Recently on a roadtrip to Portland, my siblings and I chanced upon a Christian program where the speaker and his wife were addressing the epidemic of unmarried youth. They blamed the selfishness of the modern generation. And while I agree that my generation is certainly selfish, I think the root stems from something much more complex and deeper.
Every unmarried Christian young woman I know desires marriage. In fact, most Christian young woman I know desired marriage and motherhood since they were five years old. For most of us it was one of our biggest aspirations. Something we played at as children, and something we dreamed of as adults.
So why so many unmarried today?
While there are many factors, my brother and I came to a startling realization that I thought worthy of sharing. We believe that the lack of marriage in Christian circles comes from the widespread attack on manhood.
Today, “Christianity” advocates the taming of men. Spirituality for men is chalked up to a list of “don’ts”. Don’t drink, don’t cuss, don’t smoke…etc. Society backs that up. Give us passive, hairless, manicured robots. Individuality is spurned; and the church goes a-long with it. Conformity is labeled “unity”. Anger, hatred, aggression are taboo. Sit in your pew and be nice men – that’s spiritual.
And what has the religious circles made of romance? It too has become a list of “don’ts”. Don’t touch, don’t look, don’t be friends. Women are not something to be won, wooed, pursued or conquered. They aren’t a mystery or an adventure. You want to get to know her? You’d better be ready for a commitment for the rest of your life.
Am I advocating no boundaries? Absolutely not. Men without boundaries are men without respect or decorum. Boundaries are absolutely necessary, but outside of not touching a woman, God has given men very little instruction on how they are to treat womankind.
We know the world has it wrong, simply by looking at the hurt and grief and degradation they produce. Women aren’t objects and we are meant to be used. So what is the appropriate response of men?
Just as the spiritual life is not suburbia, friendship with the opposite sex is a wild frontier. Unfortunately we’ve taken the soul out of every experience because we’re afraid of “the flesh”. We can’t be trusted, so we exterminate all we call wild and unpredictable. “Better safe than sorry” is the motto of conventional Christianity. But is that true? Are we better off safe than sorry? When it comes to living – that motto will bring a secure, cramped, narrow, predictable life. When it comes to relationships – that motto will either create a predictable, souless, cramped friendships, or it might just lead to an epidemic of unmarried people.
Now is marriage our ultimate goal? Should we strive for it? Is it our fulfillment? Our purpose? No. But marriage is good. Man was not meant to be alone. Women were created to be helpmeets. And as far as striving for it – there’s a balance. I don’t know think we need to go on a head hunt. BUT – I do think we need to realize that “waiting on the Lord” for our spouse does not mean we should wait for an audible voice from heaven and a blinking neon sign. But that’s another topic for another time.
Every man is meant to take a quest. To fulfill a purpose. To dominate. Now, it’s damaging to make woman the quest, because we cannot possibly fulfill that deep need. But we can be part of the adventure. We’re meant to be.
Life is meant to be so much more than “getting your ducks in a row”. Men want to know who they are, what they’re made of, and what they’re meant to achieve. And the answer can’t be found in living the stereotype. And it certainly won’t be found in conforming to the box that religion tries to stuff men into. Men aren’t meant to be “good boys”. Think about it! What boy grew up wanting to be “nice”? What girl grew up wanting to marry a passive Prince Charming? No – give us dragon slayers.
But look in the sanctuaries and you won’t find many dragon slayers. You’ll find tamed, bored, dutiful, nice guys. Domesticated, sanitized and suited. Apathetic. There’s no battle to fight, let alone a damsel to rescue. You sit in your pew and “amen” your shepherd… sit; stay; good boy. Where are the warriors? Where are the fierce men? Where’s the stonewall Jacksons? The solders from Iwo Jima? The King Arthur’s? The heroes?
Men are embarrassed to act like men. But deep down they crave it. Look at the movies men watch. Braveheart. Saving Private Ryan. Gladiator. The church though has produced sluggards and the world has produced wolves. Why do you think porn is rampant? In every man there is a desire to appreciate beauty and to win it. But men are no longer required or expected to battle for the heart of woman. Porn is the safe and easy way.
