I finished several books this week as part of my Unschooled Master of Theology Program. You can check them all out here. One of the books I finished was Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. I’m not certain who he is. Never actually heard of him before I found his book on a library bookshelf. But, I picked up a copy and dug in, hopeful from the Amazon reviews that it would be a manual about manhood, what it would mean to be a man, and how to become one. The results were….well….let’s just say, less than earth shattering.
Let’s get started….
The Wound is Responsible
The basic overall theme of this book is a Man, every man, comes away from adolescence with a wound of some kind. Whether it be a passive wound or an active wound, we all have one that derails our ability to pursue and excel in the paths God has predestined for us.
On the surface, it can make sense. Somewhat. I mean, who doesn’t have some negative memory from their childhood that runs on near continuous repeat in the back of their minds? I was continually derided by my own father growing up. But, the worst of the verbal brutality came in adulthood, still at his hand. He made it rather clear to others and, in the end, to me directly, how disappointed he was in me, in how I turned out as a son.
To this day, I have next to no relationship with my father, and none with my mother. In fact, if I could find a way, I would disappear from the world entirely, vanish without a trace.
But, does this constitute as some sort of pseudo-psychological wound that is keeping me from the promise God ordained for me?
And, as typical of most mainstrain Christian authors and teachers, we are told in the book that every man needs a good woman. The problem, of course, is not only do men carry with them a wound from childhood, but so do women. They – the crown of creation as the author describes them – often find themselves to be a princess with no prince, seeking a hero that doesn’t materialize, or, if one does, losing interest in him once she has tamed him. She is somehow especially targeted by the devil because she is the key, she is the essense of humanity.
Okay. Whatever makes you sleep at night, I guess. As Joe Rogan on one of his podcasts with Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying said, how they were fortunate to have found each other, for such a union is rare. Most people, as he put it, are simply miserable with each other.
And, I’m sorry, I don’t think this has anything to do with a wound.
The book goes on to say a woman wants to know if she’s lovely, if she’s exquisite, exotic, chosen. She wants to know if her man will pursue her, if he will delight in her, if he will fight for her.
But, this is not reality. Reality is more closely described by Paul Maxwell in his Youtube video (well, before he was fired, that is). My takeaway from this video (my interpretation, maybe not his intention) is unattractive women have inferiority issues psychologically because they are unattractive and thus are a handful in a relationship. But, attractive women likewise have psychological issues because they are attractive and are, thus, a handful in a relationship. My takeaway from this: women are a handful in relationships. Period.
Granted, this video is only speaking of women from the male perspective and does not take into account the issues of men from a woman’s perspective. I would argue men are just as psychologically problematic in relationships. In fact, I would argue relationships are inherently faulty in and of themselves (because humans are involved) and should be avoided entirely. But, of course, no one wants to consider that option today.
But, are we really crippled from our best by the things that happened to us when we were children? Are we innocent? Are we victims? The truth is, we are not by and large victims, and every time someone builds a straw man just so they can blame someone for their lot in life, it only cheapens the suffering of those who truly have been wronged. And this book has basically stated we are all victims of our early childhood (I know a few people who were actually victims of their childhood and were lucky enough to escape it).
As Usual: All Fluff No Steak
But, as is typical this book makes a lot of lofty promises but delivers very little. There is no addressing the plight of man, the fundamental flaws in human character that initially sparked and has now sustained countless centuries of bloodshed and suffering, and not from nature or from elements out of our control, but from the hands of each other.
Instead, the book provides next to nothing. Slim platitudes, water down theologies and the grosses examples of folk psychology.
The Reality of Manhood?
The book fails from the fundamental theory from which it is propositioned, that men are doing it wrong. Whatever we are doing, it is wrong and we should do the opposite. If we are introverted, we should become extrovert. If we are shy, we should become the life of the party. It asserts men live with a false self, hiding behind an artifice built from drama and pain and resentment and fear.
The major problem with this theory is it makes no room for when authenticity is authentic. Why is it wrong to be introverted? How has this become an illness, a disorder? How is it the anti-social is automatically branded as irregular?
Maybe there is a valid reason.
As I sit in my den writing this, the police are swarming the back street struggling to get a domestic situation under control. First I noticed the screaming. Then, upon getting up to investigate, I found a scene unfolding with a manic woman in my neighbor’s yard, screaming and waving her arms frantically in the air, my neighbor on the front porch yelling back at her.
The police were not far off. They arrived as soon as the manic woman started pounding her fists on my neighbor’s car which was parked in the drive way.
