For Parents: Identity Series

We are currently going through a series based on two books. One is called Wild at Heart, and the other is called Captivating. I’ve chosen these two books for the series because I have really learned a lot from them. I read Wild at Heart in high school, and it helped me understand myself. It helped me to put my identity in Christ. I read Captivating a year later, and again, my understanding increased.

I would like to take some time to describe the content of these books to you. Hopefully, this will help you to better understand what is being taught, and will prepare you for any questions that your kids may have. I would personally encourage you to buy these books, read them for yourself, and have your kids read them as well.

Cover of the book.
Cover of the book.

John Eldredge wrote Wild at Heart to help men find what it means to be a man through God. In this book, John discusses what it means to be made as a man in the image of God. He then addresses the question that “haunts every man.” The answer to this question will determine things such as the way he behaves, the way he sees himself, the way he sees the world, and his goals for the future.

Next, John talks about the wound that every man has to deal with, usually dealt by parents. I want to stress that this does not necessarily indicate that someone is a bad parent. Everyone is imperfect, and everyone makes mistakes. These mistakes can influence everything you do, even when it comes to raising a child. Somewhere along the line mistakes can be made. Sports events can be missed, time can be poorly managed, emotions can create bad memories, accidents can happen. In the chapter on wounds John is trying to point out that every parent was once a child. Because every family has its flaws, those flaws will shape us, influencing who we become. From their parents, children learn what it means to be an adult. In a sense, the phrase “monkey see, monkey do” could be a decent description. Just as every good experience stays with a child, so too, will bad experiences stay with a child. The bad memories and experiences are referred to here as wounds. These wounds, if they aren’t dealt with, will be passed down from generation to generation, afflicting descendants who are lifetimes apart.

Next, John discusses how young boys are wounded by society. Outside of the home life is an entire world of views that seek to shape boys into its own view of masculinity. Sometimes we even do away with masculinity entirely. The financial world says that boys aren’t men until they own land and are able to support a family. The business world would say that a true man is self-controlled, emotionless, relentless, and devoted to work. Pop culture says that admiration and respect are what makes a man. Others say that you aren’t a man until you get the girl; this sends boys on a frantic and fruitless mission to “conquer” and use women. American culture in general implies that boys can be anything they want to be, even if that means being a girl; the view is that if you can’t find happiness as you are, you simply need to be someone different. All of this is confusing to boys. It pushes, pulls, and stretches their hearts, battling for dominance. Many additional wounds will occur during this battle.

John then focuses on the influence a father has on his son. The father has a chance to set the record straight in this battle, providing the safest possible path to protect his son. Since everyone is imperfect, many fathers often are incapable of giving the best path, if they even give one at all.

This is why it is important to heal the wounds we suffer. These wounds can only be healed by truth. Once wounds start to heal, and we are able to see clearly, John motivates men to take action. The heart of a man is the heart of a warrior. He points out who the enemy is, and how he operates. In order to beat him, we have to be able to see him. John devotes chapter 10 to discussing where women come in through all of this. Simply put, if a warrior is to be a warrior, he needs a reason to fight. What is going to motivate him to take back his heart? He needs a reason to fight to become a better person. This reason is often the woman. Women have wounds too, and long to be swept off their feet by someone. This someone needs to be strong enough, confident enough, brave enough, and wise enough to get the job done. The motivation is pure love.

The story doesn’t end there, but is simply beginning. John outlines the “happily ever after” part of the story, painting a picture of how truly wonderful and exciting life can be.

John Eldredge co-wrote Captivating with his wife Stasi. Captivating was written to help women discover how to truly feel like a woman through God.

Cover of the book.
Cover of the book.

The book begins by discussing the purpose of women. John and Stasi take a look at the creation story in Genesis; they show how the earth came together, how man was finally created to rule over the earth. Something was missing though. The only way for creation could truly be perfect and finished would be if there was a woman. She was NECESSARY. Here we see that there is something that only women can provide. They are special, the epitome of beauty. Men may have been created in God’s image, but women are as well. Men show one side of God, women show the other side. When they come together as one, God’s special creation is complete; a tiny picture of who He is becomes visible. Without the woman, though, it is incomplete.

Next they discuss how women are also “haunted” by a question. In the same way that men want to know if they are truly men, women want to know if they are truly women. The answer to this question determines who they become. If it seems like this question is often answered negatively, you’re right. John and Stasi discuss this in detail. Satan, who was once the most beautiful and powerful angel, was stripped of his position and beauty when he rebelled against God. He loved himself too much, so God took it away from him. From a very poetic standpoint, we see that it was all then given to Eve instead. She has taken his place as “the fairest in all the land,” and he doesn’t like this. John and Stasi describe how Satan’s hatred toward women is stronger for this reason. Because of that, Satan’s attacks on women will be intended to take away from their beauty. From this we see things like strip clubs, body shaming, female genital mutilation, pornography, verbal abuse, and self harm. Satan will do everything he can to break women because they have what he used to have.

This isn’t the only way women receive their wounds, though. Parents play a key role in this. Again, everyone has received some sort of wound from a parent–no parent is perfect. It is therefore important to heal these wounds to keep them from being passed down. John and Stasi discuss how this is possible with God.

Once healing begins, women can begin to look at their true nature. They can begin to address the desire that they have to be swept off their feet and taken to an amazing place. It’s not just that they want to be romanced, but they want a romance that exists solely because they are special in the eyes of their men–desired more than any other woman because of who they are. They have a beauty that is unique to them. When that is realized, it then becomes enhanced, becoming that much more beautiful.

In order to get to that point, John and Stasi need next to explain the heart of a man. It may be the prince who pursues the damsel in distress, but it is up to the woman to be seen. How can she be swept off her feet if the man doesn’t know of her existence? The man needs to be invited to be the man–the woman can’t force him. Being forced to do something isn’t passionate at all. John and Stasi do an excellent job of explaining how this works.

They finish off this book by discussing the unique qualities of women. Mothers teach their daughters how to be women, sisters support each other, and women desire to receive support, but there is a desire that is stronger. It is the desire to be invited on a dangerous journey. The desire for excitement is one that also includes other people to share in it. Danger means nothing to a woman if she doesn’t know she is protected and desired. She needs to know that on this grand adventure, she provides something that no one else can, that she has a great value worth protecting.

This all may seem like a fairy tale, but it is actually possible. It can be accessed and experienced. This story can actually be lived, but only if we allow ourselves to be taken there by God. You see, we weren’t made to experience this apart from God, but WITH God–ALONGSIDE God. He wants to be included. Remember, the feelings and desires we have are small pictures of who God is. He feels what we feel immeasurably more than we can imagine. He felt it long before we were created. Let God into your story. Let God create and finish your story. You have no idea what marvelous things await you.

Again, it is my hope that by reading this, you will be able to better understand what the students are hearing. It is also my hope that you will buy these books and study them with your kids. They need you because most of what they learn about being human comes from you. May your lives be changed by the message of these book, and may your souls be completed by the God who gave his life to save you.

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