The Manhood Experts4:31 AM
So many Christian women have all these great expectations of what their Christian husbands will be and ruin the happiness of their marriage by expecting all sorts of things. Expectations lead to very unhappy marriages. Accepting marriages are delightfully happy! What wife would want a husband who comes home and says to her, “Why isn’t dinner on, why is the house a mess?” and is mad, after she had a horribly hard day taking care of a crying infant all day? Wouldn’t a wife much rather have an understanding husband, [who] says "that is okay those things didn’t all get done, I am so glad you were able to take care of our little one, let's get take out for dinner"? The understanding husband will have a wife that feels very loved. And the same goes for the husband -- he greatly desires an understanding and accepting wife! Understanding and acceptance can truly make a marriage loving and happy! -- comment on "Wanted: Eligible Young Ladies Only"Since good Christian girls don't do the whole guys-are-cute thing or hang posters of Orlando Bloom on their walls, we get our "girl release" from the holy task of list making. On our bed, door shut, we compile every single male encounter we've ever had into a huge heap, pick through the good, the bad and the ugly, and then transcribe the perfect man into our pink notebooks. Of course, the most perfect thing about him is that he's going to be ever-so-happy to marry us. Otherwise he would be, I think, fairly uninteresting.
The first time I took up this sacred task, I was in my early teens. I had just discovered Reformed theology, "Biblical" womanhood and all the answers to life. I had never personally befriended a boy, but I had four brothers and a plethora of book knowledge and literary heroes. Obviously, I had all the maturity and experience and self-awareness to know exactly who I would need in order to ensure marital bliss. The man I ended up with was certainly no Mr. Darcy (as I hear is a common coincidence among many other young ladies). Indeed, he was something like -- how shall I put it -- a cross between C. S. Lewis and Calvin, with a fun side.
In short, he looked strangely like...me.
I tried again about a year ago, prodded, no doubt, from late night girl talk. Everyone else knew who she was marrying; I felt obligated to update my list. Now that I'd actually made friends with those of the opposite gender and had gone through a couple more crushes and had sworn myself to a steady mind and heart regarding matters of love and mawwiage, I confidently revised the One. He wasn't so heavy on the doctrine or the destiny of greatness this time: he wasn't as authoritarian; he was more gentle, quiet and gracious. He had the patience of Job and the dogged romanticism of Rhett Butler (minus the poorer qualities).
Interestingly, he still resembled the inner portrait of...me. I had created a man in my own image, who changed as I changed, who shared every iota of doctrine and delight, like my mirror image, my faithful shadow. This was godly manhood -- and I would settle for nothing less, for that would be settling for something beneath godly manhood.
I became an expert on manhood.
I don't have any stories about how my idealistic views wrecked my love life or cut off an engagement or sent my marriage down the tubes, because, frankly, I'm very, very seventeen-years-old (in homeschool years). But I live with five men, not counting the dog and cat, and I interact with a variety of male souls, especially on the weekend. I've got to get along with them somehow.
Since I'd read What He Must Be twice and studied the Christian girls' blogs minutely for their insight, I felt prepared enough to enter into the dangerous world of male. I could spot ungodliness, immaturity and passivity a mile away. By the movies he watched and the clothes he wore, I could tell you his whole life story, backwards and forwards. It was so miserably sad how devoid the world was of truly strong, Christ-like young men. I sympathized with the girls, how we would die old in our godliness, since the male half of Christianity was stuck in front of televised football games.
I didn't think twice of my judgment. For one thing, I was told to examine other guys in order to figure out what was true godly manhood: I perfected that. For another, I always was a helpful, selfless, understanding friend. If a guy friend amused me enough, I would beseech God daily that he would entirely change (preferably into more marriageable -- I mean, godly -- material).
In home matters, I took my place as the most mature child in the family, carefully and thoroughly correcting any Bergmann boy who strayed from the path of manhood. I considered it my duty to compare my father and brothers to the Biblical model -- and oh! how hard it was to be the only one who truly knew how to be a man!
It really was a pity. While the guys tossed footballs in the backyard or tackled each other in the living room or crowded around the iPod loaded with Star Wars music, I was reading the authorized books on manhood. I was studying how a husband, father and man ought to behave. I, a female, took the time to listen and internalize all the rules and expectations of a sold-out-for-Christ man. I had it down. And these "Christian" guys, who had the gall to poke fun at women, who had the hypocrisy to aspire to greatness? They had a complete, total aversion to discussing the topic -- with me especially.
I can't remember when I first saw the utter ridiculousness and harm of being a certified expert on manhood. Perhaps it was when my daddy did something different than the Books -- and it melted my heart. Perhaps it was when I first heard a Bergmann man express frustration at my constant criticism. Perhaps I noted the confusing incident of boy-men climbing higher on the rungs of manhood in response to a woman's attention and compassion.
But I think the defining, oh, duh moment came when I embraced my own unique femininity, grabbed hold of Christ alone instead of female stereotypes, feminist and feminine. If I, as a woman, could be different, and if womanhood, as a whole, could be diverse, what's to stop men from being uniquely, individually created? Why conform them to my image of manhood instead of encourage in them the man they already are? Why complain about their weaknesses and not compliment their strengths?
We talk big about being submissive, obedient and quiet at heart -- young woman to old woman. We're also the loudest critics of the manhood in our homes and social circles. The dichotomy stopped me cold -- especially since my expertness didn't seem to inspire manliness in anyone I knew.
So I quit writing lists and I stopped judging men by how well they would match up with me and I shrug my shoulders on the whole marriage crisis. "But what about marrying godly men?" some nervous advocates will cry. "What about expectations?" I honestly do not believe the stereotypical God(ly)-Man exists, and if he does, I have no hope or desire to marry him. I also do not think love and attraction can be reduced to a science: certainly the leading of God cannot, and it's that divine go-ahead I look for more than the matching up of checkmarks. Ultimately, I know that nobody can grow or be godly under heavy criticism.
Expectations kill. So accept -- because things would get ugly if guys started writing lists too.