And this is how things unfold with people. It is not unusual. It is typical. It happens across socioeconomic spectrum, the rich just tend to hide it better and are concerned more with what their neighbors will think than poor people do. But it still occurs. They are just as screwed up as everyone else. Most marriages last about 2 years. Some made it as long as mine did: a whopping 6 years. The rest seem to languish in a kind of fabricated hellscape from which there is no escape.
I, personally, do not socialize with other people. I do not entertain people in my home. I do not go out and meet with others. I do not gather together at the local bar, or hit the clubs. I do not socialize with the opposite sex. I am civil to my co-workers (thankfully there are very few I actually must interact with), but I certainly wouldn’t visit with them outside of work.
Is this out of fear? Am I somehow rendered incapable due to some childhood wound?
I abstain out of a rational and logical understanding of the frailty of human nature. People are inherently messy. Relationships are extremely difficult to maintain. Few if any are authentic. They cannot be trusted to keep their word or to follow through on much of anything.
But, the opposition to this would say, “Yes, any relationship carries with it a level of risk.” And my response to them is, “No, I’m not a gambler. If you want to gamble go for it, but I will abstain.”
I married my wife, taking her at her word. We both talked extensively about what we wanted out of a marriage, about what the rules would be, what we were agreeing to. We both agreed to how the children (her children) would be raised. We both agreed to what religion we would practice. We both agreed that our relationship would be one of commitment, and that commitment would be honored by divorce not being on the table.
Six years later, I’m signing papers for divorce. Why? Because my wife lied when we first got married. She admitted as much, saying she told me what I wanted to hear so I would marry her. The truth was, if things got difficult, if our marriage required any kind of work on her part, that was it. It was time for her to cut and run.
Is that somehow fostered by a childhood wound, making her a victim? Blameless? No. She lied. She is a liar. She is guilty of breaking her oath, her vow.
These things mean nothing in our day and age, but they certainly mean something to me. And, if walking into a marriage with the best of intentions has no better odds than 50/50 those are terrible odds.
My drive to isolation is not out of fear of relationships or a fear of being hurt. I simply recognize the inherent risk. Many people do not jump out of airplanes with a parachute strapped to their backs because of the inherent risk. Many do not use or abuse drugs or alcohol because of their inherent risk. Why are relationships any different?
Just because I don’t play ball with the other guys in my neighborhood does not mean anything. It does not identify me as having somehow disengaged due to a wound. Rather, it means 1. I don’t enjoy playing games with a ball, 2. I get nothing out of playing games with a ball, 3. I don’t particularly relate to the kind of guys who generally play games with a ball.
Does that mean my disinterest in playing games with a ball stem from a distant, childhood wound?
It simply means I have nothing in common with the typical male. As described, “Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in the tents” (Genesis 25:27). But who was loved by God? The tent dweller (Romans 9:13).
My lack of sociality does not stem from an inability to operate or navigate social situations. I’ve had friendships over the years that I’ve tried to maintain. Several in high school and several while (regretfully) in the military, and even a few more afterwards. But not a one has endured. Today I can firmly say I have few if any friends, and certainly not a one close friend.
Is this somehow a lack in my own character? Is this a fault in my emotional or psychological makeup?
In actuality, I find it both a comfort and a blessing. Time and again (the incident at my neighbors serving only as the latest), people prove their inability to maintain healthy connections with each other. I would question humanities’ insistence on self-punishment. Why do people keep insisting on forming these social dynamics that are inevitably doomed to fail?
How do my friendships end over the years? Fire and drama and flames? No. Starvation. I simply, innately, lost interest.
There is rarely, if ever, an instance or example where my conclusion is proved wrong. Other relationships. The relationships of my coworkers. The misery all around me. Yet, few seem to be able to operate without these self-immolations.
It is now my hope and prayer to live the remainder of my life at my Eden property, and, with God’s grace, I will be allowed, when my time has come, to lay down once more, breathe my last, and there I will remain, food for the wild creatures, for the bugs, for the birds, and my bones will remain there, entangled in the underbrush, undiscovered until the resurrection to come.
It is not that I have convinced myself not to try. I’ve learned through experience that most everything humanity holds dear is fallacy. Parents, friends, lovers, knowledge, governments, countries, cultures, they all are premised on faulty foundations. They all are corrupted and are crumbling. History is a lie. Science is a lie. Religion is a lie.
Life is a ruse.
I do not desire to keep building on faulty moors.
