Navigating life as a young man can be confusing, especially without a good role model and mentor. Sam Eldredge, son of bestselling author John Eldredge (Wild at Heart; Beautiful Outlaw), found that weekly post-college-graduation phone conversations with his father eased the transition to manhood. They talked about everything, from love and sex to money, work, God, and more. Those conversations are captured for the benefit of other young men in Killing Lions: A Guide Through the Trials Young Men Face (Thomas Nelson, Sept.). The title comes from a Masai tradition; a boy knows he has become a man when he kills a lion.
When did you realize your conversations would be helpful to other fathers and sons, and how did that lead to you writing the book as a team?
John: I think we were about three months into our weekly Wednesday night call when I asked Sam, “How many of your friends and peers have anybody they can talk to about stuff like this?” Sam’s reply didn’t surprise me, but it broke my heart: “None. No one.” I suggested that if he was willing, we could help a lot of men. Sam was considering an M.A. program in writing, and I knew the experience would be perfect for him.
Sam: Actually, this wasn’t intended as a “father and son” book. It began from my honest questions and the ongoing conversation my dad and I were having. We were able to talk about the big issues of love and identity and money and work. It took me a while to realize just how unique it was, and once I did, the idea of sharing it with others was a no-brainer. In writing the book, we revisited each topic and had the conversation all over again, which was so rich and brought up new stories and answers that I think so many guys will resonate with, no matter their age.
Which topics were the most difficult to discuss because of generational differences?
Sam: What I wanted was the roadmap to my life, especially as it pertains to work and dreams. It’s difficult, at least at first, to hear you need to put in time before that happens. But part of the journey for me was learning what becoming a man of [high] caliber looks like. There is no “wasted time” so long as we can get a bearing on where we really are in life. Those conversations were where I felt my own strongest pushback, but they ended up being some of the most helpful.
John: Readers my age will remember an old Cat Stevens song, “Father and Son.” He sang about how sons always want to run off and find a revolution, while fathers--remembering the cost of their own mistakes--want to protect their sons from wasted years. The most delicate balance [for me] was allowing for [Sam’s] dreaming and adventures, while also offering sound advice about work and money and decision-making.
Do either of you believe you had a rougher road navigating life at 25 than the other?
John: That’s tough to say; we came of age in such different times. But I’m going to say I had the harder road for the simple reason that I didn’t have an older man to walk alongside me. My dad was long gone, so like most of the men who will read this book, I was on my own to sort everything out.
What do you hope readers will gain from reading Killing Lions?
Sam: This book isn’t about raising questions only to leave them unanswered. Everyone’s story is different, but many of our doubts and fears end up being very similar. My hope is that readers will find real, solid answers to their questions.
John: Exactly. This is a very practical book, but we also hope readers will experience being “fathered.” Fathering is available for all of us, no matter our situation or even our age. That is the central offer of Christianity--you have a Father who loves you and will walk with you.
A book like this could offer lessons for every stage of life–not just for men in their 20s, but also those in their 30s, 40s, and so on. How about writing sequels to Killing Lions?
Sam: Many men resonate with these questions. If they don’t get answered at 24, then guys will still be wondering at 44. That said, there are new questions at every stage of life, and seeking the answers is part of what it’s all about. I’d love to, and plan to, explore those as they come along.
John: I’ve already thought about how helpful this would be framed for the decade of the 30s, when kids hit the scene, and men have to learn balancing family, marriage, and career. That book is needed!