I recently found out that bloggers can get free copies of Thomas Nelson books at BookSneeze in exchange for a review on their blog and one other consumer website. While visiting the site, David Murrow’s The Map : the way of all great men caught my eye, and I decided to review it so I could have a copy for my church library. (If any of you other Souls out there want to jump in, I’d love to have some more free books for the library!) Author’s note on this particular title: I grew up in a family of women, except for my dad; so I must admit, men are a bit of a mystery to me.
This book draws on the structure of the book of Matthew to translate the masculine spiritual life into an actual map. The first half of the book reads as a fictional allegory, and the last half reads more like a traditional self-help title. (I know, all the men are running away now! But wait!...)
Here’s a quote from Murrow himself (p.204):
Do you watch guy movies? If so, you’ve seen the three journeys played out many times on the silver screen. See if this plotline sounds familiar: A cocky young stud decides to confront some evil in his own strength. He’s nearly killed by the bad guys. Suddenly an aged, wrinkled man shows up and gives the villains a whuppin’. The old coot offers to train the immature hothead. The student humbles himself and accepts the training of the master (submission). He develops true physical and mental toughness (strength). Eventually our young hero meets his adversary and, after a back-and-forth battle, defeats him in spectacular fashion, sometimes dying in the process (sacrifice).
I like the way David Murrow tries to do away with the apparent disconnect between traditional masculinity (a la John Wayne and Sylvester Stallone, or even, say, Ralph Macchio) and Christian culture as we know it. I know some men who could stand to read this book; but will the type of man who needs to read it actually pick up a book like this?
I suspect that’s why Murrow opens the book with fictional tale of intrigue and adventure that he later ties together with his theories about the stages of Christian discipleship as they relate to male masculinity. I was not completely comfortable with this vehicle because the librarian in me knew this book was nonfiction, yet I spent the whole first half of the book trying to figure out if any of this was real or not; which for me, was a distraction.
The basic premise of the last half of the book is that the male journey of discipleship takes place in three distinct phases: submission, strength, and sacrifice. And that God requires different things of men during each stage of the journey. I found this comparison quite useful, and I enjoyed thinking about my own journey of faith in this way. Murrow also outlines ways men sometimes go astray in their faith journey and closes by thinking about how men can mentor and be mentored in discipleship.
This book isn’t actually as exciting or sexy as it tries to make itself out to be. It’s a traditional self-help book wrapped in a manly package, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Anything that encourages people towards a growing, authentic faith is OK in my book. My hope is that many men will read this title and become better able to grow closer to God in the process.