Wild at Heart by John Eldredge

Adam was created outside the Garden, in the wilderness.
And ever since then boys have never been at home indoors, and men have had an insatiable longing to explore.
The masculine heart needs a place where nothing is prefabricated, modular, nonfat, zip lock, franchised, on-line, microwavable. Where there are no deadlines, cell phones, or committee meetings. Where there is room for the soul.
If a man is ever to find out who he is and what he’s here for, he has got to take that journey for himself.
“Where are all the real men?” is regular fare for talk shows and new books. You asked them to be women, I want to say.
When all is said and done, I think most men in the church believe that God put them on the earth to be a good boy.
That’s what we hold up as models of Christian maturity: Really Nice Guys. We don’t smoke, drink, or swear, that’s what makes us men. Now let me ask my male readers: In all your boyhood dreams growing up, did you ever dream of becoming a Nice Guy?
The church wags its head and wonders why it can’t get more men to sign up for its programs. The answer is simply this: We have not invited a man to know and live from his deep heart.
Little girls do not invent games where large numbers of people die, where bloodshed as a prerequisite for having fun. Hockey, for example, was not a feminine creation. Nor was boxing. A boy wants to attack something – and so does a man even if it’s only a little white ball on a tee. He wants to whack it into kingdom come. On the other hand, my boys do not sit down to tea parties. They do not call their friends on the phone to talk about relationships. They grow bored of games that have no element of danger or competition or bloodshed. Cooperative games based on “relational interdependance” are complete nonsense. “No one is killed?” they ask, incredulous. “No one wins? What’s the point?” The universal nature of this ought to have convinced us by now. The boy is a warrior, the boy is his name. And those are not boyish antics he i doing. When boys play at war they are rehearsing their part in a much bigger drama. One day, you just might need that boy to defend you.
What would Robin Hood or King Arthur be without the women they love? Lonely men fighting lonely battles.
What if? What if those deep desires in our hearts are telling us the truth, revealing to us the life we were meant to live? God gave us eyes so that we might see; he gave us earts that we might hear; he gave us wills that we might choose, and gave us hearts that we might live. The way we handle the heart is everthing. A man must know he is powerful; he must know he has what it takes. A woman must know she is beautiful, she must know she is worth fighting for.
Most of the men I know are trying hard not to become like their fathers. But who does that leave them to follow after? From whom will they derive their sense of strength?
…he gives them an identity and a reason to fight.
…if all you have ever longed for is just one kind word, then Christ is the incarnation of tender mercy. He reaches out and touches you. On the other hand, if you’re a Pharisee, one of those self-appointed doctrine police…watch out. On more than one occasion Jesus “picks a fight” with those notorious hypocrites.
Dorothy Sayers wrote that the church has “very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah” making him “a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.”
It then occurred to me that after God made all this, he pronounced it good, for heaven’s sake. It’s his way of letting us know he rather prefers adventure, danger, risk, the element of surprise. This whole creation is unapologetically wild. God loves it that way.
Even though he knew what would happen, what heartbreak and suffering and devastation would follow upon our disobedience, God chose to have children. And unlike some hyper-controlling parents, who take away every element of choice they can from their children, God gave us a remarkable choice. He did not make Adam and Eve obey him. He took a risk. A staggering risk, with staggering consequences. He let others into his story, and he lets their choices shape it profoundly.
It’s not the nature of God to limit his risks and cover his bases. Far from it. Most of the time, he actually lets the odds stack up against him. Against Goliath, a season soldier and a trained killer, he sends… a freckle-faced little shepherd kid with a slingshot. Most commanders going into battle want as many infantry as they can get. God cuts Gideon’s army from thirty-two thousand to three-hundred. Then he equips the ragtag little band that’s left with tourches and watering pots. It’s not just a battle or two that God takes his chances with, either. Have you thought about his handling of the gospel? God needs to get a message out to the human race, without which they will perish forever. What’s the plan? First, he starts with the most unlikely group ever; a couple of prostitutes, a few fisherman with no better than second-grade education, a tax collector. Then, he passes the ball to us. Unbelievable.
Often when I am with a woman, I find myself quietly wondering. What is she telling me about God? I know he wants to say something to the world through Eve – what is it?
For after years of living in a cage, a lion no long even believes it is a lion…and a man no longer believes he is a man.
How come when men look in their hearts they don’t discover something valiant and dangerous, but instead find anger, lust, and fear? Most of the time, I feel more fearful than I do fierce.
What makes pornography so addictive is that more than anything else in a lost man’s life, it makes him feel like a man without ever requiring a thing of him. The less a guy feels like a real man in the presence of a real woman, the more vulnerable he is to porn.
This is every man’s deepest fear: to be exposed, to be ofund out, to be discovered as an impostor, and not really a man.
We doubt very much that we have any real strength to offer, and we’re pretty certain that if we did offer what we have it wouldn’t be enough.
Desire reveals design, and design reveals destiny.
Every man repeats the sin of Adam, every day. We won’t risk, we won’t fight, and we won’t rescue Eve.
Every boy, in his journey to become a man, takes an arrow in the center of his heart, in the place of his strength. Because the wound is rarely discussed and even more rarely healed, every man carries a wound. And the wound is nearly always given by his father.
[Men] praise indirectly, by way of accomplishment.
Miss that moment and you’ll miss a boy’s heart forever. It’s not a question – it’s the question, the one every boy and man is longing to ask. Do I have what it takes? Am I powerful? Until a man knows he’s a man he will forever be trying to prove he is one, while at the same time shrink from anything that might reveal he is not. Most men live their lives haunted by the question, or crippled by the answer they’ve been given.
In order to understand how a man receives a wound, you must understand the central truth of a boy’s journey to manhood. Masculinity is bestowed. A boy learns who is he and what he’s got from a man, or the company of men. He cannot learn it any other place. He cannot learn it from other boys, and he cannot learn it from the world of women. The plan from the beginning of time was that his father would lay the foundation for a young boy’s heart, and pass on to him that essential knowledge and confidence in his strength. Dad would be the first man in his life, and forever the most important man. Above all, he would answer the question for his son and give him his name. Throughout the history of man given to us in Scripture, it is the father who gives the blessing and thereby “names” the son.
“The ancient societies believe that a boy becomes a man only through ritual and effort – only through the “active intervention of older men,”
No matter how good your life may have seemed to you, you live in a broken world full of broken people.
For to live a driven life you have to literally shove your heart down, or drive it with whips. You can never admit need, never admit brokenness. This is the story of the creation of that false self.
Those are the two basic options. Men either overcompensate for their wound and become driven (violent men) or they think back and go passive (retreating men).
You cannot teach a boy to use his strength by stripping him of it. Jesus was able to retaliate, believe me. But he chose not to. And yet we suggest that a boy who is mocked, shamed before his fellows, stripped of all power and dignity should stay in that beaten place because Jesus wants him there? You will emasculate him for life. From that point on all will be passive and fearful. He will grow up never knowing how to stand his ground, never knowing if he is a man indeed. Oh yes, he will be courteous, sweet even, deferential, minding all his manners. It may look moral, it may look like turning the other cheek, but it is merely weakness. You cannot turn a cheek you do not have. Our churches are full of such men.
— a man is not wounded once, but many, many times in the course of his life. Nearly every blow ends up falling in the same place: against his strength. Life takes it way, one vertebra at a time, until in the end he has no spine at all.
The idea, widely held in our culture, is that the aggressive nature of boys is inherently bad, and we have to make them into something more like girls. The primary tool for that operation is our public school system. The average schoolteacher faces an incredible challenge: to bring order to a room of boys and girls, and promote learning. The main obstacle to that noble goal is getting the boys to sit still, keep quiet, and pay attention… for an entire day. You might as well hold back the tide. That’s not the way a boy is wired, and it’s not the way a boy learns. Rather than changing the way we do male education, we try to change males.
At least three to four times as many boys than girls are essentially defined as ill because their preferred patterns of play don’t fit easily into the structure of the school. Well-meaning pscyho-managers then prescribe tranquilizing drugs for ADD, such as Ritalin… The situation is scandalous. The use of drugs so disproportionately among boys betrays the failure of school authorities to understand sex differences… The only disease these boys may have is being male.
We don’t know how to initiate boys into men; and second, we’re not sure we really want to.
Yes, a man is a dangerous thing. So is a scalpel. It can wound or it can save your life. You don’t make it safe by making it dull; you put it in the hands of someone who knows what he’s doing.
The Enemy fears you. You are dangerous big-time. If you are ever really got your heart back, live from it with courage, you would be a huge problem to him. You would do a lot of damage…on the side of good.
Most men have never been initiated into manhood.
He had all the appearances of masculinity, but none of it felt like it was coming from a true center.
Femininity can arouse masculinity.
But femininity can never bestow masculinity.
When a man takes his question to the woman what happens is either addition or emasculation. Usually both.
This is why so many men secretly fear their wives. She sees him as no one else does, sleeps with him, know what he’s made of. If he has given her the power to validate him as a man, then he has also given him the power to invalidate him too.
What’s fascinating to note is that homosexuals are actually more clear on this point. They know that what is missing in their hearts is masculine love. The problem is that they’ve sexualized it. Joseph Nicolosi says that homosexuality is an attempt to repair the would by filling it with masculinity, either the masculine love that was missing or the masculine strength many men feel they do not possess. It, too, is a vain search and that is why the overwhelming number of homosexual relationships do not last, why so many gay men move from one man to another and why so many of them suffer from depression and a host of other addictions. What they need can’t be found there.
…despite a man’s past and the failures of his own father to initiate him, God could take him on that journey, provide what was missing.
The history of man’s relationship with God is the story of how God calls him out, takes him on a journey and gives him his true name.
He created Adam for adventure, battle, and beauty; he created us for a unique place in his story and he is committed to bringing us back to the original design.. So God calls Abram out from Ur of the Chaldeans to a land he has never seen, to the frontier, and along the way Abram gets a new name. He becomes Abraham. God takes Jacob off into Mesopotamia somewhere, to learn things he has to learn and cannot learn at his mother’s side. When he rides back into town, he has a limp and a new name as well.
“Men are taught over and over when they are boys that a wound that hurts is shameful,” notes Bly. “A wound that stops you from continuing to play is a girlish wound. He who is truly a man keeps walking, dragging his guts behind.
That sort of misunderstanding is why for most of us, our wound is an immense source of shame. A man’s not supposed to get hurt; he’s certainly not supposed to let it really matter. We’ve seen too many movies where the good guy takes an arrow, just breaks it off, and keeps on fighting; or maybe he gets shot but is still able to leap across a canyon and get the bad guys. And so most men minimize their wound. “It’s not a big deal. Lots of people get hurt when they’re young. I’m okay.”
The only thing more tragic than the tragedy that happens to us is the way we handle it. God is fiercely committed to you, to the restoration and release of your masculine heart. But a wound that goes unacknowledged and unwept is a wound that cannot heal. A wound you’ve embraced is a wound that cannot heal. A wound you think you deserved is a wound that cannot heal. That is why Brennan Manning says, “The spiritual life begins with the acceptance of our wounded self.” Really? How can that be? The reason is simple: “Whatever is denied cannot be healed.” But that’s the problem, you see. Most men deny their wound – deny that it happened, deny that it urt, certainly deny that it’s shaping the way they live today. And so God’s initiation of a man must take a very cunning course; a course that feels very odd, even cruel. He will wound us in the very place where we have been wounded.
The true test of a man, the beginning of his redemption, actually starts when he can no longer rely on what’s he used all his life. The realy journey begins when the false self fails.
This is a very dangerous moment, when God seems set against everything that has meant life to us. Satan spies his opportunity, and leaps to accuse God in our hearts. You see, he says, God is angry with you. He’s disappointed in you. If he loved you he would make things smoother. He’s not out for your best, you know. The Enemy always tempts us back toward control, to recover and rebuild the false self.
Drop the fig leaf; come out from hiding. For how long? Longer than you want to; long enough to raise the deeper issues, let the wound surface from beneath it al. Losing the false self is painful; though it’s a mask, it’s one we’ve worn for years and losing it can feel like losing a close friend. Underneath the mask is all the hurt and fear we’ve been running from, hiding from. To let it come to the surface can shake us like an earthquake.
You release her as the object of your anger because you release her as the one who was supposed to make you a man.
…he can never heal his wound by delivering another to the one he promised to love.
Notice that the struggle with pornography and masturbation is most difficult when you are lonely, or beat up, or longing for comfort in some way.
Our sin is that stubborn part inside that wants, above all else, to be independent. There’s a part of us fiercely committed to living in a way where we do not have to depend on any one – especially God. Then culture comes along with figures like John Wayne and James Bond and all those other “real men,” and the one thing they have in common is that they are loners, they don’t need anyone. We come to believe deep in our hearts that needing anyone for anything is a sort of weakness, a handicap. This is why a man never, ever stops to ask for directions.
….so many men I know life with a deep misunderstanding of Christianity. They look at is as a “second chance” to get their act together. They’ve been for given, now they see it as their job to get with the program. They’re trying to finish the marathon with a broken leg. But follow this closely now: You’ll recall that masculinity is an essence that is passed from father to son. That is a picture, as so many things in life are, of a deeper reality. The true essence of strength is passed to us from God through our union with him.
We know we are meant to embody strength, we know we are not what we were meant to be, and so we feel our brokenness as a source of shame.
Men are typically quite harsh with the broken places within them. Many report feeling as though there is a boy inside, and they despise that about themselves. Quit being such a baby, they order themselves.
Abiding in the love of God is our only hope, the only true home for our hearts. It’s not that we mentally acknowledge that God loves us. It’s that we let our hearts come home to him, and stay in his love.
