The Manhood Experts

4:31 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.

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16 impressions

  1. Great post. I used to write a lot of those lists, too- there's no telling how many I have stuck in my journals from over the years.

    But I don't anymore. I know what qualities I admire in a guy. And I trust that God knows what I need and/or want even more than I do.

    ~Kristin

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  2. All I can say is an extremely resounding AMEN.

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  3. I love this, I love this, I LOVE this.

    Yes! I've had the same thought after writing countless lists. (I actually DID a comparison chart once, at the wise age of almost-fifteen, on five or six young men I actually knew and compared them to my Mr. Ideal. Then sighed at the lack of good results. For some reason, they all had ... flaws!)

    I just have to say, I love the way you phrase things, Bailey. Thanks for this post...

    Also, the post title just about made me fall out of my chair, chortling with laughter.

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  4. Great piece. This kind of thinking doesn't only apply to men. It applies to all of our relationships with every kind of person; our parents, our siblings, our friends, ect. If you think about it, this acceptance vs. expectations is exactly a reflection of what salvation is all about.

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  5. At the beginning of the post I was beginning to wonder if I knew you at all. You seemed more... narcissistic than I ever knew you.

    Then, I was beginning to wonder if you knew as much as you though you did, and whether I'd have to quiz you on Sunday about the idea of Godly Manhood. Now, I better remember who you are and how you think.

    Strangely, during CRU last night, we were talking about the lack of Christian Men. John, a member of CRU mentioned how hard it is to find a christian friend because so many men are not christians. Then marriage came up and he said that at least we have a large variety of christian women to choose from (typical John). Emily, who was sitting across from us said that it was said that girls didn't have such a wide variety of choice. Naturally, John decided that we were going to clone Jack who was the only other guy in our group and wasn't paying attention and we decided that John and I would market the clones for all christian women. It's surprising that you came to the same conclusion at around the same time. The lack of christian men, not cloning a friend of mine.

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  6. Kristin, that is exactly how I feel. Well put.

    Julia, at least you had the honesty to write it all down. :D I did comparison charts in my head...normally when I couldn't fall asleep at night. Girls. They're strange.

    Alexxus, you're so right. I actually was going to write another post on how expectations kill relationships -- my BFF and I were talking about that in extensive detail our last 2 hour phone call. Thanks for beating me to the punch!

    Jake, I hate to break it to you, but we girls have been considering cloning guys for about -- forever. :o) It's interesting how everyone feels there's a marriage crisis: I know tons of godly young men. I think girls are just picky.

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  7. Great post. I have many similar faults, but am happy to now be aware of them! I've never thought myself an expert on manhood, but I have a subconscious concept of the perfect husband. At least now I can try to fight it and realize how unrealistic it is! Understanding a flaw in thinking is half the battle, right?

    My favorite line in this post: "I'm very, very seventeen-years-old (in homeschool years)."

    Amen, sister! Homeschooled years are pretty different, aren't they? ;-) Except for in my case...(here is where I do NOT bring up Flynn Ryder...;-)

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  8. Wow, Bailey, this is really good stuff. REALLY good stuff. I've been guilty of dreaming up an Ideal Man just like myself, too - and, I'm sure, of writing off lots of nice Christian guys because they didn't measure up to my "ideal." Thanks for reminding me that guys are humans, too ...

    (And Julia, your comment about "not bringing up Flynn Rider" made me laugh ... what is it about Flynn that gets us tied up in knots??) :-D

    Thank you, Bailey!!!

    Love,
    Vicki

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  9. @Bailey - Haha! Well, feel free to totally disregard my comment and pretend you are Miss Original. ;)

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  10. In response to your comment, "I think girls are just picky." 'Tis true. Many of us are a picky lot.

    Any advice on how to not be TOO picky?

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  11. I'll be the quickest and firstest to admit that I'm a picky female. I think it's a deep-set character trait -- a wanting to have everything perfect and laid out. I've noticed in general that women seem to have a very hard time biting their tongues and accepting others (raises hand). We're averse to messiness, whether in houses or husbands.

    The key, I think, is understanding the constructive power of love -- it transforms the imperfect -- instead of viewing love as a reward to be earned. It's first plugging into Jesus Christ, the ultimate Lover, and accepting how utterly wretched we are and how amazingly loved at the same time. That has been turning around my perspective on relationships.

    Love is maturity. It thinks only of the other person. I'm guessing, though I've never personally tested this theory ;o), that love will determine how one goes about choosing a spouse. It becomes less "Is he perfect enough for me?" and more "Is this meant to be? Would this relationship be beneficial to him now and perhaps in the future as husband and wife?" It's not about how close to godly a guy can get -- it's not matching up a real life human to an imaginary female concoction -- it's asking the deeper question of whether the two souls can commune. I'm learning that sort of love is deeper than whether two people agree on everything or share the same interests. The two people who understand me inside and out are very different from me but at the same time we are one. I hope that's true for the marriage relationship as well: otherwise I'm back to square one. :o)

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  12. I had a big long comment written, and about 3/4 of the way through I realized that, really, I was just writing randomly in order to try and figure out what I was thinking. So I'll spare you all that and just say that what you said about being an expert on manhood was extremely convicting. Extremely. I've been trying to find the balance between being like my friends that say, "Hon, your standards are way too high. In this day and age, there just pretty much aren't any guys that are obsessed with Jesus and don't tell dirty jokes or watch a bad movie now and then. Men just aren't as spiritual as women!" and being the perfectionistic woman that wants a perfect guy...and that balance is hard to find! God's been reshaping what I think about a lot of things lately, and this is just another one of those. Thanks for your thoughts. I'll be pondering them some more.

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  13. I really love your last comment - "things would get ugly if guys started writing lists too". How true. While I don't think it is a bad idea to have a list of biblical male characteristics (especially from Proverbs), we have only to look at every single man in the Bible (except Jesus of course) to see fallen, sinful, human, lifelike men. And really, who wants a perfect man anyway? How boring would that be! And why would a perfect human man want an imperfect human girl? How illogical!

    What us girls ought to be doing instead of comparing is praying that the boys we know today will grow into men who, out of a love for the Lord, will desire to exhibit those kinds of Godly characteristics. It helps to turn the focus off of what WE women want, and brings the focus back to what the Lord is doing in the lives of others.

    And personally, I have a really hard time with girls that make comparison lists of christian young men that they know, or even worse, their own brothers. God has blessed me after 12 years of waiting with a younger brother who will grow up to be a young man someday, and frankly, the idea of some other "christian" girl using his "good points" in a Godly Male Comparison List makes my blood boil. Where's my 12 gauge?

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  14. By the way, in case I didn't mention it before, I really love this post. More christian girls need to read it.

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  15. Hehe, I know I am behind the times with this but to not comment would just be wrong.

    I so appreciate and agree with this post; how foolish we are to make man into our image, into our own likeness. I, for one, will be SO glad when I marry someone not me.

    That would be an unfortunate day.

    Blessings,
    Frannie

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  16. Ooh. This post is so true, Bailey. God is the one to form godly men. The man of your imagination does not exist, and your future husband might be wildly different from yourself, yet somehow perfect for you. Trust God's judgement, not your own. :)

    By the way, if "He must be homeschooled" is on your list, I recommend taking it off. Believe it or not, public schooled boys can grow up to be wonderful men, who shun the system they came out of. Just trust God.
    <><

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