I first read Wild at Heart about 10 years ago. I remember being pumped up and ready to roll and even mad at a buddy of mine who had read it but never recommended it to me. The more I grew in my faith and knowledge, the less I liked the book. Eldredge is more charismatic, while I became more Reformed and my theology could never get behind his.
That being said, I recently read one of his other books, Fathered by God: Learning What You Dad Could Never Teach You, on the recommendation of a friend of mine. Overall the book was alright, not great, but I do think his stages of manhood are worth noting:
Boyhood – This is fairly basic and self-explanatory. Essentially, this is when you are a young child and you look up to your father as someone to model after.
Cowboy – I found this to be one of the more compelling chapters, mainly about kind of a rebellious or wild period in your life. I’m not entirely sure this is true for everyone, though the guy who recommended this book told me he feels he missed out on this stage of his life and has something of a void from it. The stage isn’t ‘wild’ in the broader worldly sense of drunk and disorderly, you could also call it the ‘explorer’ stage. I do feel most people I know had this, including myself, sometimes it was a few months, sometimes a few years or even just a few instances sprinkled in during another time period (like college) where you did things/tried things you wouldn’t have normally and certainly wouldn’t again.
Warrior – Maybe you could also call this one the ‘fighter’ stage. This was one I couldn’t get behind as much. He writes some about learning to stand up for things as well as a time to test yourself. I’m not sure I’d really separate it out as a different stage, but might combine with some of the other attributes and experiences of ‘Cowboy’.
Lover – This is another stage I wasn’t sold on, mainly because I didn’t really see it as a distinct phase. I don’t have much to say about it, but it is basically the time you learn to love something, which is important for loving your wife, children, etc. later.
King – Another pretty interesting chapter, this stage is about basically being the head of something. He writes mostly from the perspective of successful career achievement, which he obviously has, but also mention it could be something like being a homeowner or having a family; really anything you could rule over or be in charge of. In a lot of ways, it wasn’t always applicable due to the focus on career; not everyone will be a CEO or run ministry or be lead pastor of a church. However, he does have great Biblical points about Godly leadership.
Sage – Easily my favorite chapter and unfortunately the one we probably do worst at as a society or church. He points out that not only can you not rule (as ‘king’) forever, but that you shouldn’t. At some point, you must step down and let the next generation of leaders take over. That last point is something I could write a whole posts on, especially as it relates to the Church, but I’ll try to stay on point. He goes on to write about how, after stepping down, the ‘Sage’ shouldn’t just go off to retirement in solitude, but instead should stick around and help mentor, grow and disciple either the next ‘king’ or some of the future (‘warrior’ & ‘cowboy’) ones.
I don’t I can really stress enough how important and overlooked this stage is. Could you imagine the impact if every Christian were to mentor someone else coming up the way they did? A pastor retires after 40 years in the pulpit, joins a church and offers to meet with a young pastor to discuss his life in ministry. A retired business owner sees a young college guy who is a bit rebellious and sees it as an entrepreneurial spirit, decides to mentor him and helps get him on the right track. The list could go on and on. He acknowledges that not everyone will be open to being mentored or to taking advice, but I still think it is important that everyone try. If every man stepped up and did this near the end of their life, it would have an immeasurable impact on the Kingdom.
So, that’s a pretty condensed summary of the book. It is a quick and easy read and well worth it, if for nothing else it forces you to examine your own life and the impacts certain stages and events had. In each chapter, he discusses how to raise the person in that stage and how that stage can go wrong, which can be very useful for someone raising boys or getting ready to mentor or disciple someone in an earlier stage.
This was also my first attempt to do a book review, hopefully more to follow.