Sunday, September 18, 2011

A man's heart

I love that I can write this blog while on a new adventure in Kenya.  As the men on the compound we are going through the book Wild At Heart, by John Eldredge.  I read this book for the 1st time after my first trip to Kenya.  It changed my way of thinking and behaving greatly then.  Going back through it is amazing now.  It's awesome to see so many changes and even more neat to see new things that I missed the first time.  I think that the first time I read it was good as a "first step".  Now that I have grown in different areas of my life, I am able to look a little bit deeper and begin to answer some other questions.

Early on in the book Eldredge makes a point that "a man has to get his heart back".  I paused for a moment on those words.  Okay, for many moments actually.  And I've been thinking about that phrase for a few days now.  The first question that I asked is if a man has to get his heart back, who took it in the first place?  Then, I got to thinking some more.  If I have to get my heart back, who took my heart in the first place?

Before that question can be answered, I guess one must ask "what is my heart?".  In order to get something back, we need to first know what it is.  I think that the heart of a man is lacking in our culture.  I won't start stealing all of Eldredge's book (though I do highly recommend it to all men), but I will say that I think that a man was designed with purpose.  We were created for adventure, and that is in the very core of all men.  We are designed to desire to protect others, especially women.  One thing that I love about being in Kenya is that very opportunity.  Walking around town as a man I have had men offer to buy the women in the group to be their wife.  Now, I'll admit that us men over here have been joking that if someone offers us 2 elephants, or one lion, we're totally going for it!  Obviously that is nothing more than a joke.  It actually speaks to a man's very being to, with no romantic thoughts at all, stand up for and protect the women.  My friend Daniel once said that "Kenya is a place that allows a man to be a man".  I think that this is one of the reasons why.  Our sense of adventure is found in most of what we do.  It was an interesting bus ride from Nairobi to Kitale as a few of the women in the group were talking about different hobbies and such and the men talked about ours.  Most of the "men hobbies" involved flames, explosions, or something considered "extreme".  At one point one of the women said that "boys just like anything that has to do with guns and explosions".  While certainly not every man enjoys going to the shooting range or standing around a bonfire, that sense of adventure and excitement is in us.  It may be buried deep, but it's there!  It's why after the hurricane came through camp I so badly wanted to go kayaking down the DE river when it was so flooded.  It's why I enjoy going camping, watch action movies, love to go biking.  It's why when at one point in West Chester a storm knocked the power out and I was home alone.  Do you know the first thing I did?  I took my Smith & Wesson .40cal out of the gun case, popped in a magazine, grabbed a flash light and did a search of my house.  I knew without a doubt that it was the storm.  I didn't really think that someone cut my power and broke into my house.  But you know what?  It was fun!  It gave me an adrenaline boost!

At a later chapter in the book Eldredge talks about how his first grade son got pushed by a school bully the first time.  Eldredge looked at his son and gave him permission to,the next time it happens, get back up and hit the kid as hard as he can.  Awesome advice!  I know, some disagree.  My mom was one to disagree.  When I was bullied my mom told me to "turn the other cheek".  Yes, this is also good advice but it's so often not the right advice.  Yes, Jesus did teach that.  But he also taught us to take a stand.  There are times to man up and fight back.  After all, isn't that what Jesus did on the cross?  he fought back.  I had it in me to want to fight back.  But I wasn't given the permission.  I wanted to take karate lessons and learn to fight back, but my mom wouldn't approve.  Rather than giving me permission to be a man, she instilled to back down.  Not to take a stand.  I think that if that young middle school kid who was bullied came to Africa right now, he wouldn't have a clue how to stand up to anything.  Standing up for the women of the group? Forget it.  Bargaining to get the fair price?  Definitely not.  It took a long time to get over that.  To finally learn what a real man is, and that I can be that man.

The man's heart is brave and adventurous.  But it's also so fragile.  How many other men are out there afraid to live out their dreams?  I made a decision last October that I was going to quit my job and come to Kenya for a few months and see where it leads.  Since then, I heard so many comments like "I wish I had what it takes to do that too".  I saw my mom before I got on the plane and she made a similar comment.  Let me respond to these comments, especially to men, all at once:  SHUT UP!  You do have what it takes!  but men have been so badly wounded that they refuse to believe this.  It would have been so much easier to stay in West Chester and keep working my job.  Financially, that probably would have made sense.  But it wasn't the adventure I was looking for.  There was a lot of fear.  There still is.  The heart of a man is not one that doesn't feel fear.  Every time I stare at a cop on the road taking a bribe, there is a little fear in me that he could smash my face with his night stick.  Every time I get on the back of a bicycle taxi I feel my life flash before my eyes multiple times.  But it isn't about being afraid.  The heart of a man feels fear.  But the heart of man doesn't let the fear hold him back.

So, I've been slowly taking back that heart.  Since I got here I've realized a few areas that I need to be more bold in and take more of a risk.  And I'm doing that.  And it's not because I have some magical gift that you don't.  That heart is out there, waiting to be taken back.  You just need to want it bad enough to fight for it.

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