A Man



An interview with Bruce Stankavage

Onward Christian Warrior

Is men's work mutually exclusive to Christianity? Not according to Bruce Stankavage, or John Eldredge - Wild at Heart author who will be interviewed next month here.

In this multi-culturally sensitive world, it often appears that Christians are the exception when practicing tolerance. Sure there's judgmental Christians, but aren't there narrow-minded zealots in almost every belief - including modern secularism? Maybe there's just too many leftover shadows from our own personal Christian roots ...

"People involved with MKP don't jump for joy when they know about my belief," said Stankavage, who was born a Catholic. "But I knew I had to deal with loving myself before loving God. Something was blocking me from feeling that I was unconditionally loved. I intellectually understood my beliefs, but not emotionally. I didn't feel them."

Stankavage was initiated into men's work through The ManKind Project (MKP) in 2002 at Claymont Court, near Washington D.C.

"That experience profoundly impacted my life," he said. "I dealt with my wounds and the history around my wounds. MKP really brought some healing for me and helped my clarity in my relationship with the Lord. MKP's New Warrior Adventure Training does great work, and I got huge gains from it."

Also, Stankavage has participated in two "boot camps" for men and one "advanced camp" for men who feel called to work with other men. The retreats were lead by Eldredge's Ransomed Heart Ministries in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Approximately 400 men attended each "boot camp" and 60 men attended the "advanced" camp.

Having participated in a "Promise Keepers" gathering once, Stankavage said that the event was "more about singing and praising God, which is good, but it didn't get to my heart and its wounds. Until you reach a man's heart and understand his passions - his wounds - he cannot understand who he was meant to be."

Too often Christian nomenclature is off-putting to the world at large. For example, the word "repentance" may create the image of self-castigating whips of cloistered priests. The Hebrew name repentance "Shuwb" however, means to change one's heart or mind. The Greek word is "Metanoeo" - or to change for the better.

A little blessed change of heart sounds good.

Stankavage quoted Isaiah 61:1. "... he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted ... and set the captives free."

He continued: "As human's, we can only do so much for ourselves, and then we must invite Him into our broken places - to open our eyes and heal us as only He can heal. The source of my healing is Jesus. I tried to heal myself and it didn't work. In the Bible, it is Jesus who is referenced as our comforter and counselor."

Having recently re-read John Bradshaw's Home Coming, Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child, I am reminded that an integral part of the 12-step recovery program is acknowledging a higher power. What does anyone care if Bruce Stankavage calls that power Jesus.

"MKP and Christianity are both about healing our broken hearts and trying to get us to be the people we were created to be," Stankavage said. "So when we are living in our glory and our calling, we're as close to being godlike as we're going to be - when we're in our giftedness."

There is still a struggle for him in holding both worlds together, he noted.

"Men's work or Christianity ... he mused. "It's a tough question. Eldredge ties the two worlds together better than anyone I know. He asks the universal questions of 'why am I here? what is my calling?"

I recall C.G. Jung's approach to Christianity. He confessed in his later years, in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, that he was sympathetic to Christianity. Jung had taught people during his lifetime that his goal was to heal the human heart so that the individual would then be more soulfully healthy to pursue God - however God appeared.

Sadly, many of the prejudices against Christians are well deserved, Stankavage stated.

"So many people, not just Christians, are hypocrites wearing a façade of a godly person but being different behind closed doors. The answer is getting to a man's heart. How can I have a relationship with the Lord if I don't know my own heart?"

The 34-year-old said that modern Christianity puts up too many "don'ts and not enough "do's."

"As Christians, we've been told to be good girls and boys - be proper and moral. That's good, but that's not the goal. That's like sin management. Don't drink, don't smoke, dress nice, don't look at pornography - but until we deal with the unresolved heart issues and wounds, no kind of discipline will overcome our temptations. Discipline will break down at some point because we haven't resolved the heart issues."

"I believe that Eldredge, among other things, focuses on the restoration of our hearts - helping Christians live out of their calling and glory. When we live there, we are living in freedom. In order to do that, we have to access many of the truths in the mytho-poetic work and go deeply into our wounds to find our greatest desires and passions. As I learned at my MKP initiation, Rumi said something along the lines of our mission coming out of our greatest pain - our wounds."

In our conversation by telephone from his business in Durham, NC, Stankavage stopped me and pointedly asked if I believed in "the Enemy."

Already being a Christian, a Mormon, I believe the account in scripture that talks about a "war in heaven" where Satan - "the father of all lies" - was cast out. And, he's here with his minions among us now. Plus, I'm a big fan of M. Scott Peck who writes about evil convincingly in his book The People of The Lie.

"In the Christianity of my heritage, the "Enemy" was never brought out," Stankavage recalled. "It's freeing to know that it's not all my fault. There is another presence out there that wants to take me out. There are demonic forces in nature."

One of my personal favorite New Testament verses is Ephesians 6:12. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

I think Papa Jung would have something to say as well about the archetypal energies that influence us mortals here on earth.

Stankavage, who is a partner in a self-storage facility, said he grew up in a home that stressed "duty and appearances over relationships and authenticity.

