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

a Nice Guy…

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“Well aren’t there any guys at your church?”

Asked by many a non-churchy friend. Yes,  I am 29 years old. Yes, my last relationship was two years ago.  Yes,  I “go to church.” And, yes there are guys there too.

There are three points I want to make clear with this post on this topic.

1. My faith is not a recreational activity.

2. Church is not Christian Mingle in real life.

3. I’m not looking for a Nice Guy.

When you ask me the innocent and dreaded question, you are implying all of the above. There are some men and women that I know that take their health extremely serious. They are in the gym everyday at 5am and/or every evening. They set goals for themselves and achieve them. They are constantly working to improve the function, strength and stamina of their bodies. Continuously pushing their limits. They eat clean, and prep their meals in advance for the upcoming week. Whereas I continuously skip meals, coffee is often my breakfast and lunch. I enjoy a frozen pizza and cold high-fructose corn syrup in a can. When I see a lovely donut, they see garbage. They ingest more protein in a day then I can in a week. They are usually well versed in food education and often are sought after for fitness advice from everyone. Some have chosen to not put poison into their body like drugs and alcohol. They are passionate and excited about their lifestyle and life system. They make jokes like “Does he even lift?” “Do you even squat?” *Insert laughter now* Calling each other BEASTS. They are Beasts for whatever joy they experience directly associated with their daily choices and progress. For these people, working out and “going to the gym” is not recreation. It is their way of life. They wake up and live and breath that stuff.

And so, please think of me as one of these people. But instead of the gym, I’m in a church multiple days a week. I set goals for myself and have achieved them. I continue to push myself spiritually and in my obedience to God. I prep my choices and attitude in advance by praying and engaging in like-minded conversations with others. Instead of being well versed in food, calories, protein, and vitamins, I’m working to be well versed in Scripture and all materials related to Christian reading. I try to ingest what is holy. When I see sexually explicit images (which are practically everywhere), I see garbage. I have chosen to not put poison into my body like drugs and alcohol. I am passionate and excited about my lifestyle and life system. I make jokes like “God sure has blessed him!” “I need a spiritual leader in my household!” “I’ll be his Proverbs 31 Woman!” *Insert laughter now* Now, I’m not sure I want to label myself a BEAST for Jesus but you can connect the dots. My commitments and priorities now outweigh those of the past. I am not who I used to be. Just as some of those people are no longer overweight or scrawny, but physical powerhouses. I’m striving to a spiritual powerhouse. So please understand if you haven’t heard from me in awhile or if I haven’t participated in extra curricular activities with you, I am in a different arena now. I’m living life in a grander stadium now. I’m not in the game to just find a male companion to have sex with, play house with, or to validate my beauty and value as a woman.

I am a sinner. All of us are. Even the “guys at church.” Knowing where I have been, I completely understand where some of the young men at my church could have been. Some cliche Facebook stalking has revealed the past of some of my male counterparts. They used to party like me. Some pictures reveal the same bars or clubs I used to frequent. We could have been in the same bar at the same time six or seven years ago. I’m sure they have slept with many women. I’m sure they struggle with sexual purity and a pure thought life like I do. I’m sure they contributed to disrespecting women by using them like I have used men. I’m sure they are still figuring out who they are in this newer life. Church is not our new bar scene. Its where we come together to practice being the Man or Woman God has planned for us to be. We begin to desire healthy relationships, boundaries, and Marriages arranged by God. We begin to see a relationship without God is doomed because we are too imperfect to make one last ourselves. Our desires for the Marriages and Families we never had are so strong we honestly put our fleshy desires on the back burner. We struggle with our exes, past flings, and attractive un-Believers popping up anywhere and everywhere, distracting us and even contributing to us falling back into our old ways at times. We are not perfect. Because we get out of bed on Sunday mornings and head to the same place does not mean we are emotionally and spiritually able to manage and tend to the responsibility of loving another person. If you think church is comprised of “just nice guys” you are naive.

