Life continues to prove to be anything but stable. 2010 was a very difficult year for me and produced a dramatic transition in my life. In October 2010, I was introduced to John Eldredge’s book, Wild at Heart, by my friend and pastor, Kevin Joyce. Eldredge, with support of modern movies such as Gladiator and Braveheart, paints a picture of what a man looks like. And not just any man, but a hero. A man that can lead other men; a man that inspires and captures the heart of his beauty. That man is brutally fierce in his battles yet showcases his grace and compassion towards others who go unloved and don’t have a voice. A dichotomy that most men are lacking. Notice that you find this with William Wallace and Maximus. Guys you aspire to be. Warriors and lovers. We’ve experienced a bastardization of this in our lives; either being filled with rage or with a passivity that inspires no one and leaves others feeling cold around you. Maybe you’ve experienced this in a friend, family member or coworker. I personally had built walls around myself emotionally. Logic ruled in my book. As I read this book, along with coaching from Kevin, I began to see the value of my logic. I also saw my flaw, which I hadn’t recognized, in my deficiency of heart. This was created by my smothering of emotion by logic. As another friend, Scott Austin told me, “Nan, you’re the perfect guy when there’s a fire in a building. You’ll get the bull horn, get on a table and move everyone out safely. The problem is – there’s not always a fire.” Scott certainly had my attention. Allowing myself to experience emotion? Yikes. If you’re like me and most other men, that sounds pretty damn horrible. Leaving yourself vulnerable? Sounds scary.
Did I really want to do this? Enter Kevin, who had me read the story of Jesus and Lazarus. You trivia nuts will know about the shortest verse in the Bible – “Jesus wept.” Here’s the quick story. Lazarus was dying and these dudes were asking Jesus to show up and save him. Jesus delayed. (He had his reasons.) Finally, when Jesus and the guys arrive, Lazarus is dead. Jesus says, “nah, he’s just sleeping.” The guys are in disbelief. They keep arguing with Jesus. It says Jesus became angry and wept. Wait, what? So Jesus, the human version of God, got angry and wept and raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus logically knew that he could and would raise Lazarus from the dead, yet still he experienced the anger and sorrow. He didn’t just brush them off and do what he needed to do. Ugh. Feelings.
So after having read Wild at Heart and doing some additional learning of who we are and who God wants us to be as men, I was bouncing around John Eldredge’s Ransomed Heart website where I stumbled upon the Wild at Heart Boot Camp. I knew it was something I needed to do for myself and for the people around me. I was going to attend in Colorado, but my mom gifted me an upgrade to Hawaii – how could I say no to that?
I arrived at the Kona airport where I met a number of guys from around the country and later, the world, where Shane had flown over 30 hours to get from Cape Town, South Africa to the big island of Hawaii. That’s commitment. We had over 300 men in the Boot Camp, men from as young as 18 to men in their 70’s, ranging from dudes that look like they never left the beach to physicians and business owners. Clearly, this message resonated across all demographics of men.
It’d be impossible to cover all that we learned in the four days that we were there, but here are a couple of highlights of the teachings I received during those emotionally and spiritually rigorous days.
Wounds Of Our Fathers
We are human and our dads, unsurprisingly, are as well (hopefully). In being human, they made mistakes and they wounded us, oftentimes unintentionally. They were wounded themselves from their fathers. How could they know better? As boys we need to know that we’re loved AND that our dad’s believe in us and that we have what it takes. Maybe our dads loved us but never hugged us and spent intimate time with us. Maybe our dads did hug us but didn’t tell us frequently enough who we were as men and that they believed in us. A boy needs his father to provide this for him on a consistent basis. This is lacking, and has been for generations. How do I know? It came from hearing a room full of over 300 men weeping uncontrollably when Eldredge talked about this on stage. The first thing we need to do about this is forgive our fathers. Forgiving them doesn’t mean that your wound didn’t hurt you horribly, nor does it make it alright. It’s a choice to release your dad. As they said, don’t wait to feel like forgiving, because forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling.
Morgan, a team member with John, described agreements as lies that we agree with internally. Morgan, after seeing his dad cry at a funeral without a discussion afterward, made an agreement that he would be the strongest man he knew. He would be Atlas and carry the weight of his world on his shoulders. Another guy was told by his stepdad that he was “nothing but a seagull – good for sitting, squawking and shitting.” That was the name his father gave him, so as a boy he made an agreement internally that that was who he was. These agreements that we have all made shape our existence, our relationships and our decision making process. These agreements need to be broken so they don’t continue to encumber our relationships and decision making for the rest of our lives.
I know that I carry wounds of my father. One of those that was passed along to me is the stoicism that he carries. Some could read me as cold or uncaring. I knew internally that this wasn’t true, but until I went through the book and further this boot camp, it had been difficult for me to show emotion. Things are changing for me. I’ve forgiven my dad. Poor man, he didn’t know that he was doing wrong by me. I know that since we are God’s children my dad isn’t just my dad, but also my brother. We all carry that young boy inside of us and he raised me based on his wounds, from his experiences, in the best and most loving way he knew. I also learned that God is not a substitute father if your dad didn’t provide you what you needed; He’s the primary. Your earthly father is in addition to your dad in Heaven. As Morgan described, God brings other fathers into our lives to serve and teach us. His financial father figure is Dave Ramsey, his marketing dad is Seth Godin. God uses other men as his hands and feet. Hell, Morgan even talked about his father in learning how to bow hunt – an 83 year old woman that competed in archery in the Olympics. It’s not necessarily about the gender. Recognizing the agreements that I’ve made with myself over the years from my experiences will continue to unravel and reveal themselves. I don’t know them all explicitly yet, but now when something goes awry or I’m feeling something that’s not of God, I am aware that there might be an agreement there that needs to be prayed over and broken.
I am committed to being a whole man, a man that will fight fiercely for what is right and who will show tenderness and grace appropriately. I will feel, I will love and I will fight. I know I’ll drop the ball and stumble along the way, I’m human and thankfully, we have God’s infinite grace for these instances. Men, God wants you to live a life of adventure with him. Notice that I didn’t write about being a nice guy, there were no descriptions of being Mister Rogers. Jesus was fierce, he was loving (funny too!) and that’s who God wants us to be as well – Maximus or William Wallace. It’s what resonates in our hearts. This will be a lifelong path and it will be worth it.
People, encourage the men that matter in your life to read Wild at Heart and to give the Wild at Heart Field Guide an honest try. It may be exactly what they need to help them escape their life of passivity or rage and unlock the heart that God gave them. If you have questions, please reach out to me and I’ll make time to talk to you about it.