"Being Catholic, for me, was about being dutiful - going to church," he said. "My mom used to say 'God gives you 24 hours a day and you can't give him an hour on Sunday?!' I remember sitting in a pew and having her say 'Why can't you be like that good little boy over there?' That wounded me as a child. Then there was my dad's disappointment in my misbehavior - that I was not like the other kids. So I figured that if I wasn't like the others, I wasn't going to be loved. As a result, I spent my life trying to fit in and be perfect. I lived in fear that if I was not perfect, I would not be worthy of anyone's love and acceptance. It was obviously a tough burden to carry. Thankfully, I continue to heal and live in the freedom God has called me to live in.

At some point, Stankavage said he realized there was more to church than watching his mother say her rosaries.

"I asked myself if she was living out of her heart, or out of her passions that the Lord could put in her heart, or whether she was living only out of discipline. I knew there was more out there for me. I am thankful for my mom because she introduced me to the fact that there is something out there that is greater than me that I cannot see."

The permission NOT to have to be a good boy, was freeing to Stankavage.

"Jesus wasn't necessarily a good boy," he said. "He'd piss a lot of those guys off, and had many confrontations. Modern Christianity doesn't talk about confrontation. We're not supposed to get too emotional. But Jesus got emotional. He didn't always turn the other cheek. He showed us it's okay to express our emotions and still be in control. He didn't say 'don't be angry.' In the Bible, Paul says to be angry, but do not sin. There is a big difference. That idea was very freeing, knowing that I could express myself, and have conflict, and still be acting Christ like - so to speak. It's difficult to be masculine when everyone in the church is telling you to 'just calm down, don't be upset, don't express yourself.' Jesus ripped up tables and called the Pharisees hypocrites. Jesus had a glorious masculinity.

"It's all about a life with a vibrant heart," Stankavage said, quoting I Samuel 16:7, at the point when David is chosen as king of Israel. "But the Lord said unto Samuel, look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."

Stankavage warns men not to let the church "strip" us from our hearts. "Guard your heart - it's the wellspring of life!" (Proverbs 4:23)

Early Christianity focused more on the resurrection than it did the crucifixion, he instructed. The fact that Jesus Christ conquered death was the more notable event. Instead of wearing crosses, Christians might consider wearing boulders around their necks, signifying the rolling away of the stone covering the tomb and the resurrection of the Savior.

"Total Christianity is about Jesus' crucifixion, his resurrection, and his ascension into heaven - not just his crucifixion," he explained.

So, are we ready to accept Christians into the men's movement, yet? Stankavage said he is willing to agree to disagree on potentially divisive points with men. Quoting Romans 8:1 he said "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

"We get so judgmental, and condemning," he continued. "That's my own shadow. Condemning words are not from God. That's the "Enemy." Even the words I hear in my own head, the condemning words about myself, I have to realize they are not coming from God."

Don't most people prefer to find what they have in common with other people, rather than seeking out divisive issues?

"I've learned in MKP to own my judgments," he said. "I can see my own weaknesses better. Eldredge's work has helped me by reminding me to invite Jesus in to help. He can help me be who I was created to be. In my own strength, I will always fail. That's why I was drawn to God and Jesus - that takes the burden off of me."

Although men's work tends to shy away from religion, it openly embraces the concept of archetypal energies - spirit. Ancient symbols of the four basic directions (Read Robert Moore's

King, Warrior, Magician, Lover) personify primal forces (or spirit) in nature.

"In the beginning [at MKP meetings] when we were calling in those spirits, I didn't feel quite right. I'd ask 'what am I doing?'" Stankavage said. "Now, I see that the directions are all the personalities of one God - because there's only one spirit. Only one spirit that has power to heal. That's what we're asking for.

For me, in my own beliefs, I see Christ modeling the archetypal energy of the blessed King. Whether He is (which I believe) or is not the Son of God, He does carry the image of what Jung called "the Christ figure" that is hard-wired within us.

"Too often I have gone after the sin in other people, but now I want to call out their glory, and bring that out of them," Stankavage said. "I want to be a blessing for my glory to shine. If a guy is an addict, I try to remember that that is not the deepest thing about him. He's still an image bearer of God. I work not to condemn him but to find that guy's glory. Sometimes it gets messy, but it's always good."

Stankavage said he lives out his mission, starting at home with his wife and three boys.

Daily prayer and meditation also helps him to connect "where God had affirmed His presence - His sovereignty."

Again praising Eldredge, Stankavage said he has learned that there are no quick tips or techniques to life.

"The main goal is to simply walk with God, totally submitting and surrendering ourselves to him. It's about relationships - trusting, following the wild goose, the Holy Spirit. God is with us when we open up our hearts to each other."

Stankavage said he believes he's been given great gifts in his life.

"I have a wife and two little boys at home that I can share my life with," he concluded. "My challenge is to look at my wound and the message that said I never had anything to offer anybody ... and now, in a more intentional way, I'm stepping out and calling on God's glory that is in me."

Stankavage helps facilitate discussion groups at Martin Brossman's chat site at groups.yahoo.com/group/wild-at-heart/ Contact info: bruce@northstatestorage.com

© 2005 Reid Baer

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The fame you earn has a different taste from the fame that is forced upon you. - Gloria Vanderbilt

Reid Baer, an award-winning playwright for “A Lyon’s Tale” is also a newspaper journalist, a poet with more than 100 poems in magazines world wide, and a novelist with his first book released this month entitled Kill The Story. Baer has been a member of The ManKind Project since 1995 and currently edits The New Warrior Journal for The ManKind Project www.mkp.org . He resides in Reidsville, N.C. with his wife Patricia. He can be reached at E-Mail.

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