The Challenge Before You Is a Bold One: To Accept the Wild, Daring Adventure of Becoming a Man
We want to be self-sufficient. Find our own direction as we pursue our dreams. Know it all and never ask for help. Isn’t this how most guys approach manhood? On our own, pretending we are doing better than we really are? But sooner or later the thrill of independence gets lost in the fog of isolation.
It’s time to take the pressure off. We were never meant to figure life out on our own.
This book was born out of a series of weekly phone calls between Sam Eldredge, a young writer in his twenties, and his dad, best-selling author John Eldredge. Join the conversation as a father and son talk about pursuing beauty, dealing with money, getting married, chasing dreams, knowing something real with God, and how to find a life you can call your own.
Killing Lions is more than fatherly advice. It is an invitation into a journey: either to be the son who receives fathering or the father who learns what must be spoken. Most important, these conversations speak to a searching generation: “You are not alone. Its not all up to you. You are going to find your way.”
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About the Author
John Eldredge is a bestselling author, a counselor, and a teacher. He is also president of Wild at Heart, a ministry devoted to helping people discover the heart of God, recover their own hearts in God's love, and learn to live in God's kingdom. John and his wife, Stasi, live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Samuel Eldredge began his writing career in second grade with a memorable essay on penguins. He graduated with a bachelors in English and is currently developing an online journal for men. In his spare time he enjoys cigars and films by Hayao Miyazaki. When he goes out of doors he loves to ride motorcycles, sail, and adventure with his wife, Susie. They currently live in Minneapolis.
Read an Excerpt
A Guide Through The Trials Young Men Face
By John Eldredge, Sam Eldredge
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2014 John Eldredge and Samuel Eldredge
All rights reserved.
College and Then What?
As he mused about these things, he realized that he had to choose between thinking of himself as the poor victim of a thief and as an adventurer in quest of his treasure. "I'm an adventurer, looking for treasure," he said to himself.
—Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
I don't think I told you just how pathetic my first job was. Probably because I was embarrassed.
I was twenty-two years old, the ink still wet on my college diploma—from a prestigious West Coast school, I might add—and I had joined the workforce as a professional ... errand runner. Some large companies employ people in positions known as rabbits. (Somehow I get the feeling these folks forgo the business cards.) I found my job on Craigslist under the title "Runner" and thought to myself, I go running.
It's not that my job was particularly demanding; in fact it was the mind-numbing triviality that I found so disheartening. To give you an example of an average day's list for the (very) wealthy family that signed the checks:
one case Diet Coke
three cases lime Perrier
twelve single-serving AvoDerm cat food (No prawn or liver flavor. Their cat, Taco, has already sent me back to return said flavors on multiple occasions. And who names their cat Taco, anyway?)
two gallons distilled water
plain Greek yogurt
lunch for the staff of eighteen from a local hot spot (After triple checking that Angie's salad has sunflower seeds and that Lynn's custom smoothie is accounted for; all dressing on the side.)
drop packages off at UPS, and a case of wine at a fellow board member's house in town
I felt like a joke. First jobs are infamous; everyone complains about them just like an angst-filled teenager would. But as I drove around town, flipping from station to station on the radio for what seemed like hours that would not end, I couldn't help but wonder, What am I doing with my life? My friends who took the business track landed jobs working for music advertising agencies and accounting firms; one was working for a tech start-up. A fellow English graduate manned the front desk of a fancy hotel so Paris Hilton could pursue her hobby of DJ-ing. But when we gathered around the table at Dargan's on Friday evenings, I wasn't so sure the "business savvy" majors were really doing any better than me. They were disappointed too.
The weekends raced by, and I would return every Monday to my mind-numbing job so I could pay for food and rent, so I could go back to work, in order to pay for more food and rent. It felt so cyclical, the never-ending water-tread test to graduate into the adult pool.
Maybe this story should start in my sophomore year of college, back when the birds were chirping, the sun shone every day, and everyone laughed so easily. Back when we had to declare our majors. The decision felt like career day all over again—each student choosing what he wanted to be when he grew up. I chose English because I love stories and creativity, and I want to be a writer. I still can't stand the reaction when I tell people what my major is: "Oh"—always in the tone of someone hearing bad news—"What are you going to do with that?" I want to shoot back, "How does 'not sit in a cubicle for the rest of my life' sound, you sellout?" But now, two years later, it isn't so easy to convince myself I made the right decision after all. I wonder, Did I totally waste my time in college? Dad?
The MBA who bussed my table last night and the bachelor of architecture who helped me find something at Barnes & Noble are wondering the same thing. And so the great battle begins in earnest: the battle for your heart, the battle to find a life worth living, the battle not to lose heart as you find a life worth living.
