By Shane Ambro
There’s a yellow bricked road out there, somewhere…and our journey is fraught with disaster. Nowadays, part of the journey and the inherent disaster of the heart is deciding between sticking to conventional sacrifices or living with radical abandon in order to find our own way. Rarely is there a clear-cut path leading to the place we want to go.
We long for intimate connections, mentors, guides who will show us the way. Where are the ones who have gone before us? Our fathers walked the yellow bricked road, which at the time was much more defined as the way things were meant to be done. Get a degree, get a job, get a home, get a family. For many men, the results of walking such a path without the adventure of discovering one’s true identity and destiny have proved disastrous. Restless hearts, broken families, and shattered lives. Infidelity, divorce, and abandonment. It’s not their fault and they’re not to blame.
The paradigm of fatherhood through the previous generations has embalmed the father’s energy in a steel tomb, mirroring the Tin Man, where he is forced to observe but never intervene. He may try to intervene, but he has little power to fix the broken things of the world, and even less power to fix the broken places in our hearts. He has fallen into the same trap that awaits us all once we set foot outside the safe haven of home. This life is cold, hard, and one must work to get by. Sacrifice your dreams, don’t you dare live from your heart, because it will only make things worse. Instead of life and vitality, the steel-like quality is passed down from generation to generation.
We all have those memories, significant events that replay over and over again in our minds where our hearts are sacrificed on the altars of brokenness, shame, or convenience. These are the curses in each of our lives. We make contracts and agreements: “I’ll never trust someone like that again…I’ll just play it safe, whatever happens happens.” “I’m really not that good at anything, I really don’t have that much to offer anyone, my heart really doesn’t have much life in it anyway…I’ll just hide and wait it out. Eventually something’s gotta give.”
By this time, our joints (really our hearts) have frozen from rust, neglect, and abandonment. We have been grafted into the Tin Man’s family and we are the next of kin. It seems we are fighting a losing battle. The mentality and strength of our steel frame becomes our core paradigm for life. There is even a religious version of this “steel energy.” Maybe if we just work harder at whatever we’re doing, eventually we’ll find our way out of this mess. Working harder to be free. Seems antithetical doesn’t it?
Our hearts are smashed to ruins over and over again. At the center of all of this brokenness is fear. We are conditioned by the paradigm of “steel energy” to expect broken things in the world and broken places in the inner sanctums of the heart. What is the response to such a powerful adversary in life? Working harder only feeds the “steel energy” complex. How does it feel when someone says, “Just be strong, stand firm?” It’s like trying to plug up a dam with your little finger. If you can do it at all, it will only last until the next heartbreak, or until you just get soaking wet from the constant dribble from other cracks and fissures. This too flows into “steel energy.” How about, “Don’t worry, good things will happen sooner or later, your time will come.” Apathy with a little bit of mascara. “Have some courage, step out there and make it happen.” More “steel energy.” Pep talks only go so far, that’s why the church has experienced a lot of outward transformation, but hardly the inward transformation described in the words of Jesus. Living waters gushing out from the inside? Right.
It seems that at this point we have exhausted every option…but there must be more to it than this. The only other alternative is repairing our lives from the inside-out, starting with the heart. (“steel energy” promotes change from the outside-in) Since we cannot muster up the strength on our own, it must come from an outside source.
“The only way to live in this adventurewith all its danger and unpredictability and immensely high stakesis in an ongoing intimate relationship with God. The control we so desperately crave is an illusion. Far better to give it up in exchange for Gods offer of companionship, set aside stale formulas so that we might enter into an informal relationship.” -John Eldredge
The primary element in this type of informal relationship with Father is love. There is no reason for it, no method to obtain it, for it is freely given. Love casts out fear. Love is wholeness; it repairs that which was broken. Whatever we’re doing, if it’s not repairing something that’s broken, it’s not love. If religiosity does not bind up the brokenhearted, it’s not love. We were made for love, and God is love. We were made to experientially receive His love, which makes us whole. It robs us from the steel tomb and replaces “steel energy” with something completely different. When we plug into this energized (from heaven), experiential, agape love, which is based on relationship and not on our ability to be “good Christians,” then our destinies become much more clear. Once we know who we are, what we do comes naturally, though still not without process.
When this becomes the dominant reality, living as a testimony in our hearts regarding who we are and to whom we are related, everything else changes.
Something mysterious happened this past Sunday at church. A family had shared their story during the service and at the end they simply said, “This is our living room, and we’re just going to sit down and hang out here for a while. If anyone wants to come up we’ll pray for you.”
I felt drawn. It’s one of those moments you have no idea what is happening, other than it’s about to happen. I went and sat down beside Charlie, the father and husband of the family:
I really just needed to sit and be held by a grown man for a long time because there’s something restorative to it. To feel his stubble pricking my face, protruding over my bald head. His breast was my crown and his heart the jewel, radiating, sharing its own glory with me.
Letting in the love until it overflowed.
It was beautiful…
“This is what I’m like all the flippin’ time. I will never stop. I will never let you go.”
If you liked this article, check out: Tin Man: We can all lose heart
Shane is currently in the initial stages of developing a life coaching practice for young adults experiencing the Quarter-Life Crisis. Subscribe to Shane’s blog for more ideas on the Quarter-Life Crisis and God’s Father heart for your life.