Don’t wait to forgive until you feel like forgiving; you will never get there. Feelings take time to heal after the choice to forgive is made” We allow God to bring up the hurt from our past, for “if your forgiveness doesn’t visit the emotional core of your life, it will will be incomplete.” We acknowledge that it hurt, that it mattered, and we choose to extend forgiveness to our father. This is not saying, “It didn’t really matter”; it is not saying, “I probably deserved part of it anyway.” Forgiveness says, “It was wrong, it mattered, and I release you.”
What of me, dear Lord? Are you pleased? What did you see? I am sorry that I have to ask, wishing I knew without asking. Fear, I suppose, makes me doubt. Still, I yearn to hear from you – a word, or image, a name or even just a glance from you.
True strength does not come out of bravado. Until we are broken, our life will be self-centered, self-reliant; our strength will be our own. So long as you think you are really something in and of yourself, what will you need God for? I don’t trust a man who hasn’t suffered; I don’t let a man get close to me who hasn’t faced his wound. Think of the posers you know – are they the kind of man you would call at 2 AM, when life is collapsing around you? Not me. I don’t want cliches, I want deep, soulful truth, and that only comes when a man has walked the road I’ve been talking about.
If we would endeavor, like men of courage, to stand in the battle, surely we would feel the favorable assistance of God from Heaven. For he who giveth us occasion to fight, to the end we may get the victory, is ready to succor those that fight manfully, and do trust in his grace. – Thomas A. Kempis
There is no other man who can replace you in your life, in the arena you’ve been called to. If you leave your place in the line, it will remain empty. No one else can be who you are meant to be. You are the hero in your story. Not a bit player, not an extra, but the main man. This is the next leg in the initiation journey, when God calls a man forward to the front lines. He wants to develop and release in us the qualities every warrior needs – including a keen awareness of the enemies he will face.
…a warrior is cunning. He knows when to fight and when to run; he can sense a trap and never charges blindly ahead; he knows what weapons to carry and how to use them. Whatever specific terrain you are called to – at home, at work, in the realm of the arts or industry of world politics, you will always encounter three enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil. They make up a sort of unholy trinity. Because they always conspire together it’s a bit difficult to talk about them individually; in any battle at least two of them are involved, but usually it’s all three.
What the Scriptures call the flesh, the old man, or the sinful nature, is that part of fallen Adam in every man that always wants the easiest way out.
To put it bluntly, your flesh is a weasel, a poser, and a selfish pig. And your flesh is not you. Did you know that? Your flesh is not the real you.
The Big Lie in the church today is that you are nothing more than “a sinner saved by grace.” You are a lot more than that. You are a new creation in Christ. The New Testament calls you a saint, a holy one, a son of God. In the core of your being you are a good man. Yes, there is a war within us, but it is a civil war. The battle is not between us and God, no, there is a traitor within who wars against our true heart fighting alongside the Spirit of God in us.
We are never, ever told to crucify our heart. We are never told to kill the true man within us, never told to get rid of those deep desires for battle and adventure and beauty.
…accepting flattery in exchange for some sort of loyalty, is sabotage.
…”the world” is not a place or a set of behaviors – it is any system built by our collective sin, all our false selves coming together to reward and destroy each other. Take all those posers out there, put them together in an office or a club or a church, and what you get is what the Scriptures mean by the world.
The world of posers is shaken by a real man.
These men knew they were at war, yet they refused to act like it. They lived in a dangerous denial – a denial that not only endangered them but countless others who depended on them to do their part. It is a perfect picture of the church in the Wet when it comes to spiritual warfare. During a recent church staff meeting, a friend of mine raised the suggestion that some of the difficulties they were facing might be the work of the Enemy. “What do you think?” he asked. “Well, I suppose that sort of thing does happen,” one of the other pastors replied. “In the Third World, perhaps, or maybe to thwart a major crusade. You know…places where cutting-edge ministry is going on.”
You can’t fight a battle you don’t think exists.
Now in my clearer moments I know it’s an attack, but you must understand that all this comes on so subtly it seems true at the time.
So long as a man remains no real threat to the Enemy, Satan’s line to him is You’re fine. But after you do take sides, it becomes Your heart is bad and you know it.
Finally, he probes the perimeter, looking for a weakness.
Satan doesn’t just throw a thought at us, he throws feelings too. Walk into a dark house late at night and suddenly fear sweeps over you; or just stand in a grocery line with all those tabloids shouting sex at you and suddenly a sense of corruption is yours.
The poor woman had simply thought they were normal for everyone since they were normal for her.
