for the last twenty years to be a good man as the church defines it." Intrigued, I asked him to say what he thought that was. He paused for a long moment. "Dutiful," he said. "And separated from his heart." A perfect description, I thought. Sadly right on the mark.

As Robert Bly laments in Iron John, "Some women want a passive man if they want a man at all; the church wants a tamed man–they are called priests; the university wants a domesticated man–they are called tenure-track people; the corporation wants a . . . sanitized, hairless, shallow man." It all comes together as a sort of westward expansion against the masculine soul. And thus the heart of a man is driven into the high country, into remote places, like a wounded animal looking for cover. Women know this, and lament that they have no access to their man's heart. Men know it, too, but are often unable to explain why their heart is missing. They know their heart is on the run, but they often do not know where to pick up the trail. The church wags its head and wonders why it can't get more men to sign up for its programs. The answer is simply this: We have not invited a man to know and live from his deep heart.


AN INVITATION

But God made the masculine heart, set it within every man, and thereby offers him an invitation: Come, and live out what I meant you to be. Permit me to bypass the entire nature vs. nurture "is gender really built-in?" debate with one simple observation: Men and women are made in the image of God as men or as women. "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen. 1:27). Now, we know God doesn't have a body, so the uniqueness can't be physical. Gender simply must be at the level of the soul, in the deep and everlasting places within us. God doesn't make generic people; he makes something very distinct–a man or a woman. In other words, there is a masculine heart and a feminine heart, which in their own ways reflect or portray to the world God's heart.

God meant something when he meant man, and if we are to ever find ourselves we must find that. What has he set in the masculine heart? Instead of asking what you think you ought to do to become a better man (or woman, for my female readers), I want to ask, What makes you come alive? What stirs your heart? The journey we face now is into a land foreign to most of us. We must head into country that has no clear trail. This charter for exploration takes us into our own hearts, into our deepest desires. As the playwright Christopher Fry says,

Life is a hypocrite if I can't live
The way it moves me!

There are three desires I find written so deeply into my heart I know now I can no longer disregard them without losing my soul. They are core to who and what I am and yearn to be. I gaze into boyhood, I search the pages of literature, I listen carefully to many, many men, and I am convinced these desires are universal, a clue into masculinity itself. They may be misplaced, forgotten, or misdirected, but in the heart of every man is a desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue. I want you to think of the films men love, the things they do with their free time, and especially the aspirations of little boys and see if I am not right on this.


A BATTLE TO FIGHT

There's a photo on my wall of a little boy about five years old, with a crew cut, big cheeks, and an impish grin. It's an old photograph, and the color is fading, but the image is timeless. It's Christmas morning, 1964, and I've just opened what may have been the best present any boy received on any Christmas ever–a set of two pearl-handed six-shooters, complete with black leather holsters, a red cowboy shirt with two wild mustangs embroidered on either breast, shiny black boots, red bandanna, and straw hat. I've donned the outfit and won't take it off for weeks because, you see, this is not a "costume" at all; it's an identity. Sure, one pant leg is tucked into my boot and the other is hanging out, but that only adds to my "fresh off the trail" persona. My thumbs are tucked inside my gun belt and my chest is out because I am armed and dangerous. Bad guys beware: This town's not big enough for the both of us.

Capes and swords, camouflage, bandannas and six-shooters–these are the uniforms of boyhood. Little boys yearn to know they are powerful, they are dangerous, they are someone to be reckoned with. How many parents have tried in vain to prevent little Timmy from playing with guns? Give it up. If you do not supply a boy with weapons, he will make them from whatever materials are at hand. My boys chew their graham crackers into the shape of hand guns at the breakfast table. Every stick or fallen branch is a spear, or better, a bazooka. Despite what many modern educators would say, this is not a psychological disturbance brought on by violent television or chemical imbalance. Aggression is part of the masculine design; we are hardwired for it. If we believe that man is made in the image of God, then we would do well to remember that "the Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name" (Ex. 15:3).

