Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge
After reading the first page, I knew that this was going to be an excellent book. Men need a deeper understanding of why they long for adventures and battles and a Beauty. And they need a better understanding of why women long to be fought for, and why women desire to be swept into adventure and to be the Beauty. That statement resonates with me. Guys are increasingly told what they “ought” to do, and these actions fail to address our desires for adventures and battles. It fails to address why we want a Beauty. And wouldn’t it be great to understand what the Beauty wants? I mean, isn’t it incredible that a woman wants to be appear beautiful, and she wants to be pursued, and she wants to be led by a man. And as a man, this is exactly what I want to do. I want to chase Beauty and seek adventures and provide protection. I think it is amazing that the very thing a man wants most deeply is the very thing that a woman wants from him. This is true in all aspects of life. I think it most clearly illustrated in physical contacts, such as hugs and sex. During an embrace, the man wants to hold his woman, and the woman wants to be held. It’s such a natural desire, that the roles are never reversed. Only during extremely tender moments when a man is broken, and the woman embraces him to provide comfort. The big idea is that universally, the natural raw desires of a man attract women. And it is so ubiquitous that only God could have established it. I feel like sex is the most clear and obvious example of these roles. Because of physical attributes, sex only works one way. The woman never penetrates the man. Anatomy forces a very specific role onto the guy and a very specific role onto the woman, and together these forced roles align in perfect unity. The same is true with our hearts in areas such as emotional, spiritual, and social roles. There is a clear mode for the man to operate in, and there is a clear albeit different mode for the woman to operate in. But because there is not a physical requirement to force these roles, such as with sex, they can get misconstrued. The physical role of a man in a relationship with his wife is clear, but the other aspects are not so obvious. My hope is that this book helps articulate some of those emotional, social, and spiritual roles. My hope is that this book helps articulate why a man wants to be the hero and why he wants to be powerful. These are parts of his God-given heart, and as such, they should be embraced. I love this quote by C. S. Lewis: “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.” These words are attributed to the great lion, Aslan. But they are equably applicable to a man. Not safe, but good.
Our God is beautiful. He wants to be worshipped, glorified, and pursued. These are the same traits that are in a woman. She wants to be worshipped and pursued for her beauty. Our God is also powerful; He wants to create, toil, and fight. These are the same traits of a man. I think this is so interesting. Typically, I think of God as a male figure, with male personality traits, but God also encompasses the feminine qualities. A woman wants to be noticed for her beauty, and she wants to be worshipped for it; this is exactly God’s desire for himself! We worship God, and we are awed by his beauty. A man should pursue a woman in much the same way that he pursues God. I think it is interesting that men embody a subset of God’s characteristics, women embody a different subset of God’s characteristic, and the combination of man and woman embodies a fuller image of God’s being. The union of a man and woman paints a picture that more fully depicts the characteristics of our God than any sex can do individually. This is the beauty of marriage.
God took a risk when he created Adam. There was a risk that Adam would sin and stray from God. Despite the risk, God created Adam anyway. God took a risk with humanity, and now he is pursuing an adventure with his creation. Christ’s adventure is rescuing humanity from sin. During this adventure, the Lord fights battles. Our God is a God of risk, adventure, and fight. So it is no wonder that men have the same qualities. The cool thing about God is that he also possesses deep love, compassion, patience, and grace. Our Father, as a single entity, perfectly embodies what the man/woman union seeks to accomplish. God perfectly embodies what the man and woman should strive for with their relationship.
“The less a guy feels like a real man in the presence of a real woman, the more vulnerable he is to porn.” I like this quote. Maybe I like it because it supports me as a man. I have always said that I am comfortable in my manhood, and I have never considered myself inadequate around women; perhaps this is why I do not struggle with pornography. It’s a matter of being confident and secure in your status as a real man. I’m far from perfect, and there are lots of things that I struggle with, but I am working to be better. I am striving to be a Godly man, and in that process, I think that confidences and security are developed.