This book pretends, “There is nothing so inspiring to a man as a beautiful woman.” But, the reality is, even this presumption is faulty, built upon the poluted rebellion of the reformers, who flipped God’s command, Paul’s encouragement, Christ’s admission, “there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ,” and “It is good for a man not to touch a woman…I wish all men were as I am” (Galatians 3:28; 1 Corinthians 7:1ff).
In my younger days, I did the same things as described in this book. I chased after the beauty. I carried a photo of her in my wallet when I enlisted. I wrote her letters. But, luckily, I was spared the devastation that befell so many of those around me. Cheating wives. Obstinate children. I was spared it all.
I watched my cousin, who married his high school sweetheart, as his marriage of twenty years imploded when his wife went crazy, destroying the lives of his two kids and himself included.
Additionally, we do not know the reason for God creating Eve. We assume it was because Adam was lonely. But the text does not say that. It simply and cryptically says, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” Maybe the man was content with his lot and strived for little. Maybe he was sad, and God sought for him a companion. But, even still, we cannot look past Christ’s admission, “he who is able to accept it, let him accept it” (Matthew 19:12).
The author then asks, “Why did God create Adam?” in hopes of uncovering our purpose, what we were designed for. But, this question is asked in error. For there is no means by which we can transcribe the purposes of Adam’s creation to our own, since we are not Sons of God, as are the Angels or as Adam was. But, we are, instead, Sons of Adam. We are born into mortality, corrupted, debased, destitute by our very natures. Irredeemable. Unable to comprehend the depravity or distance in which we reside away from God. It is only by redemption in Christ, propitiation, that we are born again, a new creation, and are now becoming and will one day be revealed as Sons of God.
We simply do not know the reason for which Adam was created. We certainly know even less about the creation of the angelic host. What were the distinctives between the angels and Adam? Why the difference? Why a new order of beings? Why were the angels not sufficient? Were anything else created elsewhere in the galaxy, in the universe after man? Something yet still different from the angels? Where the angels first or was there yet another being created before them? Are they of one race, angels? Or, are they a conglomeration, the victors in a long string of those who are saved by grace? Or, were they a separate race from another planet who have a separate and distinct story altogether, who qualified to become Sons of God some other way, through some other redemptive mechanism?
We don’t know and we are fooling ourselves by ascribing their hidden mysterious origins to us.
And, even though the book goes on to conclude, “If you know what something is designed to do, then you know its purpose in life…Desire reveals design and design reveals destiny. ”
This might pass a cursory philosophical examination but it fails under a keener interogation. In order to understand what something is, the book purports, we must find its desire. What it desires reveals its design.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for virtually anything at the moment or in the past for any human or any animal or plant on earth. Save for Adam and maybe even Eve in their pre-fallen state, and possibly an angel (not fallen) could it be extrapolated from their desires the purpose of their creation (yet, Adam and at least a third of the angels have proven this is is likewise unreliable). Humans are fallen by form and nature. The earth itself, the land, the natural world, everything in existence has been subjected to futility under the curse brought about by Adam and Eve. There is no way to determine its original purpose through its desire. Plants operate differently. Animals operate differently. Humans operate differently. They operate under a base, depraved, and mortal nature. A corrupted nature. We want the wrong things. We crave the wrong things. What we desire has nothing to do with God.
There is but one caveat. The saved individual in Christ. It might be possible to argue they are a new creature in Christ, saved by Grace, no longer bound by sin or its power. But, the latter is simply not true. Paul makes it clear, we are at war in the body. It is civil unrest within our members. There is no way to be certain at any given moment what our genuine motives are, and given that, there is no way to determine the original purpose for which we were created for based on our desires alone.
Additionally, it would be hard to argue that any of us (save Adam) was created by God’s initial volition. I was the product of my parents’ volition (as ill-conceived as that might have been). They were each in turn the product of their parents’ volition. We do not know how much God’s volition played in our creations. Did he predestine us individually? Did he destine us before the beginning of time? Did he know before he began there would be a fall and we would all be born exactly as we are now? Did he know and plan for and predefine me writing these questions at this moment?
There is no way to tell with any certainty. The bible attests to this in a few places, but only a few. But, to claim simply our original purpose is revealed through our desire, in what we are drawn to, in what makes us alive, is fool-hearty at best.
There are a multitude of sins perpetrated by man that quicken their step, that enliven them. Sin, in fact, is the number one driver behind most all behavior in humanity today and throughout its despicable history.
God was clear. Our secret longings of our heart is unequivocally evil continually (Genesis 6:5).
You may not have to tell a boy to explore, build or conquer, because they are ingrained in them. But, that does not automatically mean the boy should do such things. It is automatically ingrained in them to sleep around, to murder, to rape, to rob, to destroy, to war. Just because man is drawn to it does not legitimize what he is drawn to.
