You may want to read this comment-driven conversation first, just to get a larger framework for this post (Warning: Sam and I are both very verbose!)
Maybe it’s the fact that I live in the South…where taking the Jeep to go mudding is actually a standing weekend option. Or the fact that we eat ribs in slabs, or the notion that football really is a religion in these parts. I mean, seriously, many a tooth has been lost over being on the wrong side of the Alabama/Auburn, Georgia/Tennessee, Florida/FSU, Georgia/Florida cheering section.
But the book by John Eldredge, Wild At Heart, was once considered a godsend ’round these parts when I first heard about the book in 2001 and read it later that year. I remember the book recommendation came from the pulpit at the time, and it was addressed in the context that men needed to stand up for the church, for our wives, for our children, but in order to do that we needed to understand some of the attacks on our hearts, the methods that the enemy uses to attack men in particular, and how ultimately we need to be strong defenders because in so many arenas of life, Godly men need to stand up.
I bought the book and didn’t read it for many months. Then I lost my job. I lost a few good friends. I started to see things in my character and my person that I had not dealt with. I didn’t even know how to deal with. I just assumed that they would be part of me.
As I sat in despair (and procrastination from school work), I watched the clock tick past 10pm in my quiet room and as a I sat on my bed with one light over it, I finally pulled out Wild at Heart and began to read. And read and read and read. I didn’t put it down until I was done. I literally pulled a near all-nighter reading the book. I finished the book before the 10pm the next day.
After reading it, I can’t say that I knew what to do or that I was healed right then and there. But it definitely helped direct my thoughts about where I had a run away from real manliness, which incorporates the image of God, which is what man was designed for to begin with. That definition of man helped me really discipline myself for community, accountability, and redefine what i considered heroism. Previously I had thought that heroism was determined in a moment, an adventure. Wild At Heart helped me to see that the whole sum of my life would determine any heroism. I had been living in quiet desperation, but at that point, I think the door cracked for a bold, even wild, Christian me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a short temper and blame it on my “wildness”, I realize that sometimes my anger is reflective of something good, that I can be angry with injustice, and myself, and the things that the enemy has done to short-circuit goodness and good things. In any case, Wild At Heart was an incredibly important gateway book for me during this season of my life.
When I moved down to Atlanta and began attending a Korean-American church for the first time in many years, I remember bringing up the book in conversation with a great deal of overt gusto and affection, until I recognized a frown on some faces. I was puzzled. With my “band of brothers”, where fathers had been abusive, marriages had been broken, and men had been absent in the church, Eldredge’s book served as wonderful fodder for “digging deeper”. Among my new Asian friends, I got feedback that Eldredge was way off theologically and extremely biased to Western notions of masculinity. My excitement for what Eldredge’s book had done for me and the healing dialogues that I had just a few hours’ drive away was summarily dismissed.
Asians do tend to differ on their notions of wildness, and certainly there is no cowboy mentality. But even autobiographically, I will confess that my father was infatuated with John Wayne and Gen. Douglas MacArthur, so perhaps there again is how my own father’s dispositions have taken me on a road less taken.
I certainly feel wilder at heart, now 5 years later, and I definitely feel like God is the whole reason to how I understand my life, my masculinity, and even my theology. I guess I only shrug my shoulders now when it comes to the topic of Eldredge, the same way one would if echinaicaea had cured my cold but not another’s. But is he really THAT bad? Does it really hurt the body of Christ THAT much? Should we ban his writings altogether? And what would that do for us? Who would be able to write then? Anne Lamott, Donald Miller, Philip Yancey and all these others…they’re going to be like pinatas.
I don’t know what other people say, but ever since I “got” the Gospel, I haven’t been afraid to read anything. Perhaps that’s where the “wild” part comes in.