All masculine initiation is ultimately spiritual. The tests and challenges, the joys and adventures are all designed to awaken a man’s soul, draw him into contact with the masculine in himself, in other men, in the world, and in God, as Father. I make no distinction between taking a boy or a man on an adventure and, say, teaching that man to pray. The adventure — rightly framed — can be a powerful experience of God. And prayer or Bible study — rightly framed — is meant to be the same. Most boys and men share the perception that God is found in church, and that the rest of life is ... just the rest of life. It’s the old Gnostic heresy, the division of the sacred and the profane. The tragedy of this is that the rest of life seems far more attractive to them than church, and thus God seems removed and even opposed to the things that make them come alive.
But as Christians, we believe God embraces the physical world, that he loves Creation as we do, pronounced it very good (Gen. 1:31), that he speaks through it and uses it to teach us many things. We’ve lost many boys and men from the church because we’ve given them an unspeakably boring spirituality, implying that God is most interested in things like hymnals and baptismal founts. We’ve made the spiritual very small, and sanctimonious, robed and often effeminate. And yet, most of the stories of men encountering God in the Bible do not take place in church(!). Moses is met in the desert, in a burning bush. Jacob wrestles with God in the wilderness also, in the dead of night. David wrote most of his psalms out under the stars. Paul is met on the desolate dirt road between Jerusalem and Damascus. And most of the stories of Jesus with his disciples don’t take place in church. Not even indoors.
We have got to recover the wildness of spirituality — especially masculine spirituality.
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