In 2001, John Eldredge's book "Wild at Heart" explored the inner life of Christian men--and became a bestseller. Now, he and his wife Stasi have teamed up to write "Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul." The couple sat down with Beliefnet to talk about warrior princesses, men who won't commit, and how the devil is the villain in every woman's life story.
Comparing "Captivating" and John's earlier book about men, "Wild at Heart," how are the desires of men and women similar and different?
SE: Well, they are very similar, what a man desires and what a woman desires, and they fit together really well.
JE: And yet, they're distinctly masculine and distinctly feminine. In fact, in "Wild at Heart," I said every man wants a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue. And in "Captivating"-
SE: -every woman wants to be romanced; every woman wants to play an irreplaceable role in a heroic adventure, not just to be useful but to be irreplaceable; and every woman longs to have a beauty that's all her own to unveil, both an external beauty and an internal beauty as well. To be the beauty and to offer beauty.
JE: There are a lot of other similarities too. Our hearts are both wounded and those wounds shape us into the men or women that we become.
"Wild at Heart" says every man wants a beauty to rescue. And in "Captivating," it says that little girls often play games about being rescued. Some feminists are against the idea of passive women who want to be rescued. What is your response?
SE: I think there are days when every woman on the planet Earth would love to have a man come up on a white horse and whisk her away. But that's not the reality of our lives, and women are not victims. We're not weak women saying, "Rescue me, I can't handle my life."
As a woman, your job is not to be passive, but to become all the woman that you are meant to be, to play your irreplaceable role. Don't diminish the vulnerability in you, which is a lovely and needed part of being a woman.
JE: Women can be very strong and they can be valiant; that's why we have a chapter on warrior princesses. But one of the essential qualities of femininity is vulnerability. When a woman forsakes her vulnerability because she's been hurt or because she lives in a dangerous world or doesn't want to be used, she loses something essential about being a woman. And we want to encourage her, "don't do that." It takes great courage to be vulnerable. It takes enormous strength to be a real woman.
SE: Nor are we saying that women should be vulnerable in every area of their lives and with every person.
Your book speaks in terms of pursuing and being pursued. In society today, it's not always a given that men are pursuers-or want to be. Where does this leave women?
JE: That passivity on the part of men is not a good thing. That's wounded masculinity, and that's why "Wild at Heart" is trying to get guys to take initiative. Hello, give her a call, right? Buy a ring! Make a move, buddy!
SE: One of woman's greatest powers is the power of invitation. Just by virtue of being a woman, the way she's living her life, determines what she's inviting others to. If she's a very controlling, afraid woman, she's inviting others to not risk anything and certainly asking them not to be vulnerable with her. If she's driven, she's inviting you to being driven. If it's done with wisdom, there's a very cunning way that a woman can arouse and lure a man to move, to become a man.
To become the pursuer?
JE: We like the word 'seduce.'
SE: To seduce-not only the sexual connotation of it-but seduce is to arouse and invite action by your wisdom, by your cunning, and by your femininity.
In terms of seduction-and the movies the books mention, where there's a lot of romance and adventure-how can a married mother of two toddlers running around doing chores find adventure or romance?
JE: Our core message is, first we have to take our hearts to God. There's no other safe place in the world for them. Augustine said our hearts are restless until they find their rest into him.
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JE: Life changes.
SE: Oh, it does! Because God romances, in the midst of it, in the midst of the mundane; in the busyness and the laundry and the lists, he loves to come. He's not limited by our limited circumstances. So as a woman brings her heart to God, we want her to do that because those are desperate, lonely times--when you're trapped in your house and you're not having an adult conversation.
Getting back to the point raised earlier, how can women be feminine warriors?
SE: Well, there's something very fierce in the heart of a woman. We all know that. Try to insult a woman's best friend or her husband or, if you want to risk your life, insult her children. (Laughs) And that fierceness was given to us for a reason, for a purpose; we battle, but mostly for relationships.
JE: But a woman needs to realize that she does live in a world with evil. She will live a nave life if she doesn't take evil seriously.
You say that Satan focused on Eve because she was beautiful-she reflected God's glory and she gave light. What are the pitfalls-what kind of evils out there are women vulnerable to?
JE: Unless you interpret your life as a woman as involving a villain who hates you and doesn't want you to have rich relationship and doesn't want you to have a meaningful career and doesn't want you to have children that love you-
SE: -and doesn't want you to believe that you're beautiful and doesn't want you to know that you have something of incredible value to offer.
JE: Then you will just think it's your inability to get your life together.
So you have to realize there's an enemy out there?
JE: You have to.
SE: It's not all you.
JE: Otherwise you just live with shame.
And this enemy is the devil? Or society or...?
JE: Absolutely. [Now] it's the devil. He uses people, right?
JE: And society has done terrible things to women. But what we're trying to help them see is the source behind them. Because if you try and fix the blame on a man or men or culture, you'll miss what's really driving evil.
SE: And we know, women know. Open a newspaper, about what's happening in any country. The brunt of war is falling on women and children. The sexual assault against women-the statistics are horrible, and yet it's so underreported. It's much worse. So we know we're living in a dangerous world, but we have to realize that it's not just what's coming against us physically; it's what's coming against us spiritually.
JE: Especially against your hearts, what you live under: the accusations, guilt, condemnation, shame, reproach, fear.
John, how has co-writing a women's book-"Captivating"-and immersing yourself in issues of women's hearts influenced your feelings about your men's book, "Wild at Heart"? With hindsight, are there things you would change about "Wild at Heart"?
JE: Oh no, not a thing. It only confirmed all of it, deepened it, challenged me more in it, showed me my own shortcomings. Where a man's strength and courage is tested most is in the way that he treats women, the way that he loves.
Part of "Captivating" mentions how lonely women can be. What can help women get through their struggles with loneliness?
SE: One of the first things is a revelation-It's not just you. We share so much as women. We really are in this together. Yes, we are unique; we have unique gifts, unique talents, different callings, but there is also much that we share.
Then with the book, it's all about Jesus. The core question a woman is asking, the only one that can answer that question profoundly and deeply and well is Jesus. The invitation is to take to him. All of us women who carry wounds, the only one that can heal our wounded soul is Jesus. And that's why he came. That's the offer. He's come to heal the broken hearts, set the captives free.
The loneliness, the ache, the only one who can fill that to the depth that we need it filled, the only one that can touch that is Jesus. So there's good news. It doesn't mean that you're never going to hurt, but you can be healed.