“A woman is a captivating thing. More captivating than anything else in all creation.” Isn’t this so true? It’s why so many books, poems, and movies are created about the story of a man pursuing the captivating beauty of a woman. It’s why men do stupid things to impress the girl. Femininity bestirs masculinity. Captivating beauty bestirs aggressive adventure. When a man pursues a beauty, he is pursuing God. When a woman realizes that she has such goddess-like power over a man, she tries to domesticate him. And here is where our culture encounters problems with emasculation. The process of domestication can quickly lead to emasculation and the loss of the wildness that makes a man attractive. I like the illustration where the author prompts a young woman to allow her husband to buy a motorcycle. The motorcycle is adventurous, dangerous, and powerful. It’s masculine. It embraces masculinity and encourages wildness. I think that this section of the book stood out to me because I love riding my motorcycle. It’s incredibly fun! It’s so much fun that sometimes I dream about buying a Ducati, and for a period of time I seriously considered racing motorcycles at the track. In fact, I pursued this interest to the point of signing up for racing lessons. Motorcycles are almost entirely a male interest; women dislike motorcycles because they appear dangerous. I think that motorcycles are a good example of a dominantly masculine activity that the typical woman seeks to domesticate. The motorcycle embodies danger and adventure. It embodies the traits that a woman is attracted to, but it is also something that she seeks to domesticate. When I ask other guys why they don’t have a motorcycle or why they don’t want to ride, I typically get responses like, “Because I would kill myself,” or, “Because my wife would kill me.” I think that both excuses are poor. Do these men seriously have so little self-control that they would kill themselves, or are they so emasculated that they have given up the pursuit of adventure. A big theme of this book is how to be a man, and I like the motorcycle illustration because it’s relatable. Emasculation leads to terrible consequences.
A masculine journey will always take the man away from the woman. But then his responsibility is to return to her with his question answered. I like the part where John tells the passive man to get his wife mad at him. Stop being a limp-dick. For the man that is abusing his wife, shut-up and listen to her. A man is supposed to offer his strength to her. Not find his strength or self-worth in her. She should not be the center of his world. A woman is too small to place her at the center of the universe. She does not make you a man. It’s not her responsibility, and she should not feel burdened to do so. That’s good!
When you discover and act as your true self, that’s when you become powerful, and that’s when you are ready to fight the Lord’s battle. To learn about your true self, you must go through suffering. I like this. John says that he does not trust a man who has not experienced suffering. When he’s emotionally and spiritually crashing and needs support, he does not want to hear cliché words or beatitudes. He wants words of truth that come from the heart. Amen. Lord, give me words of truth that come from my heart. Give me a loving and true and good heart. I ask for my words to be full of wisdom, truth, and love, and for these words to be a true reflection of what’s in my heart. Amen.
The whole point of a devotional life is connecting with God. This can be through reading, journaling, praying, running, watching the sun rise, or any number of other miscellaneous activities. It does not need to be an academic endeavor. A life that is lived fighting on behalf of my God does not happen without regular training and discipline. Similarly, it does not happen in isolation. Training for the fight, and winning the battles, does not happen without partnerships. This means having other people, whom you can trust fully, fighting alongside you. One of the greatest temptations for men, which I can especially relate to, is fighting alone under the assumption that I do not need help from anybody.
As long as you remain no threat to Satan, he will tell you that “you are fine.” But once you take Christ’s side, and you begin fighting with a truthful heart, then Satan will tell you that “you are an awful person and you know it.” The fact that you are facing opposition, temptation, and doubts is a sign that you’re fighting for truth. It’s actually a sign that you’re fighting for the Lords’ army. Stay disciplined and stay encouraged! Don’t get bored. Boredom invites sin. I wonder if more discipline enables you to fight more battles and to fight larger battles? If I stay exceptionally well-disciplined, then will God be able to use me to win large battles and accomplish greater things? I don’t know. I need to beware of creeping pride in thoughts like these. Regardless of God’s plans for my life, I will stay disciplined!
I like how John re-tells the story of Ruth. Ruth helps her man, Boaz, become the best man that he can. She accomplishes this through seduction. Ruth is a good woman, and good women use their femininity to arouse a man and encourage him to be a real man. She arouses, inspires, and energizes (she seduces) her man to be all the man that he is. Her seductive actions push him to be better in all regards and to fight harder. It guides him in the correct direction. Good interpretation of this story.
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” In other words, don’t pursue a career simply because somebody told you to. Life is an adventure, and go do something that you are passionate about. Noble passions are God-given. What do you want to do with your life? Let God worry about the How. “All men die; few men ever really live.” To really live, pursue what you want and embrace the adventure.
“Further up and further in.” This is the last subtitle in John’s book, and it’s a quote from C. S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia.” Aslan encourages his people to explore the new Narnia by telling them to explore “further up and further in.” The idea is that we are supposed to explore and seek adventure. God designed us to live a passionate and adventurous life. I think this heading stood out to me (1) because it’s an appropriate ending to the book, but more notably (2) because it wouldn’t have any meaning if you never read “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Only by reading various other texts do you understand references like this. The great works of literature are all littered with references to other archetypical stories. It makes me wonder how many references to classic works of literature I miss simply because I am ignorant and haven’t read them. Reading classic works of literature is something that interests me. And discovering hidden gems like this one encourages me to read more. Further up and further in.