Made As Wild Men

No, this isn’t the promised review of “The Way of the Wild Heart,” but some thoughts on a Christian view of masculinity.

The thing that seems so common with men, both young and old, who deal with the homosexual issue is this idea that, very early on, somehow we’re different.  We’re not…like others.  The idea, when we enter our years as young men, of being MEN is often foreign to us.  In a strange way we become sexually ambiguous.  The very idea that we could be wild, savage, even dangerous is not within our ability to process.  Dangerous?  Wild?  Aggressive?

I realize this is me wondering out loud, but I wonder which is more difficult to extend faith towards?  God’s promise that He will give us the strength and the drive to change our sexual orientation and in the battle find our healing?  Or that if we are to be the men he created us to be, that we could most definitely be dangerous and wild men.  Warriors, even.

Here’s John Eldredge from “The Way of the Wild Heart” explaining the sitch:

This is essential, for life will test you, my brothers.  Like a shop at sea, you WILL be tested, and the storms will reveal the weak places in you as a man.  They already have.  How else do you account for the anger you feel, the fear, the vulnerability to certain temptations?  Why can’t you marry the girl?  Having married, why can’t you handle her emotions?  Why haven’t you found your life’s mission?  Why do financial crises send you into a rage or depression?  You know what I speak of.  And so our basic approach to life comes down to this: we stay in what we can handle, and steer clear of everything else.  We engage where we feel we can or we must—as at work—and we hold back where we feel sure to fail, as in the deep waters of relating to our wife or our children, and in our spirituality.

You see, what we have now is a world of uninitiated men.  Partial men.  Boys, mostly, walking around in men’s bodies, with men’s jobs and families, finances, and responsibilities.  The passing on of masculinity was never completed, if it was begun at all.  The boy was never taken through the process of masculine initiation.  That’s why most of us are Unfinished Men.  And therefore unable to truly live AS men in whatever life throws at us.  And unable to pass on to our sons and daughters what THEY need to become whole and holy men and women themselves.

At the same time there are these boys and young men and men our own age around us who are all very much in need—desperate need—of someone to show them the way.  What does it mean to be a man?  AM I a man?  What should I do in this or that situation?  These boys are growing up into uncertain men because the core questions of their souls have gone unanswered, or answered badly.  They grow into men who act, but their actions are not rooted in a genuine strength, wisdom and kindness.  There is no one there to show them the way.

Masculine initiation is a journey, a PROCESS, a quest really, a story that unfolds over time.  It can be a very beautiful and powerful event to experience a blessing or a ritual, to hear words spoken to us in a ceremony of some sort.  Those moments can be turning points in our lives.  But they are only moments, and moments, as you well know, pass quickly and are swallowed in the river of time.  We need more than a moment, an event.  We need a process, a journey, an epic story of many experiences woven together, building upon one another in a progression.  We need INITIATION.  And, we need a Guide.

 At Mars Hill, masculinity equals responsibility.  To become a man, you need to know what God says about being a responsible man, then find a bride, get married and raise some kids.  That’s a lot of it, but I don’t think that’s all of it.  We’re not all marriage-minded or even marriage-eligible.  If nubility is the width and breadth of masculinity, then there’s something else missing.  I’m not countenancing endless months of navel-gazing, but I think men who look solely towards scripture and don’t bother examining their upbringing and where they feel weak and inadequate as men, are not doing women any favors.  When you start looking at men as either married or “pre-married,” I think sometimes you do more damage to men’s masculinity than if you went back and found where the damage has occurred and dealt with that lack of fathering and passing on of masculinity that occurs.  Now yes, I think that men who dare to take on that sort of inner journey won’t find the full process until they enter into relationships with women.  We were created for community and women and men were meant to be together.  But how many men enter marriages with wrong ideas of what it takes to be a man?  How many men have to learn hard, painful lessons and subject their wives and children to needless pain?

Now, let’s bring this lesson further home:

I find calling myself a “man” to be one of the more difficult things I do in every day life.  I’m extremely overweight, disabled, out of work — those are all issues that speak to my masculinity even if I had always been straight.  But the gay issues make it even more difficult to consider myself a MAN.

(Warning: personal revelation ahead, involving sexual issues.)

What made matters worse for me was that I was a “bottom.”  When you take a passive role in a sexual relationship, the role primarily assumed by the woman, you begin to take on some of those more feminine characteristics in a relationship, whether you want to or not.  I discovered that I had a great deal of power in my relationships if I was the one who determined whether or not my partner had sex.  But even with that power, I became accustomed to being taken care of.  Partner would bring home the bacon and do the work around the apartment, and I’d be the one who’d cook the bacon and do the household management.  I’d do the planning for where we went, he’d do the driving.  And the adventure, the taking the leadership in our relationship (and in my life) was nowhere to be found.  I was tested emotionally and sexually, but never as a MAN, never being the one to lead, never to be the one who takes the adventure head-on.

