Introduction to...


God made him; let him pass for a man.


I suppose by now everyone knows about Robert Blye, the award-winning poet and guru of the current Mens Movement.The source book of the movement, which Blye wrote, is called Iron John, the basis of which is a fairy tale by the same name, inspired by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.

Iron John begins with strange happenings in a corner of the forest near a certain king's castle. Hunters go into the grove and never return. Others go after them and disappear. In time, people get the feeling there's something odd going on and they don't venture into the woods anymore.

One day a visiting hunter shows up at the castle looking for something difficult and dangerous to do. The King says: "Well, there's this strange thing going on in our forest: people go in there and never come out."

"Fear is something I pay no attention to," the young man replies and, intrepid fellow that he is, hies himself into the woods with his dog.

Presently, the dog picks up the scent of game and goes in pursuit, arriving within a few minutes at the edge of a deep pool. A naked arm snakes out of the water, grabs the dog and pulls it down. The young man thinks, "This must be the place!"

He then goes back to the castle, rounds up a few other men and comes back to the pond to bucket out the water. It's hard work, but eventually they get to the bottom of things.

There on the floor of the pond they find a huge Wild Man, whose body is as brown as rusty iron, covered with hair from head to foot. The men capture him, tie him up and lead him back to the castle where the king puts him in an iron cage and gives him the name, Iron John.

Blye finds an ancient truth in this tale: it speaks of a man looking down into the deep water of his soul and finding at the bottom a gruff, elemental Man. "What I am proposing," Blye once said, "is that every modern male has, lying at the bottom of his psyche, a large man covered with hair down to his feet" Our task, he insists, is to reconnect with that "deep masculinity" that lies within us.

There's some wisdom in what Blye says, but also a lot of blarney. There is indeed a racial memory of what we were meant to be, but it's not something we can capture and cage on our own.

No amount of Wild Man meetings, sweat lodge pow-wows or scrum-like hugging can ever make us into real men. That's a job for God. It took God in the beginning to make a man and it still does.

How God does it is the theme of this book--a book based on a number of stories God tells in his book. Reading them amounts to looking over his shoulder and watching him at work.

For the last 17 years I've been gathering almost every Wednesday morning at 6:30 a.m. with a group of men who have banded together to study the lives of biblical men and women and by so doing strengthen one another's grip on God. We're men from many backgrounds--Catholics and Protestants, charismatics and non-charismatics, long-time believers, novice Christians, cynics, sceptics and seekers who are still on the way. It's a place where anyone can air his thoughts or doubts and be accepted. They really love a fellow there.

Out of our discussions have come a stream of ideas, insights and off-the-wall ideas that have informed my thinking and changed my life. This book, at least in part, represents the collective savvy of this group of men.

One thing I've learned is that God has many ways to make a man, but it seems that his preferred method is resistance. The greater the resistance the greater the growth. What we see as obstacles God sees as opportunities to grow. Disappointment, loss, criticism, failure, humiliation, temptation, depression, loneliness and moral failure become the means by which we grow strong if we are "e;trained"e; by these forces, as the author of Hebrews would say (Hebrews 12:11). God wastes nothing--not even sin. That's what this book is mainly about.

I've not tried to be gender-sensitive as I write, as important as that is to me in other contexts. This is unabashedly a book for men. I write as a man for men because I love men and I want to see them come into their own.

The Talmud says there are three things a man ought to do before he dies: plant a tree, have a child and write a book, which means, I suppose, that he ought to leave something behind that endures--something that prolongs his usefulness. That's why I have written this book.

My usefulness, as I see it, lies partly in the degree to which I have helped other men become more godly and more manly than ever before. If this book does that for you I've accomplished my purpose in writing it.

Years ago I read an introduction to a commentary by Matthew Henry that states well my thoughts as I write: "If I may but be instrumental to make my readers wise and good, wiser and better...and more in love with God and His word, I have all I desire, all I aim at."

Who could ask for anything more?

From the book: A Man to Match the Mountain: Old Testament Mentors and Models for Men. Discovery House Publishers, Box 3566, Grand Rapids, MI 49501 (1-800-283-8333).