Little girls do not invent games where large numbers of people die, where bloodshed is a prerequisite for having fun. Hockey, for example, was not a feminine creation. Nor was boxing. A boy wants to attack something–and so does a man, even if it's only a little white ball on a tee. He wants to whack it into kingdom come. On the other hand, my boys do not sit down to tea parties. They do not call their friends on the phone to talk about relationships. They grow bored of games that have no element of danger or competition or bloodshed. Cooperative games based on "relational interdependence" are complete nonsense. "No one is killed?" they ask, incredulous. "No one wins? What's the point?" The universal nature of this ought to have convinced us by now: The boy is a warrior; the boy is his name. And those are not boyish antics he is doing. When boys play at war they are rehearsing their part in a much bigger drama. One day, you just might need that boy to defend you.

Those Union soldiers who charged the stone walls at Bloody Angle; the Allied troops that hit the beaches at Normandy or the sands of Iwo Jima–what would they have done without this deep part of their heart? Life needs a man to be fierce–and fiercely devoted. The wounds he will take throughout his life will cause him to lose heart if all he has been trained to be is soft. This is especially true in the murky waters of relationships, where a man feels least prepared to advance. As Bly says, "In every relationship something fierce is needed once in a while."

Now, this longing may have submerged from years of neglect, and a man may not feel that he is up to the battles he knows await him. Or it may have taken a very dark turn, as it has with inner-city gangs. But the desire is there. Every man wants to play the hero. Every man needs to know that he is powerful. Women didn't make Braveheart one of the best-selling films of the decade. Flying Tigers, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Magnificent Seven, Shane, High Noon, Saving Private Ryan, Top Gun, the Die Hard films, Gladiator–the movies a man loves reveal what his heart longs for, what is set inside him from the day of his birth.

Like it or not, there is something fierce in the heart of every man.


AN ADVENTURE TO LIVE

"My mother loves to go to Europe on her vacations." We were talking about our love of the West, a friend and I, and why he moved out here from the East Coast. "And that's okay for her, I guess. There's a lot of culture there. But I need wildness." Our conversation was stirred by the film Legends of the Fall, the story of three young men coming of age in the early 1900s on their father's ranch in Montana. Alfred, the eldest, is practical, pragmatic, cautious. He heads off to the Big City to become a businessman and eventually, a politician. Yet something inside him dies. He becomes a hollow man. Samuel, the youngest, is still a boy in many ways, a tender child–literate, sensitive, timid. He is killed early in the film and we know he was not ready for battle.

Then there is Tristan, the middle son. He is wild at heart. It is Tristan who embodies the West–he catches and breaks the wild stallion, fights the grizzly with a knife, and wins the beautiful woman. I have yet to meet a man who wants to be Alfred or Samuel. I've yet to meet a woman who wants to marry one. There's a reason the American cowboy has taken on mythic proportions. He embodies a yearning every man knows from very young–to "go West," to find a place where he can be all he knows he was meant to be. To borrow Walter Brueggeman's description of God: "wild, dangerous, unfettered and free."

Now, let me stop for a moment and make something clear. I am no great white hunter. I have no dead animals adorning the walls of my house. I didn't play college football. In fact, in college I weighed 135 pounds and wasn't much of an athlete. Despite my childhood dreams, I have never been a race car driver or a fighter pilot. I have no interest in televised sports, I don't like cheap beer, and though I do drive an old jeep its tires are not ridiculously large. I say this because I anticipate that many readers–good men and women–will be tempted to dismiss this as some sort of macho-man pep rally. Not at all. I am simply searching, as many men (and hopeful women) are, for an authentic masculinity.

When winter fails to provide an adequate snow base, my boys bring their sleds in the house and ride them down the stairs. Just the other day, my wife found them with a rope out their second-story bedroom window, preparing to rappel down the side of the house. The recipe for fun is pretty simple raising boys: Add to any activity an element of danger, stir in a little exploration, add a dash of destruction, and you've got yourself a winner. The way they ski is a perfect example. Get to the top of the highest run, point your skis straight downhill and go, the faster the better. And this doesn't end with age; the stakes simply get higher.

A judge in his sixties, a real southern gentleman with a pinstriped suit and an elegant manner of speech, pulled me aside during a conference. Quietly, almost apologetically, he spoke of his love for sailing, for the open sea, and how he and a buddy eventually built their own boat. Then came a twinkle in his eye. "We were sailing off the coast of Bermuda a few years ago, when we were hit by a northeaster (a raging storm). Really, it came up out of nowhere. Twenty-foot swells in a thirty-foot homemade boat. I thought we were all going to die." A pause for dramatic effect, and then he confessed, "It was the best time of my life."

Compare your experience watching the latest James Bond or Indiana Jones thriller with, say, going to Bible study. The guaranteed success of each new release makes it clear–adventure is written into the heart of a man. And it's not just about having "fun." Adventure requires something of us, puts us to the test. Though we may fear the test, at the same time we yearn to be tested, to discover that we have what it takes. That's why we set off down the Snake River against all sound judgment, why a buddy and I pressed on through grizzly country to find good fishing, why I went off to Washington, D.C., as a young man to see if I could make it in those shark-infested waters. If a man has lost this desire, says he doesn't want it, that's only because he doesn't know he has what it takes, believes that he will fail the test. And so he decides it's better not to try. For reasons I hope to make clear later, most men hate the unknown and, like Cain, want to settle down and build their own city, get on top of their life.

But you can't escape it–there is something wild in the heart of every man.


A BEAUTY TO RESCUE

Romeo has his Juliet, King Arthur fights for Guinevere, Robin rescues Maid Marian, and I will never forget the first time I kissed my grade school sweetheart. It was in the fall of my seventh-grade year. I met Debbie in drama class, and fell absolutely head over heels. It was classic puppy love: I'd wait for her after rehearsals were over, carry her books back to her locker. We passed notes in class, talked on the phone at night. I had never paid girls much attention, really, until now. This desire awakens a bit later in a boy's journey to manhood, but when it does his universe turns on its head. Anyway, I longed to kiss her but just couldn't work up the courage–until the last night of the school play. The next day was summer vacation, she was going away, and I knew it was now or never. Backstage, in the dark, I slipped her a quick kiss and she returned a longer one. Do you remember the scene from the movie E.T., where the boy flies across the moon on his bike? Though I rode my little Schwinn home that night, I'm certain I never touched the ground.

There is nothing so inspiring to a man as a beautiful woman. She'll make you want to charge the castle, slay the giant, leap across the parapets. Or maybe, hit a home run. One day during a Little League game, my son Samuel was so inspired. He likes baseball, but most boys starting out aren't sure they really have it in them to be a great player. Sam's our firstborn, and like so many firstborns he is cautious. He always lets a few pitches go by before he takes a swing, and when he does, it's never a full swing; every one of his hits up till this point were in the infield. Anyway, just as Sam steps up to bat this one afternoon, his friend from down the street, a cute little blonde girl, shows up along the first-base line. Standing up on tiptoe she yells out his name and waves to Sam. Pretending he doesn't notice her, he broadens his stance, grips the bat a little tighter, looks at the pitcher with something fierce in his eye. First one over the plate he knocks into center field.

A man wants to be the hero to the beauty. Young men going off to war carry a photo of their sweetheart in their wallet. Men who fly combat missions will paint a beauty on the side of their aircraft; the crews of the WWII B-17 bomber gave those flying fortresses names like Me and My Gal or the Memphis Belle. What would Robin Hood or King Arthur be without the woman they love? Lonely men fighting lonely battles. Indiana Jones and James Bond just wouldn't be the same without a beauty at their side, and inevitably they must fight for her. You see, it's not just that a man needs a battle to fight; he needs someone to fight for. Remember Nehemiah's words to the few brave souls defending a wall-less Jerusalem? "Don't be afraid . . . fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes." The battle itself is never enough; a man yearns for romance. It's not enough to be a hero; it's that he is a hero to someone in particular, to the woman he loves. Adam was given the wind and the sea, the horse and the hawk, but as God himself said, things were just not right until there was Eve.

Yes, there is something passionate in the heart of every man.


THE FEMININE HEART

There are also three desires that I have found essential to a woman's heart, which are not entirely different from a man's and yet they remain distinctly feminine. Not every woman wants a battle to fight, but every woman yearns to be fought for. Listen to the longing of a woman's heart: She wants to be more than noticed–she wants to be wanted. She wants to be pursued. "I just want to be a priority to someone," a friend in her thirties told me. And her childhood dreams of a knight in shining armor coming to rescue her are not girlish fantasies; they are the core of the feminine heart and the life she knows she was made for. So Zach comes back for Paula in An Officer and a Gentleman, Frederick comes back for Jo in Little Women, and Edward returns to pledge his undying love for Eleanor in Sense and Sensibility.

