I saw this book at my friend George’s house and had to take it from him. After preaching through Genesis and marveling at how Adam was with Eve and said nothing while she was tempted, the title jumped out at me. Its written by Dr. Larry Crabb with Don Hudson and Al Andrews .
It’s a book about manhood. I love reading this kind of stuff. They awaken a hunger inside me. The awesome thing about this book, in contrast with a book like John Eldredge’s seminal “Wild at Heart”, is that there’s very little chest-thumping, outdoors/nature glorification, and references to popular movies. Manhood is not about raising wild boys, backpacking up steep mountains in Colorado, and re-enacting Braveheart movie scenes (I actually loved Eldredge’s book but his physical imagery gets a little tiresome).
There’s something more powerful illustrating truth here – the true, personal stories of the authors and imagined stories that are a composite of the hundreds of men these authors have counseled over the years. What is so impactful about the stories is they take us deep inside the emotional life of a man. You live inside these guys’ heads and hear their inner doubts, fears, and urges.
One particularly poignant story concerns one of the authors’ seemingly strange decision to quit piano at ten years old right after he had a musical breakthrough. Looking back, he sees a deep fear of his own passion behind his reluctance to continue playing. And its so moving how he explains how Jesus is helping him overcome these fears. Crabb also shares a line from John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row describing a person named Henri, an artist who crafts incredible boats but never finishes them “’You don’t understand’, he said gently. ‘Henri loves boats, but he’s afraid of the ocean’”. And its incredible to how fearful we are – how we build and build but we never set sail (though I’m still not inspired to own a boat).
The book is structured well. The imagined scenarios all involve men in some kind of crisis. Its not necessarily the circumstances but what’s happening inside. And the biblical exposition of Genesis 3 is excellent. Adam was right there with Eve when she was tempted and he said nothing.
He talks about how unmanly man relate in one of two primary ways: neediness or toughness. Needy men use people to get what they want. Tough men operate with the message of “I can handle things without you”. I am a needy man. When I read those sections, I had no doubt. Of course, you can be both and needy man can hide their neediness as toughness. A needy man depends on asking for and receiving attention and understanding. There is tremendous resentment when needs are not met and needy men rationalize their sin by comparing it to the perceived injustices in not receiving the care they so badly desired.
In talking about these styles of relating, Crabb argues for a continuum with the perfect balance being both strength and sensitivity. Tough men tend to be insecure, shallow, and controlling.
The fathers who believe in us might be the most powerful applicable section for us: Crabb talks about finding mentors who would speak the following truth to us: 1) It can be done 2) You’re not alone 3) I believe in you. These are the exact three statements that Chi-Hok of FEC said one time at the World Christian Conference years ago. He was awesome and now I know where he got it from. Those are powerful statements.
Brothers: men who share secrets is also very good. Secrets do the following to us: 1) weaken courage 2) isolate from community 3) erode a legitimate sense of personal confidence.
Men are called to
1) Look deeply into mystery, to honestly face the unresolvable confusion of life
2) Remember the character and deeds of God, to see the unseen story of God revealed in Scripture and in the events of our lives
3) Move into the chaos of life, with the power to restore order and release beauty