Of all the points in this book that I disagree with, I did find one question useful. “You must ask God what he thinks of you, and you must stay with the question until you have an answer.”
This is something, I think, is altogether absent in the modern church. Church is something done, an activity, when it is actually, biblically, a state of being. You are the Church. You do not go to the church, you do not build a church out of wood or stone. And genuine, persistent, heartfelt introspection of the saint is absent. Doing equals righteousness, despite its obvious superficiality.
In the end, this book misses the mark on two primary issues. 1. The issue with masculinity is not an inherent wound all men carry with them since childhood. And 2. Re-discovering our masculinity does not bring men back on course with the purpose for which they were created.
We don’t know why we were created in the first place, and even if we had no so-called adolescent wounds, we would still struggle in our masculinity because of our fallen natures.
There is something fundamentally, essentially, in error with how we think and what we think. All behavior is driven by those two states of thinking. It is inescapable, our fallen-natures. The closest we can come to escaping them in this life is salvation by grace through faith in Christ, and even this does not rid us of that same fallen, despicable nature residing within us.
So are we victims then, instead of the adolescent wound, of our fallen natures? No. Because we are not separate from our fallen natures. They ARE us. We ARE our fallen nature. Our depravity is ours. Innate. Inherent. Perpetual. Everlasting. If you cut off a man’s arm, the arm does not cease to be his arm. If you place his arm along side someone else’s severed arm, the first man cannot choose which arm he would like to have and claim the other man’s arm is his. This is the same with our fallen natures. They are ours. We were born to them. When we are saved by Christ, we are transformed, we are reborn. We are given a new heart. A new spirit. The flesh yet still remains.
We have a promise from Paul that one day, our mortality will be replaced with immortality (or, more aptly, the mortality will “invest with clothing” immortality, so that our corruptible, fallen nature will be clothed with immortality). From this idea, we might conclude a dreadful thought, which is also supported of the Angels’ fall, it will be possible not only for us to commit sexual sin (though forbidden) it is possible that we could lose our state of grace (as did the angels) even after the Kingdom arrives.
So, rather than trying to “restore” an ill-fated masculinity or a call-back to a cultural inheritance of adventure and risktaking, maybe we should focus our efforts instead on the one question the author got right.
“You must ask God what he thinks of you, and you must stay with the question until you have an answer.”
This is similar to the call God has already placed on each and every one of our lives: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
Until my next assignment….
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Excerpt from In the Meadow:
A second later, the engine roared to life, and Dawn glanced back, one last time, at the trailer she’d grown up in.
The empty yard.
The trail she’d blazed through the blackberries.
That gaunt looking trailer.
Everything she saw now looked so dirty and run down, almost a shambles.
It was like a dream.
Paul circled wide, then threw the truck in reverse and backed up. As he braked and put it back into drive, Dawn could see Harold’s place a few slips down.
Paul gave the truck some gas.
As they went by, she could see Harold standing outside, near his front door, motionless, watching them.
She didn’t mention the earlier conversation to Paul.
Why would she?
He was just a creepy ass guy, and one of the handful of things she didn’t have to deal with anymore.
They drove out the front gate of the trailer park, down the side street to the corner, Paul stopping for a moment as he waited on the traffic to clear.
He took her hand and smiled at her, then pulled out onto the highway, heading west.
They drove past the Ray’s Grocery Store, past the gas station, where Bart was out front, talking excitedly to the Desmond boy.
Paul kissed her hand and she smiled, laying her head back against the headrest.
There was nothing else standing in her way now.
As Dawn began to relax, she watched as her old life quickly dissipate into vapor in their wake.
For the first time in her life, she was leaving Oakridge. She was moving to an entirely different state, a new home, with the man of her dreams.
She’d never even been out of Oregon before.
“Now or never,” Paul said, as they drove past the trailhead sign, on the right.
Dawn tightened her grip on his hand.
She’d finally gotten her wish.
She was leaving Oakridge.
Buy my book In the Meadow to find out what Dawn will do as her perfect fairytale life begins to unravel. Are the girls calling out from the banks of the Skagit River trying to help her? Do they want to hurt her? What secrets will she find?
Click here and grab your copy today! Get the sequel, Returning the Meadow and keep the story going even longer!
But, trust me when I say, this is going to be a roller coaster of a ride. People are dying all around her, and you have no idea what evil lurks in the meadow! Get started in this thriller story today and find out why they’re warning her…calling out to her….trying to tell her…to RUN!