Every woman also wants an adventure to share. One of my wife's favorite films is The Man from Snowy River. She loves the scene where Jessica, the beautiful young heroine, is rescued by Jim, her hero, and together they ride on horseback through the wilds of the Australian wilderness. "I want to be Isabo in Ladyhawk," confessed another female friend. "To be cherished, pursued, fought for–yes. But also, I want to be strong and a part of the adventure." So many men make the mistake of thinking that the woman is the adventure. But that is where the relationship immediately goes downhill. A woman doesn't want to be the adventure; she wants to be caught up into something greater than herself. Our friend went on to say, "I know myself and I know I'm not the adventure. So when a man makes me the point, I grow bored immediately. I know that story. Take me into one I don't know."

And finally, every woman wants to have a beauty to unveil. Not to conjure, but to unveil. Most women feel the pressure to be beautiful from very young, but that is not what I speak of. There is also a deep desire to simply and truly be the beauty, and be delighted in. Most little girls will remember playing dress up, or wedding day, or "twirling skirts," those flowing dresses that were perfect for spinning around in. She'll put her pretty dress on, come into the living room and twirl. What she longs for is to capture her daddy's delight. My wife remembers standing on top of the coffee table as a girl of five or six, and singing her heart out. Do you see me? asks the heart of every girl. And are you captivated by what you see?

The world kills a woman's heart when it tells her to be tough, efficient, and independent. Sadly, Christianity has missed her heart as well. Walk into most churches in America, have a look around, and ask yourself this question: What is a Christian woman? Again, don't listen to what is said, look at what you find there. There is no doubt about it. You'd have to admit a Christian woman is . . . tired. All we've offered the feminine soul is pressure to "be a good servant." No one is fighting for her heart; there is no grand adventure to be swept up in; and every woman doubts very much that she has any beauty to unveil.


BY WAY OF THE HEART

Which would you rather be said of you: "Harry? Sure I know him. He's a real sweet guy." Or, "Yes, I know about Harry. He's a dangerous man . . . in a really good way." Ladies, how about you? Which man would you rather have as your mate? (Some women, hurt by masculinity gone bad, might argue for the "safe" man . . . and then wonder why, years later, there is no passion in their marriage, why he is distant and cold.) And as for your own femininity, which would you rather have said of you–that you are a "tireless worker," or that you are a "captivating woman"? I rest my case.

What if? What if those deep desires in our hearts are telling us the truth, revealing to us the life we were meant to live? God gave us eyes so that we might see; he gave us ears that we might hear; he gave us wills that we might choose, and he gave us hearts that we might live. The way we handle the heart is everything. A man must know he is powerful; he must know he has what it takes. A woman must know she is beautiful; she must know she is worth fighting for. "But you don't understand," said one woman to me. "I'm living with a hollow man" No, it's in there. His heart is there. It may have evaded you, like a wounded animal, always out of reach, one step beyond your catching. But it's there. "I don't know when I died," said another man. "But I feel like I'm just using up oxygen." I understand. Your heart may feel dead and gone, but it's there. Something wild and strong and valiant, just waiting to be released.

And so this is not a book about the seven things a man ought to do to be a nicer guy. It is a book about the recovery and release of a man's heart, his passions, his true nature, which he has been given by God. It's an invitation to rush the fields at Banockburn, to go West, to leap from the falls and save the beauty. For if you are going to know who you truly are as a man, if you are going to find a life worth living, if you are going to love a woman deeply and not pass on your confusion to your children, you simply must get your heart back. You must head up into the high country of the soul, into wild and uncharted regions and track down that elusive prey.

 

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 245 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    For troubled men and the women who love them.

    I read this book during a troubled time in my marriage, and though I won't say this book saved my marriage it did go a long way to helping me understand my husband. I think every man who is struggling with connection or emotion should read this, and frankly every single woman on the planet should read it in order to understand men a bit better. There is more to a man than most of us give them credit for!

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 10, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Inspiring

    Wild at Heart by John Eldredge is, as much as a Christian book can be, a cultural phenomenon. It seems everyone has read that book. I know people who loved it, crafted a way of living because of it. And I know people who hated it, disagreed with almost every word between the covers. So, when I saw it on the free books for bloggers list at Thomas Nelson, I snatched it up immediately.