In almost every story ever told there’s a hero and his lady. A Juliet for every Romeo. Men desire to be a hero TO someone. FOR someone. And conveniently, we women yearn to be fought for. We want to be needed. We crave to be rescued. Cherished, pursued, won. It’s a built-in nature for a reason. (Though the church may tell us we’ve fulfilled our lives by spending every ounce of energy in ministry, I guarantee you – there’s more to womanhood than running Sunday school, volunteering for nursery and cleaning toilets.) We are meant to be part of man’s adventure! We want to be beautiful. We want to reveal ourselves. We want to be lovely. Some of us were the stereotypical princess in lacy dress who paraded about the living room. Others shyly shared ourselves through writing.
My mom remembers as a little girl, being overwhelmed one holiday when many family members came and she sneaked away to some other room. And waited. She remembers thinking how it would be nice if someone missed her, and came looking for her. I think every girl has had one of these (if not many) moments where we realized we were waiting to be wanted. It’s natural. We aren’t meant to simply be “good girls” either. To be “good servants”. There IS a grand adventure. We are beautiful. We do have something to offer. We are worth fighting for. It’s just that men have forgotten how to fight. They’ve been duped and told that the extent of their spirituality is Sunday pew sitting and nodding. That to be a man, they’d better get that number in the bank account, buy the car, get the steady job. Get life under control – that’s the plan. A model Christian man is safe, sensitive, and certain. But to attain such perfection means forfeiting the soul. For God has made man in HIS own image. And God is dangerous, unpredictable, a King. God isn’t safe. Certainly Christ is romantic and caring – but He is the Son of God. Men of old used to present themselves with their name followed by their fathers name. They were the son of “so-and-so”. There’s power in knowing who you are. And there was power in being the son of a noble man. Christ is the Son of the highest authority. The King of kings. And so is every man of God. You are the Son of the Lion of Judah.
Christ is the heavenly Braveheart. He has led captivity captive and won freedom for mankind. And men are meant to be just like Him.
I’ve always laughed to myself when the men I know express the spontaneous desire to simply leave. They threaten to drop everything and explore the states for a year or two. Or maybe take off for the middle east. Join the military. They’ll spend all day exploring a ridge of some mountain. Stake their lives on one business venture. They’ll talk of absurd impossibilities. A “good time” involves risk, danger and absolute craziness. A challenge to the law of physics. I finally get it. It’s a result of being a man. And it’s good.
God risked everything when he gave us free-will. And love is one of our greatest opportunities to practice being Christ-like. Loving someone involves high risk. When a man pursues a woman he is offering his strength. He is saying – this is who I am, will you be part of my adventure? And when a woman loves – she is vulnerably exposing her tender heart and willingly sharing who she is. She is saying – this is who I am, here is all of me. This is partly why marriage is such a perfect image of God. God has risked all to offer Himself. God also wants to be loved. He wants to be chosen. He waits to be wanted. But He also pursues. He’s also woos.
God gave man deserts, jungles, icelands and oceans to explore and conquer. And God also gave man, woman. Women are meant to be explored. Albeit, there must be boundaries. But morality and decorum does not look like ignoring woman. Just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you can’t be a friend to the opposite gender. Now what this looks like practically is left to personal convictions. And I’m not about to say being a friend to the opposite sex is easy or simple. But if men weren’t scared of being men, their relationship with women might become more balanced.
The gospel needs men like you. We women need men like you. Life’s a battle and an adventure – and we are willing to follow you into it, as sisters, as friends, and even, if God wills, as wives.
And it is not coincidence that the desires of man match the yearnings of woman. And yes, Adam and Eve failed – and we have too, as a whole and even individually – but we don’t have to. Ladies, we do not have to give up our dream of a Knight in shining armor. They aren’t fairy tales, their just rare. Simply because godly men are rare. We are meant to be cherished and fought for. Don’t compromise.
And men – you’re meant for greatness. You are meant to win and conquer. The world will sneer at you and the church may find your scandalous – but for your sakes, for our sakes – please be wild. Please be dangerous. Please unchain your minds. Please risk being men.