What is True Manhood?: An Interview with Bill Delvaux
Contrast and compare how cultures past and present have defined “heroic” in terms of manhood.
Bill Delvaux: What intrigues me about how cultures have defined “heroic” is the uniformity of understanding. Whether I read Greek mythology, delve into a classic novel, or watch a recent film release, there’s a striking similarity amidst all the differences in time and place. Basically the heroic man embodies someone who uses his strength and wisdom for the benefit of those around him. He even goes so far as to suffer, sacrifice, and die in some cases so that others will flourish. When we see this heroic man in action, we intuitively know that this is right and true. No one has to argue us into this conclusion.
What are the dangers of allowing modern entertainment to influence the concept of being heroic?
Bill Delvaux: I think there are two dangers. The biggest one involves the moral drift we all see in a postmodern world. Words such as heroic can become bent and applied to courageous stands for sinful behavior. The traditional moral structures are cast as the enemy and bravery is then applauded for those who choose otherwise. I’ve seen this happen numerous times in the entertainment industry. The lesser danger involves how we use what’s truly heroic in movies and TV. We can let our vicarious experience of the heroic there be the end of it. Whatever inspiration we may feel is quickly lost and forgotten in the helter-skelter of daily life. But the inspiration is meant to drive us to ask hard questions about ourselves. Ultimately it’s to drive us to God.
Why is heroism important to a man’s identity?
Bill Delvaux: I believe the heroic is a glimpse of what pre-fall man was like. It’s the shut door back into Eden being cracked open just for a moment so that we can see a glimmer of his glory. That longing for the heroic is planted deep inside the male soul and can act as a compass needle back to what a true man really is. From an early age, a boy intuitively looks for a strong man who can compete, fight, and win the battle. When he becomes a young man, he starts looking for a wise man who knows the way to live and can coach him. But at some point, he’s inspired by the noble man who uses his strength and wisdom for everyone else. The noble man is the truly heroic man. He’s what men long to be and what men were meant to be. He’s the missing identity piece in every man.
What have you concluded to be the biblical model for being heroic?
Bill Delvaux: What’s so fascinating about the Bible is that it both tacitly agrees the mythological models of the heroic and at the same time upends them. In a subversive countermove, it boldly proclaims that only God is the true hero of the Old Testament narratives, not fallen men. And when we get to the New Testament, the pattern continues. God becomes a man to show us what a true man should be. Jesus was the quintessential hero. All of his strength and wisdom was never for his benefit. It was always for everyone else. He gave and gave, and in the end gave his life in the most horrific death imaginable for the sins of humanity. In Jesus, we see the mythological hero climbing out of the storybook and taking on muscle and flesh.
How does Jesus redefine manhood?
Bill Delvaux: The whole purpose for why Jesus came was to remake men into his image. If he was the great hero of all time, what does that mean for us as men? I think it means that he has a heroic journey he wants us to take to become like him. There are many aspects to the heroic journey in literature, but I think the three most important here are these:
- Finding a guide: Jesus lived the heroic life and knows it. And he wants to guide us into it through his Word, his presence, and through a living, daily conversation with him. He wants to coach us individually.
- Owning an identity: Jesus will give each man a new identity as a son of his Father and a brother to himself. But he will also give a man a new name; a personal name by which he sees him. And how Jesus sees a man is who he really is.
- Discovering a quest: Jesus will give a man something to do, a quest to take, some unique part the man has to play for Christ’s kingdom. The quest will give that man focus and drive, call forth the warrior in him, and set him on an adventure that will change everything for him.
I think these three gifts become the way Jesus redefines manhood for us.
What role does the Bible play in a man being heroic?
Bill Delvaux: Every man loves a heroic tale. The Bible is the greatest heroic tale of all time, telling of a great Hero who gave his life to save the world. But it’s the one tale that happened in history!
Reading the Bible immediately confronts a man with what he knows he should be and yet what he is not. It then provides sound wisdom for how to move forward in life. Ultimately, the Bible points to Jesus, the great Hero. As a man continues to read, study, and meditate on the Bible, he’ll be drawn into a closer connection with the living Christ.
What is the “surprising path to true manhood”?
Bill Delvaux: The surprise is not so much our understanding of the heroic. Every man knows what being heroic is. The surprise is how to get there. It’s not about climbing to the top or having the loudest voice or the biggest influence. The way we get there is through death. This is the surprise. Jesus initiates us as men through the death we must walk through: a death to our idols, a death to our false selves, a death to our agendas and plans and cherished outcomes for our lives. All of that must go to choose the path to manhood.
An even bigger surprise comes after the death. It’s resurrection. It’s the resurrection of our hearts as men. It comes upon us slowly and then in huge waves at times. The men we longed to be like is becoming a reality.
Why is silence an important element in a man’s life?
Bill Delvaux: Silence is the only way we become heroic. You can’t get it by reading biographies of heroes. You can’t get it by watching movies of heroes. You can’t get it by even reading the book I’ve written! You have to enter the silence and meet Jesus. Only in the silence do you become stained with his Word. Only in the silence do you begin to recognize his voice. Only in the silence do you find your true identity. Only in the silence do you discover your quest and find the courage to keep continuing on that quest. And only in the silence do you receive his personal coaching.
Yet men by and large are terrible with silence. Some of that is the cultural onslaught of noise, media, and technology, along with an epidemic of busyness. But some of that is also their fear of silence; of being stripped naked before God. But if a man stays in the silence, he’ll find what has eluded him his whole life. He’ll find not only rest and peace, affirmation and love. He’ll find glory as well—the aura of glory that emanated from all his heroes. He’ll find the glory of being with Jesus and uniting with him.
What is the secret of greatness you write about?
Bill Delvaux: Men are always seeking after a greatness that eludes them. They think that greatness is found at the top of the corporate ladder or in the fame of being a public figure or in the power that comes from wealth or position. But it’s all a lie. It’s tinsel and trappings that seduce and then corrupt. Here’s the secret of greatness: lift up the greatness of everyone else. Find a way to serve them. Encourage, affirm, listen. Be generous. This is the love that conquers all things. This is exactly what the Scriptures have been telling us all along.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Bill Delvaux: One of my favorite passages is Jeremiah 6:16:
This is what the Lord says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”
I love this because I’m a backpacker and love to walk trails. The imagery is provocative: standing at the crossroads with many possible paths to choose. The Lord invites us to ask him where the good way is, the ancient way that’s been known since time immemorial. He wants us to walk in that way and find rest for our souls. Jesus picked up this idea in his own memorable teaching to come to him and find rest for our souls. He’s the living embodiment of that good and ancient way. Sadly, the Israelites of Jeremiah’s time refused to walk in it. I want to be one who does and help others walk in it as well.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?
Bill Delvaux: Bible Gateway is my go-to place for Bible verses both on my computer and on my phone! I also love the way I can search for verses using a key word.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Bill Delvaux: I hope Heroic will crack open a door for men that they didn’t know was there and bring forth healing and transformation.
Bio: Bill Delvaux is a graduate of Duke University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. The author of Heroic, Landmarks: Turning Points on Your Journey Toward God, and Divided: When the Head and Heart Don’t Agree, he’s been a church planter, a high school Bible teacher, and a running coach. Six years ago, he pioneered Landmark Journey Ministries to help men connect their stories to God’s story through retreats and spiritual direction. Bill also enjoys reading, biking, backpacking in the wilderness, and playing the piano. His greatest claim to fame is being married to Heidi for 33 years and having two amazing daughters, Abigail and Rachel. He and his wife currently reside in Franklin, TN.
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