What is it about having a mentor? Mentoring is something so very important for the life of a person, for the whole person, yet how often do we have a mentor in our lives. I’ve been reading Robert Bly’s Iron John on and off as of late. It is a book that came out in the 1990’s and created a wave of men looking towards what it means to be a man. Some years back, I read through Wild at Heart by John Elredge. He too looks at what it means to be a man. But more than that, to be a man of God. Both look at being wild. And in a good way.
Bly speaks about the Wild Man who is caged by a boy prince’s parents. The boy looses his ball into the Wild Man’s cage. In order to get his ball back, he must release the Wild Man from the cage. Bly takes this to very extreme analogy levels that are far beyond me. Yet one thing he does point out is that the Wild Man in the cage, once released, becomes the mentor to the young boy. He teaches him how to live in the wild. He initiates him into what it means to be a person, to be a man, more than that, what it means to be a Wild Man himself.
Eldrege goes into the wildness as well (I mean, his book is Wild at Heart after all). He speaks about how we’ve lost our wildness in many ways. Both Bly and Eldrege speak of the domestication of men. Bly goes so far as to call them soft males. Dude. Harsh, right? Yet there’s something about the fact that being wild isn’t looked upon with favor.
I’m not saying that everyone needs to go out and kill a woolly mammoth here and there (though there is a deep desire for many to do so). What I am saying is that there needs to be room for grace and permission for men to be…well…men. I’m not talking about the machismo-scratch-and-spit-manliness or the man-card-manliness. I’m talking about the authentic initiated into adult hood no longer a boy manliness. Not the playing video games at home at age 33 and still living with their parents. I’m talking about stepping up, finding a strong calling, a calling to fight for what’s right, to speak the truth in love, to be a warrior who is tender at heart and strong in spirit.
In Bly’s Iron John, it is the Wild Man who mentors the young boy in just that. He initiates him into manhood. He gives him gifts out of pain and wounds. And he instructs him in the way of life as a Wild Man.
The Wild Man is the mentor. I was lucky enough to have five mentors back in high school (you can read about that here). Wild Men who took me under their wing to teach me what it means to be a man of God. Now, some of them you may not think as wild. Pastor Merle wasn’t Wild. Doyle was as calm as could be. Bob was wise in years. Yet they were Wild Men at heart. Eddie was the wildest of them all though. Each one taught me something about being a man of God. Each one taught me to be who I am today.
Men (and even women really) need that Wildness in their lives. Men need that Wild Man to mentor them (and Bly points out that women need a Wild Woman to mentor them as well). At the same time, we need to be willing to be the Wild Man (or Wild Woman) who takes time to mentor others. To teach them in the ways of life. To listen, to be present, to show love over a cup of coffee.
Being Wild, being the Wild Man doesn’t mean you have to go off your rocker and live in the woods, chop wood, wear flannel, and grow a mountain-man’s beard. What it means is that you’re willing to accept your adult hood. Adulting is hard. Adulting is frustrating. But it also means that we’ve grown up. We’ve moved from childhood into adulthood. It means that we’ve allowed ourselves to venture away from our parents, accept the pains and wounds endured in life, and be willing to walk with someone else going through the same things.
So, will you be willing to be mentored by the Wild Man (or Wild Woman)? Will you be willing to start off into the adventure of moving from child to adult? Will you be willing to work through hurt and pain in order to truly receive the gifts of grace from God in Jesus? These things can happen. But we need to leave what is behind, strive forward towards the goal, and be wild at heart in what we do. When we do, we shift from being the child who learns to the Wild Man (or Wild Woman) who teaches and mentors.
Will you be that person?