So take a deep breath, and step back from the ledge. Every move into the unknown usually feels like free-falling at first. I remember those feelings myself. College is a staging ground. But for what? To think clearly about the college years, ask yourself, are you simply a laborer, a careerist in an endless economic cycle? Or are you a human being, and that heart beating deep within you is telling you of a life of purpose and meaning you were created to live? You see, Sam, the questions of who we are and why we are here are far more important questions than how to land a great job and make money. You don't want to fall into a life you end up hating. Years ago I was counseling a successful dentist in his late forties—listening to his confession, really. He was doing well, lived in a nice house, took exciting vacations—and was thoroughly depressed. After a long pause he lamented, "I had no idea what I wanted when I was in college; I was someone else when I chose this life."
The idea that eighteen-year-olds have some grasp on who they are and what they ought to do for the rest of their lives is madness. A college freshman has barely begun to think about his life or separate himself from his family and culture enough to see the world clearly. Waking up in time for class is an accomplishment; remembering to do laundry a personal triumph.
My first year in college felt like camp. Everybody was so giddy to be there, so wrapped up in the excitement and freedom of it all, that it hardly felt like school half the time. We would blow off assignments, head to the beach, stay up late playing Mafia or beer pong, and flirt with everyone. Some took up smoking, others serial dating, and the only thing we could think of was the fact that we were free. Free from our hometowns and our parents' rules. Free from who and what we had been in high school. Plenty of time ahead of us to figure it all out. It was its own reality.
Which is fine—freshmen are freshmen. But you don't ask those campers to define their life course, for heaven's sake. They've got a world of discovery and a few rude awakenings ahead, all of which must come first. This is a season for exploration and transformation—discovering both who we are and what we love, what our place in the world might be. Our dreams and desires need to awaken, grow, and mature. We need to awaken, grow, and mature so that we might be able to handle those desires and dreams. The man I was becoming at eighteen was far from the man I had become by thirty and leagues from who I am today at fifty-three. There's no shame in that; this is how life works, for everyone. Who came up with the notion that the day you graduate from college you are a fully developed adult stepping into a wonderful and fully developed life? It's about as crazy as it is frustrating.
And it's a lie. I think you'd be better served if you picture this season as a journey through a wild country filled with beauty and danger—and a few swamps—than expecting it to be a clear and defined road of College-Work-Life-Done.
There are two basic approaches to college education. Plan A is merely "career grooming." Choose the professional trajectory your life will take, follow the prescribed courses that will prepare you to enter that profession, and proceed as quickly as possible up the ranks. I understand the appeal of this approach because it seems to make sense and promise results—at least on paper. Colleges love to promise career results, and parents love those promises. But there are an awful lot of disappointed econ majors out there working at Starbucks. "Follow this plan and you'll get this life" can be a real shocker when it doesn't pan out; it leaves you feeling betrayed if this was the assumption you were working under. This is especially true in a volatile global economy.
Plan A ignores one vital piece of reality: very few people end up working in the field they studied in college. I don't know anyone, personally. Even my doctor friend grew tired of the medical profession and now works in a nonprofit. I majored in theater as an undergrad and then did a master's in counseling; Mom chose sociology. Now we are both writers. Life just doesn't follow a clean, clear, and linear path. More importantly, people don't.
I'm reading a fascinating book called Shop Class as Soulcraft; the author is a young man who graduated with a doctorate in political philosophy from the University of Chicago, took a sweet job as executive director of a Washington think tank, found himself constantly tired and dispirited, and after six months quit to pursue his dream of running a motorcycle repair shop. Times have changed. My father came from the generation who graduated college, signed on with a company, and stayed for life. But today's signs indicate that your generation will have something like nine different careers—not merely jobs but careers—over the course of your life.
We are not our grandfathers, and we don't want to be. Sitting down at one desk for the rest of our lives doesn't have the appeal that it did to the generation that witnessed the Depression. But, even though I know you are right, that so many graduates never work in the fields they majored in, it feels like a contradiction to the "study what you love" concept. It feels like you are doomed to never actually do what you love.
Just the opposite. You should study what you love, because you'll thrive there and thus perform at your best, and because guarantees of "this-degree-equals-that-career" have a noticeably short shelf life nowadays. Which brings us to Plan B: exploration and transformation. It assumes that a far better use of college is the transformation of you as a person, a human being, who will probably have a varied career life. This approach happens to be far more true to who we are and how we are wired (which intimates it might be a far better way).
Now yes, yes, I understand that certain professions require highly specified training. Neurosurgeons need those pre-med classes and biochemical engineers need to get calculus behind them and not fritter their time away on Plato and Dickens. However, those doctors and engineers are still human beings, and whatever their career courses may hold for them, their first and primary task is becoming the kind of human beings that can be entrusted with power and influence. Medical schools grasped this quite awhile ago, realizing that the doctor needs not only an understanding of human anatomy but also an understanding of real human beings—especially suffering human beings. If they neglect their own humanity for a rigorous academic track, they don't turn out to be the kind of doctor people like to be with.
