What The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Taught Me about My Masculine Heart

Sean O'ConnellIf you ask any man what his favorite movies are, you will more than likely get a list of classics such as Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, Iron Man, and other movies involving swords and explosions. Few men will add Sleepless in Seattle or The Notebook to their Netflix queue unless an attractive female wants to watch it with them. When was the last time you heard a guy say, “Hey bro, wanna grab a pizza and watch Notting Hill?” Probably never. So why is it the majority of men all seem to like the same types of movies?

Perhaps it’s because these movies awaken the deep sense of adventure that God has placed in your masculine soul.

Adventures are exciting because you are forced to figure out the answers as you go along. The outcome—and often the path—is unknown. You don’t know how it’s going to end. There may be danger involved. Failure is a possibility. Driving to the grocery store to pick up a gallon of milk is not an adventure. Finding the grocery store on fire and running in to rescue people is. Which scenario gets you more excited as a man? I can’t be the only one who fantasizes about things such as rescuing people from burning buildings or fighting off mountain lions on the trail. It’s written in our hearts as men.

I have long been aware of this desire for adventure inside me, but I misunderstood the root of it for many years. You see, adventure isn’t just about getting an adrenaline fix or doing something worthy of a YouTube video. It’s about being alive. God created men to desire adventure because the skills we learn through it—endurance, perseverance, trust, risk—are the same skills we need to experience a life fully alive to Him. After all, the greatest adventure of all—the only adventure that will fully meet this need within a man—is the adventure of living by faith.

But what happens if you ignore your desire for adventure, refuse to take risks, and choose to live a “safe” life? Life will become nothing more than punching a clock, doing your daily duties, and only saying the “right” things so you don’t stir the pot. Men who accept this life become passive…jaded…bored. When these men see the grocery store in flames, they drive right past it and look for a safer place to buy their milk. Instead of adventure, they settle for something safer—something free from risk. Sadly, the longer a man goes down this road, the more tempted he will be to retreat into fantasy.

Fantasy is the opposite of adventure, though. Instead of awakening life within you, it encourages you to hide from life. It promises an escape from the pain and disappointment in your real world that you are too afraid to face. Instead of embracing the risk of addressing these things and entering into the adventure of faith that God has called you to, you check out. You turn to TV, video games, hobbies, or even sinful things such as pornography or drunkenness as a means of distracting yourself from the hard realities of real life. But these distractions are not real. They are merely fantasies robbing you from the life God is calling you to.

Secret Life of Walter MittyBen Stiller’s new movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, illustrates this pull between the masculine longing for adventure and the false solution of fantasy, which is why I think it should be required viewing for every man.

In the movie, Walter is bored. He lives his life according to duty. There is no drama, no romance, and certainly no adventure in his world. Walter is afraid to take risks, so he settles for merely daydreaming about the type of life he truly desires.

Inevitably, Walter comes to a crossroads in his life. He is given the opportunity to enter into an adventure far beyond anything he has experienced before. But in order to do so, he must take enormous risks. Each time he steps outside of his comfort zone, though, it becomes easier and easier for him to do it the next time. By the end of the movie, Walter has been transformed from a coward into “a cross between Indiana Jones and the lead singer of The Strokes.”

Just like Walter Mitty, if you want to experience the adventure God has called you to, you will need to step out of your comfort zone and take risks. You will need to trust God completely, even when it seems risky, illogical, or unsafe. But the more you trust Him, the easier it will be to trust Him further. Before you know it, you will find yourself living your own adventure of faith, trusting God in ways you never before dreamed possible.

So, my brother, if you are hiding behind fantasy, I would strongly encourage you to stop talking yourself out of the adventure God is calling you to. Be honest with yourself and ask what will make your heart come alive more: Risking whatever it takes to follow God, love your family, and impact the Kingdom for eternity; or getting caught up on your DVR? It’s like asking if you’d rather watch Gladiator or Dirty Dancing, isn’t it?

The real world needs your strength. Your family needs your strength. And the only way to start believing you have it is to trust God when He calls you to run toward the burning building. Yes, you may get singed in places, but it’s worth it.

The adventure of faith is always worth it.

The world tells you “Don’t climb on that, don’t break anything,
don’t be so aggressive, don’t be so noisy,
don’t be so messy, don’t make such crazy risks.”
But God’s design—which he placed in boys
as the picture of himself—is a resounding yes.
Be fierce, be wild, be passionate.
~John Eldredge, Wild at Heart~

What movies have spoken to your heart as a man?

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  1. I loved Walter Mitty and am loving it more as it sinks in. I watched the movie last week and am still thinking about it! There is so much we can do in our lives as we live by faith and serve others. That is a true adventure! Being able to go outside ourselves and serve.
    Thanks for your post!

  2. Great thoughts!

    Fantasy: we see everything, we control it. Adventure: sight is limited and so is control.

    That’s why faith is the ultimate adventure-right up there with being married.

    That being said I’m going to a hotel with my bride this weekend and we’re going to see that movie!

  3. Angie Shaw says:

    Interesting! Seems that God spoke to many Christian men and women’s hearts in similar fashion! There’s a little Walter Mitty in all of us and stepping out in faith and trusting God with the innermost desires if our hearts seems to be a resounding theme in many of our stirring hearts! And because we trust that God is faithful and he always keeps his promises, we are believing that God can, and WILL do exceedlingly abundantly more than we could ever ask for or dream of!
    Sharing the journey!!
    P.S. Here’s my kindred spirit reflection: