book review, Gender Issues

a Warrior & the Beauty

ax(Popocteptl and  Iztaccihuatl)

“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 he is 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.”

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“We think you’ll find that every woman in her heart of hearts longs for three things: to be romanced, to play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure, and to unveil beauty. That’s what makes a woman come alive.”

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After reading Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge (2011) and Wild at Heart by John Eldredge (2001), I decided to write a good old fashioned book review. I am so fond of these two books and have learned so much from them. I didn’t want them to end, but grateful for what was spoken to me through them.

In each book, the authors invite us as men and women to reclaim our hearts. Purposefully masculine and feminine defined in the image of God. I love that John and Stasi affirm an innate longing that men and women have. I long to be romanced and to be a part of a great adventure. I have begun to be open to see how the Lord romances me. I believe He sends me love letters through beautiful displays of light.

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I have taken with me that my feminine heart is needed. That beauty is inviting and risky. But I can risk being vulnerable because it is in Jesus that I find my worth. That Jesus will thwart our plans so that our ways will not fill the holes in our heart, and so we will turn toward Him. That we have mishandled our wounds and allowed strongholds because of it.

I have taken with me that only masculinity can bestow masculinity. That a young man must go away to find his strength and come to offer it to a woman. That a man must find what his heart is made in order to truly live. Otherwise he will settle for cheap imitations. That God is wanting so badly for us to choose Him, to stay and talk with Him.

The questions we seek to get answered are directly reflective of the nature of our Creator. God is strong and firm, all powerful, fighter, warrior. God is a tender lover, Father, friend with open arms. He is the Lion and the Lamb. The piece that is missing is whats only found in Him. When we seek Him. When we open the door to His knocking. I often envision sitting at His feet like Mary did. She chose to stop, sit and listen. Luke 10:38-42. She simply chose to Stay.

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The two main themes discussed in each book are Questions and Wounds. Each man and each woman have a question that is to be answered. Sadly, the first person to give us an answer to our question gives us our wound also.

In Captivating, Stasi tell us that a woman’s question is Am I lovely?
In Wild at Heart, John tell us that a man’s question is Do I have what it takes?

These questions are to be answered by God only, but we always make the mistake of taking these questions to each other. We will never be lovely enough, nor have all of what it takes for each other.

Little girls play dress up. They play with frilly dresses, plastic glittery shoes, toy jewelery. Maybe they twirl around in front everyone at family gatherings. Maybe they put on a show in their living room. Do you see me? Am I beautiful? Do you delight in me? Am I lovely?

Little boys play superheros. They kill dragons, bears, or they are dragons and bears. Little boys turn anything into guns or swords. I was once cut in half with a tube of chap-stick my nephew was holding as a sword. Am I strong? Can I succeed? Do I have what it takes?

It may be easy to understand when comparing these questions to a child’s life, but are you struggling to see it from the perspective of an adult? Adult women want to be seen, to be noticed, to viewed as lovely. What are all the fairy tales, and Pretty Woman stories about? As women, we love a good make-over. In My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the main character Tula is longing be delighted in. To beautiful. You know that feeling when a friend notices your new earrings or a new sweater, or when you wear your hair differently?As women we compliment each other on those small things because we know what it means on a deeper level. Adult men want to know if they have what it takes. Am I going to be successful? Can I come through? Can I pull it off? A man longs for an adventure, a battle. I mentioned the movie Gladiator in my previous blog post. For every Notebook, or Officer and a Gentleman, there is a fast-cars, shoot ’em up, blow ’em up, booms and bangs movie that men love. The movies that my dad watches and describes scene by scene to me are very different than what I would have picked to watch myself. Even sports, are geared towards men. It is all action based, win or lose. Push your body and your mind, work hard, play hard, accomplish the goal, succeed.