Our first and foremost task is education as human beings, not merely workers—human beings that need meaning in order to thrive.
My generation is desperate for meaning. And I mean in everything. It's hard to find a category in which some company hasn't sprung up to meet the demand for "a cause" these days. TOMS Shoes gives a pair to a child in need for every pair bought. (I've bought several from them; after about a month they get too stinky to wear in public.) Any self-respecting coffee joint—from the little guys to the corporate giants—knows that people are buying more "fair trade" (no slave labor) products, as do the chocolate makers. Clothing manufacturers have learned that by avoiding sweatshops and advertising their high moral ground, they can pull in customers; I wish more actually did what they claimed. People pay for "conflict-free diamonds"; I have a plastic-free kitchen; even bicycles can be helping those in need through World Bicycle Relief. Throw in ethical eating, which rightfully targets the destructive and inhumane system of factory farms, and I think we have covered every inch of daily life. These are my people.
A couple of years ago we were passing around books like Three Cups of Tea, Eating Animals, and Not for Sale because they all addressed what was wrong and how we could change the world. In William Strauss's book The Fourth Turning, he calls our generation a "Hero generation." We want to change the world. The environment, helping those in need, fairness, you name it—all these things matter to us. We want a revolution to get behind. Without one, we will fill our lives with little revolutions that flare up and give us the momentary buzz of an espresso. So many of those small revolutions are held out in front of us like the answer to all our longing. Often, it's nothing more than marketing, but they are marketing to something real within us.
You have entered the Warrior Stage of a young man's life. Young men have been at the center of most of history's revolutions. Deep in your marrow lies a passion to bring down tyrants, overthrow oppression, and fight for a better world—to be part of something big. And why did God give you such hearts? Isn't that fascinating—why you and all your peers have a heart to change the world? Was that placed in you simply to be killed? Never! I know older folks love to look down at you over their reading glasses and say something dismissive about "the idealism of youth" and how it's high time you settle down to real life, but that is not my opinion. I don't think it's God's opinion either. That counsel comes from folks who have killed their hearts and souls in order to "get along" in the world. Christianity is all about revolution—is a revolution to its core—and that is why God gives young men and women passion to change the world. God gave you that heart in order that you might discover both the joy of being part of his revolution and your own unique place within it.
There is a lot of wrong to be set right in the world. Everywhere you look, the planet is bleeding, children are trafficked, slavery is on the rise, and truth itself has all but shattered. This is a time for revolution, and one of the great wonders of Christianity is the idea that you are born into your times, to set your times aright. What could be more exciting? Frederick Buechner believed that, "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." What could be more hopeful?
One of the happiest periods of my life was in my early twenties. Your mom and I started a theater company right out of college—not because we were hoping to be Hollywood icons driving Maseratis but because we wanted to change the world. We did street theater in Los Angeles during the 1984 Olympics—dodging security and setting up anywhere we thought we could draw a crowd in order to present short, edgy pieces about the meaning of life and Jesus Christ. We loved those years.
That's really cool; that is exactly what I'm looking for, what all my friends are looking for. You actually got to live something you were passionate about. Did you get to do that for a living?
Not exactly. Not for several years, at least. I was working as a janitor for our church, and Mom got a job as an office manager for a small high-tech company. I spent my days vacuuming, cleaning toilets, and taking out the trash; she was neck-deep in accounts receivable and employee relations. This is critical to keep in mind: your passion, your place of meaning—what the older saints referred to as your "calling"—may not be the same thing that you do to pay the bills. Jesus was a carpenter. Paul sewed tents. There may come a time when living out your passion pays the monthly rent, and you will be the richest man in the world. But getting the two confused is why so many people give up on their dreams. They do a quick assessment of their passions as "marketable skills"—or some professor stuns them with the improbabilities—and they abandon their dreams for a more "predictable" life. Which of course they end up hating, go on to develop a host of addictions, and wind up in therapy. As a counselor, I used to make a living helping them out of their despair, and the line outside my door was endless.
Excerpted from Killing Lions by John Eldredge, Sam Eldredge. Copyright © 2014 John Eldredge and Samuel Eldredge. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
one College and Then What?, 1,
two Bouncing Checks, 21,
three The Book of Love, 39,
four Changing the Scripts We Live By, 49,
five Back to Love, Sex, and Women, 65,
six Decisions, Decisions, 81,
seven Fighting for Your Life, 95,
eight A Few Questions About God, 115,
nine The Collision of Intimacy, 135,
ten Racing Toward the Unknown, 147,
What next? Where do I go from here?, 165,
The Daily Prayer, 167,
A Prayer for Guidance, 171,
A Prayer for Sexual Healing, 175,
About the Authors, 183,