In a day like ours when books written to men roll off the presses like cheeseburgers coming through a driv-through window, Tender Warrior is a piece of aged and tender New York steak, seared to perfection and sizzling with juices that confirm just the right splash of seasoning.
The quote above, from Steve Farrar, presents a tall order for Tender Warrior, by Stu Weber. Because of this glowing recommendation, I chose to receive a review copy of this book with a heightened sense of anticipation. After all, who doesn't love steak?I must say that after reading that quote, I had some pretty high expectations for this book. Maybe my expectations were too high. Don't get me wrong. Tender Warrior is a decent book. I'd probably even say it's a good book. But I was hoping to be able to say "If you only buy one book about how to become a godly man, this is the one. All others pale in comparison. I'm planning on giving it away as Christmas presents to every man I know." In some ways, this book feels like any other book about biblical manhood that's come out in the last twenty years. Because of that, it fails to live up to the expectations I had about the book. I readily admit that they might have been unrealistic expectations. But that didn't stop me from walking away from the book a little disappointed.Maybe it's because I felt a little bit like he was conducting eisegesis instead of exegesis when dealing with passages of Scripture. It felt like Weber took an experience of his own, gave it a scriptural allusion, then turned it into a universal truth. I especially felt this way when he discussed Adam and Eve's experience. Of course, this isn't limited to Tender Warrior. It's a practice that is all too common in books about biblical manhood. It's unfortunate that it's also all too common in preaching in American churches, too.Even though I feel uneasy with some of the universal declarations that Weber makes, there are two sections of this book that I really do believe every man must read. The first is in one of the chapters where he discusses loving his wife. In it, he says this:
A woman....needs to know she is the top priority in her man's life. In the early years of our marriage, I tended to look at my wife as my "partner." I sang bass, she sang soprano. I was playing right guard, she was playing tackle. She was my executive assistant. She was my fellow worker. She was my fellow soldier. She was my wingman. But a woman doesn't want to be a wingman. She doesn't want to be a tackle. She doesn't even want to be a junior "partner" in all your endeavors. She wants to be in your heart and soul. She wants to hear it from you and see it from you.p. 138, emphasis added
So many of us have a misunderstanding of what it means to leave your family and cleave to your wife. We think a marriage is a partnership, just like described above. Weber helps set things straight about what that means. It takes effort. It's not something that comes natural. I definitely need to work on that. You probably do, too.
The other area where Tender Warrior is strongest is when he talks about finding others to walk the journey with you.
Real men stand together. We need to start thinking that way. Real men need one another. Real soldiers love each other. p. 189
The warrior in us wants to be strong and needs to be strong. But we don't want to admit to any chinks in our armor. We don't want to admit to any vulnerabilities - the very element that is essential for true friendships. ... Friendship requires honesty. Friendship requires trust. So it also - no way around it - requires vulnerability. I think that's the bottom line of this no-friends syndrome among us men. And it's spelled P-R-I-D-E. p. 188 & 189 - Author emphasis
I think this is where, on a whole, American churches have failed men. We've allowed a misrepresentation of manhood to continue to live in our communities of faith. There's an unspoken (and maybe even spoken) teaching that to be a real man means you need to put on some type of front, proving how masculine you really are. We still encourage the "warrior" aspect of manhood in our churches, but how often do we really encourage tenderness? How often do we really encourage community amongst men? I know we say that's what we need, but how do we try to foster that kind of community. Here's what I see in a lot of our communities of faith: a bunch of guys who have no idea what it means to be the man God created them to be. And so we pretend instead of learn from each other. We go at it alone instead of learn to lean on and count on each other.
There's a crisis in our country and there's a crisis in our churches. No one knows what it means to be a man. So we're all trying to figure it out on our own instead of learning from each other. And that's where Weber really hits the nail on the head. The book is worth the read just for this chapter alone.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for an honest review.