    This new edition is "revised and expanded" although I suspect that's just publisher speak for "Look, something you thought was old is actually new and shiny." But since I haven't read the first edition, I can't prove my hunch.

    Wild at Heart is based on the idea that men are really, well, wild at heart, that they yearn to be unshackled from the tedium of nice-guy living, to roam the plains bucking like the broncos God made them to be. I don't intend even a smidgen of sarcasm there. I feel like that's exactly what Eldredge is saying, and, to a certain extent, I agree.

    This book was written for men and as I'm not a man there are certain judgments I'm not equipped to make. I can't verify the validity of his sweeping assumptions about men-I can, however, say the assumptions are sweeping and perhaps too categorical to fit every kind of man.

    Honestly, I was far less interested in Eldredge's comments on what makes a man than I was in his thoughts on women-thoughts I was shocked to find especially close to my own heart.

    I have NEVER considered myself to be a stereotypical woman. I've dismissed many traditional gender assignments and wriggled in agony during my fair share of women's conferences and events. So, when Eldredge starting talking about saving the princess I wanted to gag. Until I realized I was a princess needing saving.

    His three questions that every woman asks had me crying: "Will you pursue me? Do you delight in me? Will you fight for me?"

    I loved this paragraph, too:

    "If masculinity has come under assault, femininity has been brutalized. Eve is the crown of creation, remember? She embodies the exquisite beauty and the exotic mystery of God in a way that nothing else in all creation even comes close to. And so she is the special target of the evil one; he turns his most vicious malice against her. If he can destroy her or keep her captive, he can ruin the story."

    Thing is, I'm not positive this is totally true-I felt that way a lot while reading this book. But I like it.

    Whether or not Eve is the prime target, I think Eldredge would benefit from seeing himself in the princess role, too. He envisions men as warriors (which sometimes they're called to be-and sometimes I'm called to be, too) but I think he misses their role as a part of "the bride of Christ."

    Still, this chapter is packed with good stuff-his description of sex as a spilling of one's strength is awesome and his argument that women want "a lover and a warrior-not a really nice guy" is too easily proven to even be debated. This chapter also has super insightful info on spiritual warfare.

    The next chapter "An Adventure to Live," is even better. It's all about embracing risk, living freely and dangerously-which, as you start to see from the buckets of scriptures he incorporates, is totally Biblical. Right now, I'm flipping through the chapter looking for a quote to give you but I'm finding so many I can't pick one. You need to read this chapter, even if it's just this chapter.

    What Eldredge does so powerfully in this book is to inspire his reader to live a

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Be a man!

    I am very thankful for the recommendation to read this book. This book deepened my understanding of myself and my life in many profound ways. Out of the heart are the issues of life and this book proves to be most useful in understanding the masculine heart. The wisdom inherent in this read freed my soul and helped facilitate a deeper unity between my mind and my heart. This book gave me perspective to better understand other guys as well as many historical movements.

    Although I feel this book is very sound in its empirical wisdom and heart, I found the book did lack a certain intellectual refinement and accuracy. This, perhaps, is only because I'm an engineer who graduated at the top of my class and am accustomed to very accurate and educated intelligence. In this regard the room for improvement does not detract from my high recommendation for this read. Essentially, there are other aspects of manhood that this book neglects. For instance, consider also reading "The American Gentleman."

    In my opinion, much of the problems facing the modern world stem from a lack of good men. So many people focus their efforts on improving systems and structures forsaking effort on the people behind everything. I hope and pray that more men will rise up in future generations and lead with their wild hearts.

    I'm an intelligent, well-read, wise and strong man of 26. All in all, this book is easily one of the BEST books I've ever read.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 23, 2009

    Author has own agenda

    I felt that the author decided what he wanted to say, then went looking for Biblical verses that (when taken out of context) might support his positions. He also chose some questionable "translations" in this effort.<BR/><BR/>I also did not like his constant use of absolutes: "always, never, each, every, never, must." John Eldredge believes that all men share his feelings and desires. A dangerous assumption.