In scripture, God takes masculinity very seriously.  Consider Jacob, for instance.  He cheats his brother out of his birthright, which is about as cowardly and sneaky as you can get, but later he meets “a man” and they have a wrestling match.  (Don’t be fooled by this passage; the man is most probably God Himself having a fun time teaching Jacob a little of that masculinity that didn’t get passed down by his father):

Genesis 32:24-26 (English Standard Version)

24And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

Jacob, who apparently never has had to fight before in his life, now fought FOR his life, to the point God needed to give him a reminder of who his wrestling partner was.  As the victor, he had the nerve to ask God for a blessing.  He knew who this “man” was and what he was capable of doing for Jacob.

Obviously this isn’t the only way to experience that sort of ritual and passing on of masculinity, but it’s one that’s mentioned in the Bible.  (Now watch.  Some of you will take this out of context and go around saying that I promote violence as a masculine ritual.  I don’t.  Sometimes it takes a real man to NOT fight another. )  I’m praying that this book will cover some of them in more depth.  Peeking ahead, I know that there are good things to come and I suspect instead of one long article, I’ll be posting “postcards” as I go.

Blessings.

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~ by WriterRand on February 14, 2007.

4 Responses to “Made As Wild Men”

  1. To approach it positively, I’m consistently thankful for the wisdom I’ve gained as I’ve sought to better understand masculinity on this journey to wholeness. Though I recognize the folly of questioning God’s sovereignty, I feel that in the end, I’ll be more of a man for all of the growth that these attractions have brought about, than if I never struggled with homosexuality at all.

    Thank you for your honesty. May the Lord bless you to live in greater obedience tomorrow than you did today.

  2. Thanks for humbling yourself to help us! You said,”I think men who look solely towards scripture and don’t bother examining their upbringing and where they feel weak and inadequate as men, are not doing women any favors.”

    Actually, scripture urges us “examine yourselves” so the Bible and self-examination are really not mutually exclusive. As you say, we need to seriously take these things before God and not ignore them or just react emotionally.

    In the words of one of my friends, “Don’t just cry about your problems, do something!”

  3. Thanks, guys.

    It’s been tough doing all this inner work the last few days. You can even see it in the Haggard piece above; I’m still searching for someone to be the flag-bearer instead of asking God whether or not He’d have ME be the one who goes out there and leads. I often wonder if that’s in our nature as men, at least these days. I think men who DO lead, who are confident and take the reigns are probably infintely appealing to women and, maybe, even the world at large.

    This book is great. Linkage goes up today for purchasing.

  4. I am not gay. I am a married father of three. I love my family with all my heart. I became a Christian when I was 6 years old. I was raised in the church, had relatives that were ministers, my wife’s family were ministers, and eventually (years ago now) I was a licensed youth pastor myself. However, I must admit that for many years of my life, I was decidely Un-Christian-like in my attitude towards anyone who claimed the GLBT “lifestyle.” The problem was that I didn’t actually know anyone who gay.

    Once I decided to stop and actually look at the world through their eyes, I was horrified…at myself and my own self-righteous prejudices. I could see that “they” were indeed human, just like me. My sins were no different or “better” than theirs. And I also realized that, despite the very vocal exclamations of many people in this world, they didn’t have a “disease” that needed to be “cured.”

    I often see the hatred that spews from religious leaders towards homosexuals and, frankly, it makes me nauseous. Especially the likes of people like Fred Phelps of Topeka, Kansas. I’m sorry, but I think he’s a bad man.

    Formerlygay, never doubt that you are a man. However, being a “man” is not like having a coat that you can put on and take off again or change. It’s simply who you are. No two men are the same and I don’t think that they are supposed to be. There is no checklist that states all of the requirements one is supposed to meet in order to be a man.

    I wish that I could take back all of the pain that people like me and Phelps have put on you in the past. I truly hope that you find what it is that you are looking for. If you don’t, don’t worry. Take comfort in knowing that there are people in this world that understand your journey and sympathize with you. There are people who can/will/do accept you for who you are…without conditions or strings attached. You are NOT sick, diseased, or alone.

    Remember, just because someone calls a belief or value “true,” doesn’t mean that it is actually true. There are many people out there that, while most of them mean well, will have some kind of “correct answer” to give you so that you can “recover.” There are many people much wiser than I who will adamantly disagree with what I am telling you. That’s ok. You don’t have to agree or embrace everything that everyone tells you. You need to follow your heart and find your own answers. If God is truly who most people think he is, then don’t you think he’s big enough to handle any questions you throw his way? I think so, too.

    You are a very valuable human being. You just don’t know much you are worth.

    Be well.

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