The Enemy, once discovered, usually doesn’t just roll over and go away without a fight.
How did Jesus win the battle against Stan? God was with him.
[Definition of courage – G.K. Chesterton] – It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.
He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to live, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine.
…most men have a hard time sustaining any sort of devotional life because it has no vital connection to recovering and protecting their strength; it feels about as important as flossing. But if you saw your life as a great battle and you know you needed time with God for your very survival, you would do it. Maybe not perfectly – nobody every does and that’s not the point anyway – but you would have a reason to seek him. We give a half-hearted attempt at the spiritual disciplines when the only reason we have is that we “ought” to. But we’ll find a way to make it work when we are convinced we’re history if we don’t.
The discipline, by the way, is never the point. The whole point of a “devotional life” is connecting with God. This is our primary antidote to the counterfeits the world holds out to us. If you do not have God and have him deeply, you will turn to other lovers.
The reason is, if you are going to serve the True King you’re going to need his authority. We dare not taken on any angel, let a lone a fallen one, in our own strength. That is why Christ extends his authority to us, “and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” (Col 2:10). Rebuke the Enemy in your own name and he laughts, command him in the name of Christ and he flees.
One more thing: Don’t even think about going into battle alone. Don’t even try to take the masculine journey without at least one man by your side. Yes, there are times a man must face the battle alone, in the wee hours of the morn, and fight will all he’s got. But don’t make that a lifestyle of isolation. This may be our weakest point, as David Smith points out in “The Friendless American Male” – “One serious problem is the friendless condition of the average American male. Men find it hard to accept that they need the fellowship of other men.” Thanks to the men’s movement the church understands now that a man needs other men, but what we’ve offered is another two-dimensional solution: “accountability” groups or partners. Ugh. That sounds so old covenant: “You’re really a fool and you’re just waiting to rush into sin, so we’d better post a guard by you to keep you in line.”
We don’t need accountability groups, we need fellow warriors, someone to fight alongside, someone to watch our back. A young man just stopped me on the street to say, “I feel surrounded by enemies and I’m all alone.” The whole crisis in masculinity today has come because we no longer have a warrior culture, a place for men to learn to fight like men. We don’t need a meeting of Really Nice Guys, we need a gathering of Really Dangerous Men. That’s what we need.
We have no equivalent now for a Purple Heart of spiritual warfare, but we will. One of the nobles moments that await us will come at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Our Lord will rise and begin to call those forward who were wounded in battle for his name’s sake and they will be honored, and their courage rewarded.
But when a women never hears she’s worth fighting for, she comes to believe that’s the sort of treatment she deserves.
I wanted to look like the knight, but I didn’t want to bleed like one.
What makes Maximus or William Wallace so heroic is simply this: They are willing to die to set others free.
But because most men have not yet fought the battle, most women are still in the tower.
Most men, you see, marry for safety; they choose a woman will make them feel like a man but never really challenge them to be one.
You love her because that’s what you are made to do; that’s what a real man does.
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 come alive.
All my life I had been asking the world to tell me what to do with myself. This is different from seeking counsel or advice; what I wanted was freedom from responsibility and especially freedom from risk. I wanted someone else to tell me who to be. Thank God it didn’t work. The scripts they handed me I simply could not bring myself to play for very long.
There is a design God has woven into the fabric of this world, and if we violate it we cannot hope to find life. Because our hearts have strayed so far from home, he’s given us the Law as a sort of handrail to help us back from the precipice. But the goal of Christian discipleship is the transformed heart; we move from a boy who needs the Law to the man who is able to live by the Spirit of the law. “My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness…Legalism is helpless in bring this about; it only gets in the way” – Gal 5:16,23
Naturally, we are inclined to be so mathematical and calculating that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing… Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life; gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness; it should rather be an expression of breathless expectation.
God is a person, not a doctrine. He operates not like a system – not even a theological system – but with all the originality of a truly free and alive person.
I began to realize something about the American Army I had never thought possible before. Although it is highly regimented and bureaucratic under garrison conditions, when the Army gets in the field, it relaxes and the individual initiative comes forward and does what has to be done. This type of flexibility was one of the great strengths of the American Army in World War II (Citizen Soldiers by Stephen Ambrose)
What I am saying is that our false self demands a formula before he’ll engage; he wants a guarantee of success, and mister, you aren’t going to get one. So there comes a time in a man’s life when he’s got to break away from all that and head off into the unknown with God. This is a vital part of our journey and if we balk here, the journey ends.
Obey God in the thing he shows you, and instantly the next thing is opened up. God will never reveal more truth about himself until you have obeyed what you know already… This chapter brings out the delight of a real friendship with God.

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