    3 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2007

    Flawed theology and psychology

    This is the worst thing I have read in five years (and I have to grade undergraduate research papers!). John Eldridge misquotes scripture, doesn't cite sources or have a bibliograpy, even though he quotes from other authors' works. His theology is extremely flawed especially in that he attempts to humanize God. As a book for Christian reading, Wild At Heart should not be on anyone's bookshelf. And as a self-help book, it offers no real strategies for dealing with personal problems. Eldridge's supposed revealing insights seem to be mostly based on Hollywood cliches and popular culture. Even then, he doesn't really give any good advice on how to change one's life. If one wants to learn what God wants men to be, one should read the Gospels. If one wants to learn real strategies for dealing with personal problems, I would suggest Dr. M. Scott Peck's classic book The Road Less Traveled and its sequels. Don't waste your hard-earned time or money on Wild At Heart!

    3 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2007

    Tries to be too manly

    I was very interested in this book. Heard it was great. Then I found out this author proudly puts Jesus Christ in the same company as William Wallace and proudly tells his son to not turn the other cheek to bullys but hit them. Christlike? I think not. Read if you want to be a manly Christian. However you want to define that.

    3 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 24, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    A Great Challenge and Reminder of Men

    I loved this book. It speaks to a man's heart and encourages me to be a true man of God. Adventurous, Strong, Wise, and striving to be Right before God. All men should read this book.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2008

    Wild At Heart by Jane D'Amato a Roman Catholic Christian

    John Eldredge is the kind of man that other men who love the great outdoors can really relate to. He has great insights into what it is to be a real man. This book was recommended to me by a dear friend I have known for years who said I should read 'Captivating' by John and Staci Eldredge and also 'Wild at Heart' by John Eldredge. To say it was highly anticipated by me is putting it mildly. I ordered the book from the library and picked it up this past Sunday. I sat down in the library and read 'Wild at Heart' in four hours cover to cover. What a page turner! To say the least this book exceeded my expectations. Though it is directed towards men, this is a great book for singles both male or female. John Eldrege is a man's man. He likes to hunt and fish. He is married with three sons. This book says it is a book about healing a man's soul. But it is much more than that. In our search for truth we search for the truth about life, others and ourselves. This is a great book about all of the above. The search for the truth about the meaning of life. The adventure it is meant to be and the battle it has to be. It is a book about the search for the truth about the different motivations of our hearts depending on whether we are a man or a woman. It is about the search for the real self which is hidden behind a false self and the exciting adventure and battle for the transformation of ourselves from the false self to the real self. I was truly moved by this book at my deepest levels. My own struggle to be transformed to my real self was brought into focus more clearly. My desire to have the man I love experience the type of transformation John Eldredge speaks of from false self to real self was also awakened in my heart. I also gained valuble insights and understanding the differences in men and women and how we can relate to eachother better. This book also asks a man to consider 'what makes you feel fully alive' and suggests they pursue that as their career choice. Great advice. It also explores the idea that a man is out there to save the fair maiden and rescue her. But his explanation of fighting for the fair maiden is different than the fairy tales you have read. I don't want to spoil it for you, so I won't go into detail. You have got to read it for yourself. This book has an exciting and life changing message that both men and women will appreciate. I consider it a 'must read' for all men and women single or otherwise. On a scale of one to five stars I give this one five stars!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2004

    Prosperity Gospel

    Eldredge says Christian men at his church are boring, so he insists that men these men need a battle to fight, adventure to live, a princess to save. While this is an interesting concept, it places its authority in Braveheart and Gladiator more than the Bible and Jesus. Ultimately, this is simply another of the many ¿prosperity gospel¿ books, which is light on the Gospel message and heavy on secular riches. People may be better served with books that connect the divine story with our real-life stories.

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2002

    Dangerous

    I have been a Christian my entire 37 years and have seldom come accros a book as categorically and theologically wrong as this book. The distance with which Eldridge has missed the mark would be laughable were it not for the chord it has struck with main-stream American Christians and the irreparable damage it will do to the shrinking shallow minds of fearful Christians in search of enemies to sustain their percarious sense of identity. In painting Jesus as a warrior Eldridge reveals himself as a person so frustrated with his own inability to find commonality with the way of Jesus that he rationalizes Jesus into the angry person that he is himself. This book is a poverty of thought and full of purely projected, short-sighted, infantile fantasies that appeal to the shallow American dreams of wealth, power, domination, and control - the very things that Christ condemed because he knew that they were our greatest form of weakness. Certainly Jesus was bold, courageous, and fun, but his kingdom is upside down and, unfortunately, as misunderstood today as the day he was murdered. "You have heard that it was said, but I say...."

