I owe the poet Robert Bly a debt for the image of a wild man back in the early 90’s. After reading “Iron John” I wanted to be a soulful man, even though I was frightened and insecure about the condition of my soul. In the 80’s Bly observed, “Every modern male has, lying at the bottom of his psyche, a large primitive being covered with hair down to his feet. Making contact with this Wildman is the step the 80’s male or the 90’s male has yet to take…. Contemporary man looks down into his psyche, he may, if conditions are right, find under the water of his soul, lying in an area no one has visited for a long time, an ancient hairy man.” I was intrigued with what lay silent deep within my inner life..
I know I was a stranger in my own house. In the words of Henry Nouwen, “We know little or nothing of our heart. We keep our distance from it, as though we were afraid of it. What is most intimate is also what frightens us most. Where we are most ourselves, we are often strangers to ourselves. We fail to know our hidden center….If we ask ourselves why we think, feel and act in a certain way, we often have no answer, thus proving to be strangers in our own house.” For the last 20 years I have attempted it live from my center. continual coming home to my authentic self in Christ.
The image of a ancient hairy man, awakened in me a hunger for which I had little guidance in satisfying at the time. Richard Rohr’s “The Wildman journey” based on the journey of John the beloved and John the Baptist, depicting movement from the common masculine to the common feminine and back again to the deep masculine was very helpful. Leanne Payne’s call for the affirmed masculine to embrace the hidden feminine, helped me see the need for have a balance between being tough and tender. John Eldridge gave me permission to embrace wild at heart, when he talked of “a fierce warrior who goes beyond his comfort zone, away from what he can control, and who fights for what right.”
For me the concept of being fully alive, fully awake and fully human through inner transformation speaks to encounter with the ancient hairy man. John the Baptist preaching in the desert of Judea, dressed in camel’s hair, eating locust and wild honey, calling for repentance, echoes a call to be wild. Matthew tells us, “John, called ‘the Baptizer,’ was preaching in the desert country of Judea. His message was simple and austere, like his desert surroundings: ‘Change your life, God’s kingdom is here.'” (Matt 3:1-2 – Message). Later in Matthew Jesus compares John to Elijah. “……John is the ‘Elijah’ you’ve all been expecting to arrive and introduce the Messiah.” (Matt 11:14 – Message).
I wonder if the words spoken to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, regarding John, might not be as true for us today, since it is the work of the same Holy Spirit. “He will herald God’s arrival in the style and strength of Elijah, soften the hearts of parents to children, and kindle devout understanding among hardened skeptics – he’ll get the people ready for God” (Luke 1:17). I wonder, because of the confusion and profound distortion regarding the biblical pattern of male and female relationships, if God might not be raising up “Elijah” type men, who are preparing people ready for God, by being a little wild. These will be men who are 1) soulful 2) subversive, 3) passionate, 4) countercultural and 5) prophetic.