the hard-to-buy-for man?

I’ve heard the drone again lately, the nuisance of voices battering over what it means to be a man, or more specifically a biblical man. Of course that means the conversation is also about what it means to be a woman, or heaven help us biblical womanhood. I’m sorry but I find this to be distraction at best, diminishment at worst. I do realize that if I’m going to make statements like these then I should offer some alternative, some higher road to take. Alright, I will.

In 1999, Mark Spragg published a collection of essays entitled Where Rivers Change Direction. Spragg wrote the screenplay for An Unfinished Life, so you might know of him without knowing of him. Most of the writing in these coming-of-age pages focuses on his days of growing up on the oldest dude ranch in Wyoming. The characters are a short-list: his father and mother, a younger brother, a collection of ranch hands, a gloriously unforgiving landscape, and horses. Author Terry Tempest Williams gave this backcover blurb: ‘Here is a book for women to read to learn the hearts of men. Here is a book for men to read to curse what they have lost.’

Most of the conversation these days is about how men consistently fail to measure up, a naive chiding that galls me, usually punctuated by two word guffs like man-up or man-fail. Spragg’s approach is infinitely more human; it is eulogy. I guess its possible the man in your life needs a new Apple product for Christmas, or maybe some selvage denim would complete him. Then again, maybe he needs some stories to give shape to the sorrow he carries but cannot name. Maybe we all need that. Such words could only be described as gift.

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9 Comments

  1. Tim on November 26, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Hope your Thanksgiving was a rich reminder of blessings despite a Hogs loss…

    I’m thinking that men will always grasp at a sense of loss until they take the manliest step of a lifetime–submit. Relinquish control of life to the Father. The Father’s intimate presence in and through us is the void we long to fill–an impression in us made by a muddy, loving hand. But we’ll try almost everything else first…

  2. Ann Kroeker on November 27, 2011 at 3:34 am

    Thanks for the recommendation, John.

  3. Rich on November 27, 2011 at 6:32 am

    I’ve come back to this several times today (yesterday) because I’m intrigued by the word “submit” – I will get back to ya.

  4. Bonnie Grove on November 29, 2011 at 2:47 am

    Years ago, I bought Wild at Heart because I wanted to understand my (then) small son before he grew too fast and wild for me to ever hope to know. I half hoped it would help me understand my husband too. The book brought me no closer. I asked my husband to read it and, if he would, show me the passages where he found himself reflected in the words.
    Ah well.
    So this idea intrigues me. I so would like to learn the hearts of my two men.

    • thebeautifuldue on November 29, 2011 at 4:48 am

      Bonnie, more than one of the pages of this book are tear-stained…I’m not always sure what’s going on, but something is being stirred deep within…

      • Bonnie Grove on November 30, 2011 at 4:52 pm

        I read the first pages online and ordered the book. It shipped yesterday and I can’t wait for Steve to open it Christmas.
        Those pages.
        I had to look away a couple of times.

  5. sethhaines on November 30, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Amber and I have been talking about this a good bit lately. Seems like there are a great number of people who use words like “man after God’s heart” or “Proverbs 31 Woman” as a sort of code for a the homogonization of all of Christianity (context be damned). We’re wondering if these monickers don’t somehow distract from the real point of it all.

    Perhaps I’ll pick this book up and put it in the hopper…

    • thebeautifuldue on November 30, 2011 at 4:01 pm

      Seth, let me know if ya’ll figure it out…maybe we should be men after a woman’s heart…then again, I don’t know.

  6. Lucille Zimmerman on December 20, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    An Unfinished Life was one of my favorite movies. With a great cast, a great story, powerful metaphors, and beautiful cinamatography, I don’t understand how it didn’t get more attention.

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