    2 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2013

    Great Great Great Book!

    This book has really inspired me and help me to understand why we man think and act the way we do. This book, backed by Scripture, has a lot of truth and valuable information that every man must know. Great book this was well needed in my life

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 4, 2012

    Wild at Heart was one of the rare occasions when reading for a c

    Wild at Heart was one of the rare occasions when reading for a class wasn’t just for homework, but because I was actually interested in the topic. In the book, Eldredge, gives his opinion on what makes men tick – what they’re thinking, why they act a certain way, and other subjects under that theme. It was especially interesting reading this book from a female perspective; specifically when Eldredge speaks about women’s rolls in a man’s life. He says that as much as women would like to, they cannot give men their masculinity. “A man needs a much bigger orbit than a woman. He needs a mission, a life purpose, and he needs to know his name,” (pg 97). This was a very cool thing to read, because I agree that men need to know who they are. Men, and women, need to decide what they want in life before they can be able to share their life with another person.
    One point Eldredge made that I was a bit skeptical about was that the Church wants men to be soft. I personally think Christianity calls men to be strong and confident, rather than just “nice guys.” He says, “Christianity, as it currently exists, has done some terrible things to men. When all is said and done, I think most men in the church believe that God put them on the earth to be a good boy,” (pg71). Yes, God wants everyone to be of good character and set a good example to others. This doesn’t mean men have to be passive, push-overs. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I would recommend it to any curious reader: male, female, Christian, non-Christian. Whether you agree with what John Eldredge has to say about men, it is interesting to see another perspective. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 28, 2009

    Wild at Heart runs wild with Scripture

    I¿m torn over Wild at Heart. On the one hand, I resonate with Eldredge¿s hungry search for authentic manhood. I likewise prickle against the shallow, ¿nice guy¿ subculture which has infiltrated some churches and some faith-related organizations. I agree with Eldredge that our society can emasculate, tame, and domesticate men, leaving them hollow, timid, restless, and bored. I, like Eldredge, deeply desire to live with vigor and passion, to boldly venture into the dangerous wilds. <BR/><BR/>On the other hand, Eldredge¿s use of Scripture in Wild at Heart is despicable. Your Average Joe¿s Golden Rules of Christian Literature are these: 1) Quote Scripture precisely and 2) Allow Scripture to drive your ideas; never use Scripture to justify your preconceived notions. <BR/><BR/>Example #1. On page 1, Eldredge quotes Proverbs 20:5 (NKJV) as saying, ¿The heart of a man is like deep water¿¿ But that is incorrect. The actual quote is this: ¿Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, But a man of understanding will draw it out.¿ The problem, of course, is that Eldredge misrepresents the subject of this Proverb. God is not saying that the heart of man is like deep water; He is saying that counsel in the heart of man is like deep water. Eldredge uses his misquote to justify his proposition that the heart of a man is like an elusive animal which must be followed into the wild. He has modified Scripture to justify his preconceived idea.... (You can see the rest of my review on my faith-and-humor site, www.youravgjoe.com).

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2003

    Men, Women, and God.

    Beyond the surface of this book is a message that borders heresy and sexism. Not only does Eldredge fail to support his ideas with anything more than personal examples, he advocates open theology and the dependence of women on men to be fulfilled individuals.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2003

    Pop Theology?

    While not an altogether empty premise the book's main message falls short of other works in isolating man's identity and relationship with nature, women, or God. The meatiest section delves into the 'wounds of the father' and its effects on male identity, personality development and relations with the opposite sex. At its worst the shallow allusions to modern mass media and biblical quotations pander to an easy audience of unhappy yet passive born-again Christian men who wonder how they got there. If you like this book you'd be blown away by Lancelot (Percy), Road Less Traveled (Peck), Mere Christianity (Lewis), Bulfinch's Mythology, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Joyce), or anything by Carlos Castaneda...

