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Weekend Reading: The Map by David Murrow

March 1, 2013

The Map by David MurrowI do not read a lot of fiction. As a general rule, I simply do not enjoy it. However, I do have an appreciation for its value. As a communicator, the best way to make a point or teach a lesson is often through the use of a well told – or written – story.

The Map (2010, Thomas Nelson) by David Murrow is a unique blend of fiction and non-fiction. In the first part of the book, Murrow tries to write an adventure story. This story serves as an illustration that will be explained in the second part. I commend Murrow for his creativity and novelty, and it almost works. Part of the problem is that the fictional story is only pretty good. I realize the blurbs and book descriptions on the back cover of the paperback are there to help sell books. That being said, the quote from Robert Lewis (founder of Men’s Fraternity) only sets the reader up for disappointment: “the spiritual punch of C.S. Lewis, written in the style of a Jason Bourne thriller.” Let’s just say it’s a bit of over-kill.

That is not to say the book is bad. Actually, it is quite good! The Map is a follow-up to Why Men Hate Going to Church, and provides some much needed balance. The second half of the book is all about the path men should take to spiritual maturity.

With the understanding that many, if not most, men need visual cues to help them learn, Murrow lays out the journey to maturity in the form of a map. Reaching spiritual maturity is like climbing a mountain, and Murrow’s map is designed to help get us there. To draw this map, Murrow took cues from major sections of Matthew’s gospel. In analyzing the book of Matthew, Murrow saw three journeys Jesus made:

  • Matthew 1-7: Jesus is mostly humble, meek, and submissive. His life and teachings reflect a classic feminine pattern. (the journey of submission)
  • Matthew 8-25: Jesus is mostly powerful, bold, and outspoken. His life and teachings reflect a classic masculine pattern. (the journey of strength)
  • Matthew 26-28: Jesus is mostly meek, passive, and sacrificial. His life once again reflects a classic feminine pattern. (the journey of sacrifice)

Murrow understands that everyone—men and women—have personalities that include both masculine and feminine traits. When he uses the terms masculine and feminine, he makes in meaning and intent clear—and I appreciate that.

Before we go any further, let’s not run aground on the words masculine and feminine. I’m not saying that strength is manly and submission is womanly. I’m simply pointing out that, throughout the literature of a thousand cultures, attributes such as strength, aggression, goal orientation, competitiveness, and conflict are most often identified as male. On the other hand, love, communication, family, nurturing, and harmony are regularly understood as female. (Even modern bestsellers such as Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus follow this line.)

So please don’t judge me when I use feminine to describe the soft virtues and masculine to describe the hard ones. The purpose of this book is not to stereotype. Nor am I assigning certain traits to males and others to females. Quite the opposite. My prayer is that men and women will develop both sides of their personalities. I’m pleading with women to be strong, and with men to embrace weakness. My labels may not be PC, but they’re instantly understandable. (page 105)

After introducing the concept of the three journeys, Murrow spends three chapters examining and describing them in greater detail. He does a good job of continuing the metaphor of map and mountain as he describes these journeys. He also offers biblical examples of men on these journeys, highlighting their successes as well as failures.

The last few chapters were the most helpful to me personally. In Chapter 16, Murrow identifies seven points where men “get lost on the mountain”. I found this encouraging. Some of these are points I have been stuck or have seen other men stuck. It was encouraging to see that my experience is not isolated and that it is possible to get unstuck and continue on the journey.

The remainder of The Map is devoted to incredibly important, but often forgotten (or neglected), task of applying what you have learned to your life and/or ministry context. Please do not miss this step. Murrow good advice in this arena. The reality is that, as men, we are on these journeys. The question is whether we will realize this and allow the journeys to grow, shape, and mold us into the men God has designed us to be—and calls us to be.

I started reading The Map almost hoping not to like it. I wanted to take what could be called an elitist or condescending view of a simplistic, purely pragmatic Christian “how-to” book. Alas, I cannot. It is a good book with simple, but rich, insights into a journey to biblical manhood.

Murrow writes in a style that is easy to read which would make The Map easy to hand out to men you know. I would recommend this book to anyone who finds this an important topic. Church leaders, including lay-leaders, may find it particularly helpful as they provide ministry opportunities with and for men.

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