John Eldredge has made it his mission to assist men in discovering a Christ-honoring, biblical roadmap to living out manhood as designed by God. Eldredge, author of the bestselling WILD AT HEART, now presents a companion title (with an optional workbook) on equipping men and their sons for the challenges of living in a technological, post-modern society. He cautions readers that this book is a map and as such "...is a guide, not a formula. It offers freedom." So saying, Eldredge highly recommends stepping back and reading WILD AT HEART first, as this new text builds upon the precepts offered in the earlier volume.
Eldredge opens this new book with a frustrating account of feeling totally inadequate at fixing his sprinkler system. Even with written instructions and an online video for some measure of guidelines, he confesses that it's not enough. He realizes he needs another guy to help him, and he's "hacked off" because he can't do it himself. Eldredge comments that men frequently face that sudden terror of recognizing that they're being called upon to "play the man" and yet have no idea how to go about it successfully. And, asserts Eldredge, life is constantly pressing the message that there is "no room for error," so a man better get it right. He calls this the "unfinished man syndrome," or the fatherless condition so many men know far too much about. This is why Eldredge hungers to lead other men in the way of "bestowing" masculinity upon their sons before it's too late.
In a six-stage, sometimes overlapping, pilgrimage, Eldredge lays out the masculine journey as he sees it: Boyhood to Cowboy to Warrior to Lover to King to Sage, all within a typical 80-year life span (or thereabouts). According to Eldredge, each stage must have its allotted time for learning appropriate life lessons so that the man grows deep in his foundations; otherwise, the scarring of an underdeveloped soul might result and assert itself when strength is most required.
In his chapter on raising the Cowboy, he expounds upon the strength of adventure, allowing it, encouraging it and experiencing it. Christian men and boys need something "epic" for which to fight, something beyond themselves worth giving their lives for with abandon. Eldredge is all for offering initiation opportunities that mold and invite males into a fellowship of men where commonality, hard work and deep soul sharing can flourish. No matter how differing the circumstances may be, living intentionally is key, writes Eldredge, for much is at stake.
As is true with his other works, brief discussions of worthy films, books, poems and music are referenced as additional sensory life markers. And, as always, Eldredge writes from the heart, shooting straight with his reading audience and willing to risk offending in order to stay true to what he believes is God's purpose and design for biblical manhood.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on October 1, 2006