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2002

    Good start, poor finish

    To all the emasculated men in the Christian churches, this book identifies you - great start; you need help! Denying your true warrier nature is an issue in the church that is rarely confronted and keeps a large number of masculine men from going to church. However, Eldridge doesn' t have the theological understanding of how to reconcile being "wild at heart" with the teachings of Christ (except for a passionate attack on Calvin, who was shot down by scholars in the 1700s, so who cares). He also fails to call for any real change in terms of the structure of the church, its belief system, and how it uses the bible. Instead he opts to reccommending cosmetic changes in how men behave. If you want to learn from a current leader who is truly brave enough to improve the church, read "A New Christianity for a New World" by John Shelby Spong.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2002

    Worldy stereotypes and ungodly, macho vanity

    Elderidge seems to be a good guy, and I enjoy his honest writing style. But, man,why in the world are so many men hungry for his nearly neo-pagen, worldy stuff about being tough and dangerous by rescuing a beauty? Come on! Jesus has already rescued my wife and I sure couldn't if I wanted to, regardless of what Elderidge recommends. Sure we need passion and guts and dedication--and Elderidge's other books truly spoke to me! But this title includes so many (North American) cultural stereotypes mixed with really peculiar theology (Jesus died for your 'false self'? What could that even mean?) And all the whining! It seems to me the author has a bit too much time on his hands to think about his own issues, and, while his heart is obviously deeply hurt by the profound hurts of men in our culture, getting 'em to rescue beauties and box and hunt, frankly, just ain't tough enough. Lose yourself for God's Kingdom and skip the middle-class worldly macho stuff in this dangerous book.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2002

    Mixed review

    NOTE: This review is based on reading the book and attending the 4-day conference of the same name, and graduate education including Bible (honors). Since Eldredge earned a Master's degree in counseling, some of his counseling advice is well-advised and worth considering. His theology, however, is much less well trained, poorly or not supported with proof texts, and sometimes dangerous. Hasty generalization, a logical error, is the second most serious problem. The problem is that sometimes counseling and theology are so interwoven and interdependent that it is difficult to untangle the two. That said, he does say some things that are not being said in the modern church, and need to be said. All of this poses a serious problem for the new Christian, or the long-time Christian who has not benefited from formal training in Biblical interpretation. This comment will offend some who think that 'reader-response' is a valid interpretative method. They should read at their own risk. As for me, I can only recommend this book to those trained in a good, conservative school in exegesis and hermeneutics. At the least, one should know what a Berean is, how to be one, and five Biblical interpretative methods for testing the author's assertions in light of scripture. The problem, of course, is that those with this training will not need this advice, and those who need it may not heed it. If you are a pastor, and your congregation rave's this book, you may need to educate them.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2002

    Skip this book and go to the real source

    If you want to know how to be a good Christian man¿read the New Testament. Mr. Eldredge seems to have skipped the parts about ¿the greatest of these is love¿ and ¿turn the other cheek¿ and ¿blessed are the peacemakers¿ and many, many others. This book is riddled with stereotypes and poor interpretation of scripture. Mr. Eldredge takes his own outdated notions of what it means to be a man and tries to pass them off as biblical truth. It takes a lot more courage and wisdom to be one of the ¿nice guys¿ that Mr. Eldredge disparages than it does to be one of his ¿wild at heart warriors.¿ If I could give this book zero stars...I would.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 8, 2013

    Wild at Heart by John Eldredge is a creative and bias book about

    Wild at Heart by John Eldredge is a creative and bias book about the masculinity of men. I read this book for a college writing class this year; although before I read it I had many friends that recommended it. It’s all about how troubled a man’s heart can be, especially when he has no father figure in his life to show him how to be a man. I believe Wild at Heart was an out of the ballpark book. It shows many ideas to why the man is so struck with brokenness. Moreover, the ideas are logical and strong. I was enlightened when I read the book because of how many thoughts and arguments that lined up to my life. It’s a highly relatable book for men above the age of 17. Furthermore, John Eldredge brings opinions to the table, and backs many of them up with scripture. One that stuck out was the interpretation of Adam and Eve in the garden when Eve at the fruit. Eldredge points out that in scripture, Adam was standing silent right next to Eve when she ate the fruit. Then Eldredge goes on to say that men are weak and troubled just like Adam was when he was in the garden. In addition the quote “Deep in his heart, every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue” by Eldredge shows an opinion that I agree with. More importantly he shows his heart to the readers about masculinity and gives reasonable examples for each of his findings. This book has helped me unify my heart and my mind. I loved the book and I would recommend it to any man who has a heart problem, and in my opinion all men do.

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