When we as women and men are not getting our question answered through our relationship with our Creator, we are left to answer it on our own. Our answer to the question is No. We have internalized this answer from even further back in our past. Our fathers and mothers were the first people we took our question to. There may have been one particular moment when you received your answer or it may have been a series of moments. The answer to our question may have been delivered with abuse or just poor selfish decision making.

“There’s a young boy named Charles who loved to play the piano, but his father and brothers were jocks. One day they came back from the gym to find him at the keyboard, and who knows what else had built up years of scorn and contempt in his father’s soul, but his son received both barrels: “You’re such a faggot.” ……”Charles, the artistic boy, the piano player whose father called him a “faggot”–what do you think happened there? He never played the piano again after that day. Years later, as a man in his late twenties, he does not know what to do with his life. He has no passion, cannot find a career to love. And so he cannot commit to the woman he loves, cannot marry her because he is so uncertain of himself. But of course– his heart was taken out, way back there in his story.” (Wild at Heart)

“As many little girls do, Lori took ballet lessons. She felt so pretty in her pink leotard and tights that she asked her father to please come and watch her dance. He answered her that when she was on a real stage, then he would come and watch her. As you might know, dance classes end with recitals, and so, they day did come for little Lori to dance on a real stage. Pretty in her shimmering costume, she eagerly waited and watched for her father’s arrival. He never came. Later that evening friends of her father had to carry him into the house, as he was too drunk to walk in by himself. Lori’s little-girl heart believed her dad had gone to great lengths in order not to have watch her dance.” (Captivating)

“My mom was a lonely and busy woman. When I was young I had to pretend to be sick in order to get a morsel of her attention. I remember sitting at the kitchen table as a young girl watching her make dinner when she told me for the first time–but not the last—how devastated she was when she learned that she was pregnant with me. I was the last of four children, too close together, and she wept when she found out that I, the daughter of an overwhelmed mother an absent father, was coming. You can imagine the effect that has on a little girl’s heart.” (Captivating)

What is your answer to your Question thus far in life?

Who answered your Question when you were a child?

Have you taken your Question to the opposite sex or a person you had a relationship with?

How have you mishandled your Question?

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In conclusion, these are great books to be read by men and women. I recommend reading them back to back to get their full depth. If you are feeling unfulfilled with what the World is expecting of you, or even what you think you should be in the Church, these books will give you great insight. If you are recovering from a past identity or false self, these books will take you straight back to your core. There are plenty of real-life, real-talk examples from both Stasi and John there is no way you wont be able to relate. They also tell stories regarding their family and marriage. How their answers have effected their marriage and relationship with one another, good, bad and ugly.

I also recommend these books to those that are not “Believers.” Anyone that needs healing as there is much talk about our Wounds. Anyone that enjoys studying gender roles, identity, relationships, marriage etc. Anyone feeling stuck. Anyone that wants to explore more about the nature of God and Jesus. Anyone that wants to learn how we, men and women, fit together into God’s plan. How we fit together in His heart.

These books aren’t for the Religious, but whoever wants to get closer to God. Or those that are fed up with the mixed messages and mixed emotions that come from trying to function in the World.

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Below are some songs and movie clips that portray father and mother Wounds, and the answers we believe about ourselves. Remember, life is messy, but there is beauty in the struggle.

Related:

Bitter by Andy Mineo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4h7XT1JNwk

Reflections by Mariah Carey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3z7Q_cm1Tc0

The Judge movie (2014):https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XLP8exes_k

Precious movie (2009): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1FnPpU9s1w

Ransomed Heart Ministries: http://www.ransomedheart.com/

http://www.girldefined.com/call-manhood-part-1

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Gender Issues, Men

10 #manproblems

I asked some men what “men issues” are to them. I have narrowed it down to this list of 10. These are their items but my thoughts on the topic.

