In the last two posts I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be a man in a culture that is ‘agnostic’ about what it expects its young men to be. Men are adventurers who need a cause. Men are creators and cultivators who build, construct, and cultivate the world. To the extent that they are not doing these things, they go through life feeling as if something is missing.
I remember back in 2001 when I was a junior in high school and everyone was reading the book on manhood called Wild at Heart. Basically the author, John Eldredge, says there are three things that are core to a man’s heart: a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to fight for.
It is the beauty, the girl, that infuses the battle with energy, excitement, and having someone to fight for. Because God is a protector and provider, his sons reflect that image … to be protectors and providers, and to have other people for whom they can take responsibility. Undoubtedly this has been twisted, but when a man is fully reflecting who he was created to be, there is something in him that wants to care for, pursue, provide for, and rescue a woman. That’s why written across all the fairy tells and myths and movies of almost every culture throughout all history is the archetype of the hero who saves the girl. The knight who climbs the tower to save a captive beauty… the trench-coat John Cusacks with boom boxes.
A long time ago someone told me that I should never go to a woman to find your strength. If you have not found your strength in God as a man, and are looking for a woman to fill that need, you will never be the man you were created to be. Rather, you should find your strength first, then go and offer it to a woman. Real men go to women to offer their strength, not to find it.
That’s why I feel like so many men use ‘romance’ as a cheap way of manipulating women’s emotions in order to get what they want … and most times what they want is cheap physical payoff. They want to feel like a man without ever actually having to be one. There is no real love, only a game of cheap and fickle romantic feelings. There are guys that have learned all the tricks… they’ve learned how to win women emotionally, but they’ve never actually loved or sacrificed much of anything.
I’m not married yet, and I’ve tried and failed a few times at ‘romance.’ In my immaturity, as with most of us at some point in our lives, I have pursued romance only to realize it was ultimately for selfish ends. I realized that I needed to redirect my romantic pursuits towards becoming strong and having something to offer a woman…
I’ve paid off almost all of my debt so that I can someday be a financial blessing to my wife and so that she will never feel financial pressure because she trusts that she has a husband who is skillful at money management.
I decided to lock in to a career path despite my existential wandering thoughts that led me to doubt the path I was on so that I can continue getting better at what I do and provide for the people that God places within my sphere of influence.
I committed to taking care of myself physically so that my wife will feel physically safe and protected and valued.
I work hard at becoming more disciplined so that my wife doesn’t have to work hard at respecting her husband.
I cultivate male friendships in my life of guys that can hold me accountable and sharpen me so that my wife knows that she is married to a husband that is committed to always growing and improving.
What I’ve realized is that the most romantic thing I can do right now is to continue to work hard at becoming a better man … to continue to love God and serve others, protecting, providing and watching over people around me. That is true romance. Real men…whether married or not, serve and lead with self-sacrificial concern for the welfare of others, and prepare themselves doing their best to “present themselves to God as one approved, who does not need to be ashamed” so that they can approach the world and the woman not to find their strength but to offer it.
That’s what enterprising young men do…they go to God to find their strength and go to a woman to offer it.