The men that attend church can be adulterers, fornicators, liars, cheaters, manipulators, mama’s boys, lazy, selfish, controlling, abusive, ego-maniacs, shy, timid, quiet, fun, respectful, aloof, wealthy, musicians, entrepreneurs, sensitive, loyal, fast food workers, teachers, I could go on and on. They are some of the same men you have met before but you didn’t know they were “Christian” because they didn’t tell you or they didn’t live it. I am 18 pages in to Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. I was destined to read this book because on page 12, he writes about Legends of the Fall (1994). *Side note: This is the year I fell in love with Brad Pitt* The author describes the movie and the three main characters briefly. He describes the more popular character of Tristan played by Brad. Tristan is the wild man, long hair-dont care. He spends long periods of time out of the house, independent of his family. Each time he returns to the ranch it is almost unexpected. He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty, he welcomes adventure and challenge. Hes tough and bold. He allows his wildness to only be tamed towards the end of the movie, this short lived though. In comparison to his older and younger brother, he steals the spotlight. Older brother Alfred, is responsible, sensible. He becomes a business man and later a politician. Younger brother Samuel, is boyish and college educated school boy. He dies in battle during World War II predictably unprepared for the grit involved. John Eldredge points out in his book, “I have yet to meet a man who wants to be Alfred or Samuel. I’ve yet to meet a woman who wants to marry one.” Please don’t take this the wrong way that politicians and school boys are not attractive to women. However, there is something about Tristan the wild one, the one untamed. Untamed by Feminism. Another character I fell in love with is Forrest Bondurant epically played by Tom Hardy from the movie Lawless (2012). Forrest is a bootlegger during Prohibition. He is a living legend during his day. He is myth and intimidates many. The other local bootleggers follow his lead. He goes to battle for his brothers and the beauty of the movie. He is tough and says, “I’m a Bondurant, and we dont back down from nobody.” Maybe I have a thing for outlaws. The inner most feminine parts of me are attracted to these men because they are untamed. They are bold, courageous, they are not “yes men.” They lead, lead at work, lead at home, lead in the community, and some coach little league. They don’t run and hide when things get dangerous. They speak with authority and aren’t afraid to put others in their place when needed. When they walk into the room you can know everything will be alright. These men may have long hair or short hair. He may be tall or not really. He may have arms of tattoos or wear a button up shirt. These men may have biceps on their biceps, or not so much. But these are the qualities I prefer in a man. I’m not looking for a smiling “whatever you want babe” kinda guy. I want to be overwhelmed by his masculine energy. A man that is tender when the time is right and ready to fight for me, God, family, the community when the time calls. Besides the only time you really seek out a Nice Guy is when the bane of your existence crushes your soul. You limp away from the horror and say “I need to find a nice guy” aka the safe guy. A guy that will remain in the friend zone with you while you recover and go out to find yourself another man to rip out your heart again. I don’t want a male BFF to paint my nails with. I want a man that will go to battle for me and take me on a great adventure.

*Dont drag this out and take away that women [or me] are attracted to criminals, bootleggers, or crazies! There are qualities that those characters embody that make them sought after.

More: Another non-Nice guy character I love is Frank Chambers played by Josh Brolin from the movie Labor Day. He is an escaped convict that commandeers a woman and her son over a Labor Day weekend. Over the weekend, he provides a tenderness, wildness, and brings an unmatched soulful masculinity to this desolate woman. I am captivated by their relationship and now long to make a peach pie with a man. Don’t judge me. Frank begins to complete chores around the house, he cooks, and fixes the broken things. He cares for the woman by making a difficult life easier for her. He teaches her son how to properly throw and catch a baseball. Though his future is uncertain, he provides a soft and safe place for her feminine heart to rest. For that is he brave. He begins a love and life with the risk of losing it just as quick as it started. He loves and delights in all the things her ex-husband threw to the curb. This character is a great balance of masculinity. Tender, protective, brave, wild, dangerous.
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Related reading:

http://www.faithit.com/10-things-christianity-is-not/

http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/04/07/jesus-didnt-care-about-being-nice-or-tolerant-and-neither-should-you/
http://theprayingwoman.com/2014/11/06/christian-dating-7-signs-theyre-not-willing-to-commit/
http://www.liesyoungwomenbelieve.com/im-looking-just-husband/#disqus_threadhttp://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/it-meets-my-needs-and-other-bad-reasons-choosing-church

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

 

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http://en.gravatar.com/that1liana

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