Parker Palmer got me to thinking about the male soul, when he compared the soul to a “wild animal.” “Like a wild animal,” observes Palmer, “the soul is tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy and self-sufficient; it knows how to survive in hard places…..yet despite its toughness, the soul is also shy. Just like a wild animal, it seeks safety in the dense underbrush, especially when other people are around.” This imagery is very real to me since I encounter white tail deer daily on my walks. The deer will flee from intruders. The only exception is the male deer during the mating season. He will often stare me down up until the last moment, and the flee into the safety of the woods.
I think we can all agree that the male soul is shy. We have learned to be self-sufficient, seemingly resilient and even tough minded. But when it comes to the secrets of the soul we are shy. Ask most wives if this is not true. The years of painful arrows from others that get lodged in our souls, cause us to be shy. We hide our pain, often forming deep wells of grief, that we fear will spill over into our personal relationships. Similar to the wild deer, we have learned to flee into the “underbrush” of silence, rather than work through our pain with others. This tendency to flee is a sign of our weakness. We are not able to process our inner pain, so we head to the woods in fear of being exposed.
So what is a man to do? Let me make a few suggestions. First, and foremost, come to a trusting relationship with your Heavenly Father, that you are deeply loved. Listen to Jesus prayer on our behalf. “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them” (John 17:28). This love is literally poured into our hearts. “……God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). Remember God loves you not as you should be, but just as you are. He is loving you in you well of grief. As I have said many times on this blog, “You have just sit there and receive the love.”
Secondly, with a firm hold on the objective truth of God’s Word and assurance of the guidance of the Holy Spirit, allow yourself to begin to taste the pain and sorrow in the well of grief within your soul. Allow yourself to go down into the realities of your story. It will not be easy. The only way that you will process your secrets is by coming to know them. Thirdly, if at all possible find a trusted “soul friend,” who will loving and patiently listen to your story. This friend can help you expose, verbalize and then integrate your experience of pain.
What I am suggestion is not the normal “male thing” to do. I know from experience. But how else will the shy male soul learn to show up in those important and intimate relationships, except through the practice of coming out of the “woods” and sharing with a trust friend. I only wish I could sit down with each man reading this blog, and help them come out of the woods, into light and freedom there is in Christ. “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me” (Ps 18:18).