Temptation
Response: When boundaries seem old fashioned and constant access to people is the norm, impropriety can take over if you’re not careful. Simple texts turn into all day conversations between two people. With social media its easy to look at profiles and unlimited photos of other people. Its easy to plan out in your head just how easy it would be to take things to the next level with someone though you may already have a Someone. Though most people value fidelity, there’s always those that are on the bench ready to be put in the game. There are women that don’t mind playing second to the wife or girlfriend as long as they get to play. As a man, understand that a woman after you may not be after You. It may feel that way but she could be after you as an escape from her own problems, and you are just a pawn in the game shes playing. She’s looking to fill a hole in her heart. The flesh is weak and its more than just carnal desires. Your emotions, your spirit, your thought-life, your wisdom—its all weak. You may be lusting for sex, and she may be lusting for love, affection, and attention.

“To put it bluntly, your flesh is a weasel, a poser, and a selfish pig. And your flesh is not you.”
John Eldredge, Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul

Respect
Response: Men want to be respected. I’d like to think I respect men. I didn’t always. I have seen the negative effects of women Not respecting their husbands. Running them over with decision making, decisions for the home, decisions for the children and overall their relationship. Men want to know they are THE MAN! Like Maximus in Gladiator. Maximus has the respect of the Ceaser, the army, his family, and later the other slaves. He gains the respect of all who meet him. He has the respect of the Roman crowd. He does not fight for himself but always for others. It is plain to see and that is why he is respected. He values what is Right, and every move he makes shows that. He doesn’t shout Don’t You Know Who I Am?! He respects those around him no matter his circumstance. Women claim to want a man like that, but will not honor him in their average interactions with him.

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Leadership
Response: I hear often that men need to Step Up. Anytime something goes wrong, I’m sure there was a man somewhere sitting down. *sarcasm, kinda* We want men to step up but shut up. Do what I want you to do and don’t say anything while you do it. At one job, we acquired a new Lead. At first, there were mumblings that he was just what we needed, a Man. However, during the first week I heard something to the effect of Yeah, He was tellin everybody what to do. I kept my laughter inside. We wanted a strong male figure, but we don’t want to take directions from him. I almost made it a point to submit to his leadership, I wanted to be an example of a positive male (leader) to female (helper) relationship. There were many times when he had my back and came through for me. I didn’t require he do things my way. He also made it a point to say during my last week, “What will I do without you, Ms. Liana?” I don’t know what kind of praise and recognition others prefer. A simple statement like that proves to me my worth and value.

Failure
Response: Men are expected to perform. Just think, even sexually. If they cant perform in the moment with a woman its the ultimate fail. Even with the Independent Woman syndrome, a woman still holds high expectations for a man. After all a man needs to step up.Take care of his responsibilities.Provide for his family. Pay the bills, put food on the table. Make money. A lot of money. Be father of the year. Be my knight in shining armor. When a crisis arises, a woman looks at a man and says DO SOMETHING. Men are expected to pull money out of air, be Mr. Fix-It, solver of all problems and righter of all wrongs. We expect them to show up, but shut up until we need them. Until the boxes are too heavy, the tire is flat, or the bedroom grows cold.

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Being Enough
Response: Is he enough to make a woman happy? Probably not. I believe now only God can fulfill us. When we look to others to make us happy, they will fail us. I’ve spent many years waiting for a guy to make me happy.Thinking once I’m in a relationship, I’ll be happy. It seems as though when you hit one benchmark, another one surfaces, and another and another. The train to happiness keeps adding stops to the journey. Its seems we’ll never get where we’re trying to go. I can understand wanting your partner to be happy with the choice they made when they chose you. I get it, you don’t want them to regret that they chose you. We all want our partners to be proud to be with us. Not embarrassed.

