“Finding Neverland” or “Fighting for people the Mr. Rogers way”

I’ve been keeping my eyes out for a model of non-combative masculinity for a while now…and I think I found it last night in Johnny Depp’s portrayal of J.M. Barrie in Finding Neverland. You may wonder what the heck I mean by "non-combative masculinity," and I’ve tried to come up with a better phrase…but what I mean is this: it’s pretty easy to take someone like Maximus from Gladiator or William Wallace from Braveheart, point at them and say, "Look, men. That’s what it’s like to be a man and fight for people and be brave and have honor." But there’s something deeper to masculinity than throwing punches and swinging a sword. There’s something that causes men to do these things…and it isn’t bloodshed–at least it shouldn’t be.

It’s about fighting for people’s hearts. Wallace didn’t lead a revolt against England because he had the itch to fight. He did it because he saw his people oppressed and wanted them to be free. He wanted them to experience freedom, not just dream about it.

Depp’s Barrie did essentially the same thing in Finding Neverland. He saw the oppression in the lives of the Davis family due to the loss of their father and husband. And he promptly went to war for them. (I don’t necessarily agree with him abandoning his own family for the sake of another…but that’s another discussion.) He didn’t sever any limbs in the process. And he didn’t stir any great army to battle. But he did help heal the hearts of a woman and her sons…potentially changing the lives of endless generations to come. Same outcome, different strategy.

I like that. Not because it’s the "peaceful" (read Mennonite, non-resistant, pacifist) solution, but because it is another solution.

A complaint many have with John Eldredge and the whole Wild at Heart movement is that it doesn’t leave much room for the men who aren’t wired the way of the warrior and that it almost suggests there is something wrong with a man who doesn’t enjoy watching Saving Private Ryan. Eldredge addressed these criticisms at Boot Camp and says that his teachings simply reflect how he personally connects with his masculinity and that he knows going to battle each day means going to the office for some men. But for him, it was the death of his heart.

For Barrie, going to battle meant engaging his creativity in the context of relationship. I don’t know all the details of Barrie’s actual life, but as the movie portrayed it Barrie’s edge as a playwright was suffering greatly because of the stagnation of his relationship with his wife. It sapped his creativity. He could escape to Neverland in his mind…but he needed to share it and experience it with somebody else. It’s as if the Davis family activated his creative anointing.

I think that’s how it’s designed to work. I think that as men called to war for people’s hearts, as men enlisted among the ranks of God’s kingdom army…our sweet spot is doing what we love to do in the context of setting people free. If we’re simply "doing our thing" but not impacting others, it’s in vain. If I’m simply taking pictures, or blogging or creating nifty Web graphics for my alma mater, but not setting people free, I may as well sit at home and watch movies all day; it’s a spiritual equivalent.

God designed it so that what we are passionate about most…what we absolutely LOVE doing…can be our greatest tool for setting people free. We need to believe that. We need to believe God could really be that good to us…that we could serve His Kingdom at peak effeciency by doing what we love to do.

The world is screaming for us to start embracing our dreams and that truth.

"Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself, What makes my heart come alive? Because what the world needs is people whose hearts have come alive." — Harold Whitman

By Joel Maust

Joel Maust is a marketer, blogger and photographer living in the beautiful Flathead Valley of northwest Montana.

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