By Andy Hawker
I read Wild at Heart by John Eldredge in 2001 while on a trip to Mexico. In the book, Eldredge writes that we have lost our way as men because the arrows of life have caused wounds in us, lies whispered to us by the enemy to keep us from living the better life that we were created to live. This is the battle for a man’s heart, which causes us to create a false self to hide our wounds from the rest of the world.
On the plane ride back to Denver, I was alternately reading and looking out the window at the magnificent Rocky Mountains. At that point, I read, “Many of you reading this book will think that this really doesn’t apply to you; ‘I don’t have any wounds, and there haven’t been any arrows, so this isn’t really for me.’” In the next section, Eldredge’s words encouraged me, the reader, to stop, pray to the Father, and ask Him to show me the arrows of life, the wounds they’d created in me, and the false self I had created to hide those wounds.
My initial thought was This is kind of silly, but I’ll play along anyway. I put the book down, looked out the window at the mountains and began to pray as Eldredge had suggested. Immediately I had a sense of being flooded by a cascade crashing down on me. In this deluge, I saw individual frames of a film of my life. Images of events from middle school, then high school and college. Images of circumstances that happened to me and around me that contained pain and shame. And then came images of me becoming the person that hid the pain, a person that I knew was not authentic, my false self. And while these images poured out on me, one after another, I felt like I was drowning and unable to breathe as they were falling too fast and consuming me.
When I opened my eyes, I sat in stunned silence, overwhelmed by God’s revealing presence on this airplane. What had felt like a lifetime of imagery was in reality only seconds. Yet in those seconds I realized that I was not the man that God created me to be. I belonged to Him, but I was not authentic. I had allowed those arrows and wounds of life to define me rather than letting God define me.
Although I continue to struggle with being authentic, I now recognize the struggle. I continue to be a work in progress.
This wasn’t the only epiphany that came from Wild at Heart. Eldrege also explores the male heart and what it means to be a man created in God’s image. Eldredge describes how that, as men, we desire a battle to fight, a beauty to rescue and an adventure to live. These are attributes of God Himself that He gave especially to men, which is obvious from an early age—most little boys pick up sticks and turn them into guns and swords. Eldredge also points out that these desires are revealed in the art, literature, music and movies that move men. During this Lenten season, we are exploring how God touches us through creativity—His and other people’s. I relate so well to Eldredge because I love and am moved by movies, especially ones like The Last of the Mohicans.
The opening moments of The Last of the Mohicans depict a chase scene through the forest. At first, you see one man, then another, and finally a third. But it is hard to tell who is chasing whom, until you realize that all three are chasing a deer. In that opening scene with Hawkeye, Uncas, and Chingachgook, we see three men, running wild in harmony and in communion with one another. They each have a role but together are focused on the same purpose. Eldredge uses this imagery as an example of how things were before the Creation described in the book of Genesis. God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, each with a role, together in purpose and communion, wildly taking all that was theirs. I had never heard God described that way. Nor had I heard that the longing in my own heart was there by design, not by accident. It reminded me of C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when Mr. Beaver describes Aslan: “He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion…who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. ”
Later in Mohicans, Colonel Munro’s daughters Cora and Alice, as well as the British officer Major Heyward are about to be captured by the Huron war party leader, Magua. Their survival is dependent on Hawkeye, his father and his brother escaping to prevent a fight. Before Hawkeye leaves, he says to Cora, “No matter what occurs, stay alive. I will find you.” Once again the image of Jesus is revealed in the character Hawkeye, and the part of His image he has put into us. Humans are captive behind enemy lines, and His message is to stay alive, no matter what occurs. He will find us!
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed. Luke 4:18
During this Lenten season, I am reminded that Jesus did go behind enemy lines on a rescue mission that cost Him His very life. The success is in His victory over death, and His outstretched hand to lead me, to lead us, into a better, more authentic life.