In 2000 I was friends with a girl who passed on to me a tape of John Eldredge using a scene from Hoosiers to illustrate the gravity of Jesus asking his disciples to carry on his work.That is a long sentence. I should work on those. The scene is where Gene Hackman gets himself thrown out of a game on purpose so that Dennis Hopper (whose story, if you remember, revolves around missing a jump shot in the playoffs – this is why his satirical nickname around town is “Shooter”) will step forward, take the playbook, etc. The scene begins (according to my tape. Yes, tape. I am kind of getting old) with Gene Hackman saying to the referee, “You Got shit in your eyes?” Listening to the tape made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I still refer to it often to explain the gravity of Jesus leaving the mission to us.
The next year I heard Eldredge speak for around 6 hours. The series of talks became his book Journey of Desire. My friend Bryan Crowley and I saw him in the bathroom after his talks. We joked with him some… He was not the first speaker I heard use movie clips, but his use of them was very helpful. What I remember from that talk was his careful, Biblical explanation that my desires are not bad – not at their root, not really, even though they often become addictions (idols). My heart is not wicked. This was interesting. Many pastors bumble by this, abusing the Scriptures which are clear: once you come to trust Jesus – you’re good. God sees Jesus when he looks at you, he isn’t mad at you anymore (because sin isn’t the deepest thing about you anymore). I was nervous when I went to Seminary that I was going to unlearn this (I don’t know why really, I just was). Far from it, my Old Testament Professor and I had a conversation about it and he was confused most of the time. I do this to certain people a lot; confuse them. Anyway, Eldredge first understood the language of the New Covenant and its implications from Watchman Nee and I am very dependent upon his explanation when I talk to people and especially when I preach.
The following year I read Wild at Heart. It unnerved me. Good Masculinity? Really? Masculinity bestowing masculinity? Really? As a kid I was afraid to climb trees, fight, etc. I knew in my core being that this was a problem, but no one ever really explained why. Guns, basketball, fear of doing flips off of the diving board… all of these things (and more: thinking the girl is the adventure) were being explained to me – more importantly, explained in light of the grand story of God rescuing his people. I remember when Rachel and I broke up (it is still kind of debated who broke up with who). I was crushed. But, I wasn’t really crushed. The lump in my throat was there, but I played basketball that day. We won a lot of games, I played within my abilities, shot well, finished well, and remember getting a nice compliment from an older friend named Matt Houston that I had really brought my A-Game that day. Matt is a Jayhwak and knew me when I was 18; that means his compliment meant a ton. I was learning how to be a man.
In 2003 I drove John and Morgan (one of the Ransomed Heart team members) to and from Kanakuk to speak during their Work Week. It was very fun. We had to stop for gas, and John washed my windows while asking me about Youth Ministry and the tricky aspects of when people ask about numbers, etc. I had heard the talks before, but it was good to watch Kanakuk College Students hear them, “My heart isn’t wicked?” “No, not anymore. That was before… that is old covenant.”
I have continued to read his books. I continue to love them. if you’re reading this and didn’t like the Theology in Wild at Heart – he was more clear in his later books. Under his mentoring I learned that the way I am wired as a Man is good – not as a rule, but as a rule under the scrutiny of the Bible. My prayer life is more conversational through his leadings. When I struggle to love my wife well; what I hear from this mentor is “What kind of man do you want to be?” And it is helpful, freeing, a kind of Christianity and masculinity I can really believe in.