Racism
Response: For those of us that are not-white, Race is all around us. You always know if there are other people of color in the room, or not. You always analyze the relationships between people and understand if issues of race/color are taking place underneath the surface. As a woman of color, I see how often men of color are effected by racism. Men of color are over-represented in all levels of the criminal justice system. They are under-represented in official roles of leadership. These two truths give way to stereotypes and miscommunication. Men of color are fighting against what the world thinks they are. The overriding messages of what black men are, Latino men are, etc. In Heaven and Hell, there will be no demographics. But the enemy wants us to believe we are forever different from one another. With perceived differences, come injustices, superiority, inferiority, hate crimes, genocide, and more. A man carries a heavy load and race is often times what breaks his back.
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Authenticity
Response: Googling “knowing who you are as a man” is quite disappointing. I decided on a quote:
“The man who views the world at fifty the same as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.” -Muhammad Ali

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I had the privilege of visiting the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, KY. I learned more about him there than I had ever known. I learned that he took on some controversial views on race and women at one point in his life. He was steadfast in those beliefs at the time. Decades later, he admitted his beliefs had changed and that he hadn’t always treated women how he ought to have. Having gone through four marriages I would think he was the common denominator. Muhammed Ali, born Cassius Clay, was a boxing machine at the age of 12. As a teenage boy, he didn’t eat junk food. He set himself apart from the rest of the crowd early on. Muhammed Ali would not be the legend he is today, had he not decided who he was going to be. Every man must decide who he is going to be as a man. During this time in America, everything was black and white. Muhammed Ali gained respect, notoriety, and fame because he sold everyone on who he was. He was a force to be reckoned with.
“I’m young, I’m handsome, I’m fast, I’m pretty, and cant possible be beat!”
There was no doubt who he was and he didn’t waver even when others didn’t back him up. When his beliefs became too controversial, he stayed true to his beliefs until he decided to change. Even upon changing his beliefs, he was not regarded as fickle, but still a Man.

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A Woman’s Needs
Response: If women got together to write a list of what they need, I’m sure it would be never ending, and there would be constant revisions. As I mature, my list shortens but deepens. I need to know that whomever I choose to be with, will in fact, BE THERE. I need to know that when we approach a crossroads, he will CHOOSE to continue with* me* wherever we may go. That he wont decide I’m just too much trouble and this is where we end. I need to know that we are on the same TEAM, and you will not conspire against me. You will not make me look stupid. That if I’m pulling away, you will come closer, even its uncomfortable for you. That you can be strong enough to hear my doubts and my problems and HELP. I don’t know how well you can always give a woman what she needs, but trying is half the battle.

A Woman’s Perception
Response: Let me quote my friend, ” A woman may want a certain type of man, that she has in her head. And if a guy doesn’t meet that perception then something is wrong with him and he either has to change or he isn’t a “man.” When in fact he could be a good man for you.” I admit I have done this repeatedly in my life. I broke up with my first boyfriend because I realized he didn’t deserve me being disappointed in him all the time. He deserved for someone to love him all the way through; something I could not do or, was not willing to do. I hold the belief that a man should be who you want him to be when you meet him. If hes none of the things you are wanting then that most likely wont change once you get involved. A year later, you will be upset that he never changed. But it will be your fault that you continued against your own standards.

The Scumbag
Response: Why do women choose the scum bags? No girl plays dress up and says “I cant wait to grow up and be disrespected by a man!” I have heard other women’s stories and am amazed at the BS they put up with. He doesn’t have a job or car but he sits around your house all day? You buy him clothes and shoes? He cheats on you? He hits you? Hes rude, demeaning, and patronizing? But if they heard the BS I’ve put up with. We all have our stories so I try not to judge. Our “bottom lines” vary. I know that in the back of my mind, I like to be the Good one. The Good Influence. I may choose to spend time with a guy that is rough around the edges so that I can look good. The same reason I don’t care too much for a white collar man. He looks more important than me. He looks better than me. It is because of my own selfishness, my own self-centeredness that decides I need to look out for myself. That a man cant come through for me so why pretend that there is more out there for me? Its easier to put the blame on a man, then it is to CHANGE yourself.

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And, Scumbag Steve meme just for fun….

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Related Reading:

http://www.girldefined.com/call-manhood-part-2

http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2010/10/02/why-do-some-women-prefer-jerks-for-boyfriends/

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