Thursday, May 29, 2008

Who Am I?

I haven't given up on my commitment to finish reading "Wild At Heart" by John Eldredge. I'm just about half way through the book, and i must say that he's opened my mind to what it really means to be a man; the true man that God created me to be.

Hypocrisy. Phoniness. These are words that everyone's familiar with. Most people seem to detest it. While others seem to embrace it as though it's become a normal part of our perverted society.

"Just be yourself!"

A encouraging cliche (despite the truth behind it) that almost everyone can lay claim to have muttered at some stage in life. However, it means absolutely NOTHING simply because very few of us (and i dare say none of my friends, including myself) know the answer to the vital question:

"Who are you?"

Eldredge states that a man needs to "know his name". We need to have a deep understanding, the kind of knowledge that comes through experience. He reminds us of the hero in the movie Gladiator, Maximus. He is the commander of the Roman armies, a general loved by his men and by the aging emperor Marcus Aurelius. The emperor's foul son Commodus learns of his father's plan to make Maximus emperor in his place, but before Marcus can pronounce his successor, Commodus strangles his father and sentences Maximus to immediate excution and his wife and son to crucifixion and burning.

Eventually, Maximus becomes a gladiator and is taken to Rome to perform in the Coliseum before the emperor Comodus (who believes that Maximus is long dead). After a remarkable display of courage and a stunning upset, the emperor comes down into the arena to meet the valiant gladiator, whose identity remains hidden behind his helmet.

Commodus: Your fame is well deserved, Spaniard. I don't believe there's ever been a gladiator that matched you... Why doesn't the hero reveal himself and tell us all your real name? (Maximus is silent.) You do have a name?

Maximus: My name is Gladiator. (he turns and walks away).

Commodus: How dare you show your back to me?! Slave! You will remove your helmet and tell me your name.

Maximus: (Slowly, very slowly lifts his helmet and turns to face his enemy)
My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius;
Commander of the Armies of the North;
General of the Felix Legions;
loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius;
father to a murdered son;
husband to a murdered wife;
and I will have my vengeance, in this life or in the next.

That's a true name, a name that can never be taken from him. Eldredge says: "that deep heart knowledge comes only through a process of initiation. You have to know where you've come from; you have to have faced a series of trials that test you; you have to have taken a journey; and you have to have faced your enemy."

I'm on my quest to find my true name. Till then, I'll be grateful for every windy road, every trial and every enemy God puts in my way.

Eldredge reminds us that the first step to finding your true name is to walk away from our false self.

Andy Gullahorn illustrates what it feels like to step away from your pretentious self in his song "Steel Bars":

"So this is how it feels at the rock bottom of despair
When the house I built comes crashing down
And this is how it feels when I know the man that I say I am
Is not the man that i Am when no one's around"

But the journey continues towards freedom, healing and authenticity:

"This is how it feels to come alive again
And start fighting back to gain control
And this is how it feels to let freedom in
And break the chains that enslave my soul"

Ha, what Eldredge said next made me purse my lips and shake my head in consenting disbelief.

"Because so many of us turned to the woman for our sense of masculinity, we must walk away from her as well... I have counseled many young men to break up with the woman they were dating because they had made her their life. She was the sun of his universe, around which he orbited. A man needs a much bigger orbit than a woman. He needs a mission, a life purpose, and he needs to know his name. Only then is he fit for a woman, for only then does he have something to invite her into."

We tend to take our question, "Who am I?", to women. We feel powerful, strong and loved because we've "got what it takes" to gain the recognition and devotion of a girl. She is able to reach down inside and touch our desperate hunger for validation; and it touches like nothing else we've ever experienced. But femininity can never bestow masculinity.

"He sees a woman across the room, knows immediately that it is "She. He drops the relatinship he has, pursues her, feels wild excitment, passion, beating heart, obsession. After a few month, everything collapses; she becomes an ordinary woman. He is confused and puzzled. Then he sees once more a radiant face across the room, and the old certainty comes again." - Bly in Iron John

Bruce Springsteen's song, Secret Garden, illustrates this in such a beautiful way:

"She'll let you in her house
If you come knockin' late at night
She'll let you in her mouth
If the words you say are right
If you pay the price
She'll let you deep inside
But there's secret garden she hides.
She'll lead you down a path
There'll be tenderness in the air
She'll let you come just far enough
So you know she's really there
She'll look at you and smile
And her eyes will say
She's got a secret garden
Where everything you want
Where everything you need
Will always stay
A million miles away."

It's disappointing that so many men out there are being fooled by this deceitful lie. I'm truly grateful that God's opened my eyes to see that my validation, the answer to my question ultimately lies with him. He's the only one that is able to initiate me. To bring me through trials and experiences that will eventually form me into the man that he created me to be. There's no point in trying to find my masculinity in a girl. It's the man's role to take her on an adventure, not to use her as a stepping stone to reach the prize of masculinity on the top shelf!

Here's to my search for a purpose in life; till i find an adventure to live for, and a battle to fight...

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