Connecting deeply is hazardous and wonderful. I remember a line from Shadowlands, in which C.S. Lewis states of his love for his dying wife: “To love is to suffer. It’s a package deal.”
I think Jesus was addressing the same point when he said that until we die to ourselves, we cannot truly live. The “self” to which we die is the self we seek to protect from suffering at all costs. We simply will not love, or if we love, we love only so much, and only when we deem it “safe.” We waste lifetimes this way. We become emotionally numb, and do not even know how little we love. For years I thought of myself as a “loving” person.
I think women who are emotionally healthy, and in touch with their hearts, teach men to live more from their hearts. Men wrongly feel that this threatens the “toughness” of their masculinity. Yet, I have felt most masculine when I was determined to sacrifice everything courageously in a fight for what I loved. Only when I was passionate did I feel the full strength of being a man. To be clear, women do not teach us to be men. Our fathers and other men do that. But women help us reach our full masculinity by opening our hearts further.
I do not find attractive or appealing the spectacle of a man showing his feminine side of “sensitivity.” I personally think crying is overrated, especially where action is needed quickly. The heart-passion I find appealing, and seek in my own life, is the ability to love without reservation, and bring my whole self to the person (or cause) I love. No holding back. No careful monitoring of the safety of declaring my love. No reservation about how much to give. No internal “quick edit” of what my heart first wants to say. There are all kinds of courage, but his kind of courage is one of the most demanding, and with the right woman (or the right cause), the most rewarding.
I saw a video the other night at a friend’s house. It featured two remarkably dorky looking people, a husband and wife, who were being interviewed about their book: “What Women Want. What Men Want.” They opened by stating that each gender is usually clueless about the other’s real need and motives in romantic, marital relationship. The bottom line: women want to feel emotionally secure, i.e., deeply, unconditionally, consistently loved. [Yes, even more than financial security]. Women need lots of declarations and reassurances of love. They need to feel important, primary, treasured. Men need respect: to feel honored and appreciated.
I believe in God’s plan, men and women are to be helpmates and encouragers to one another. We each have been designed emotionally and physically with different needs. Culture and social conditioning add an additional layer of psychological and emotional expectations in the marriage relationship. Yet the core needs are probably biologically based, and out of that biology come instinctual preferences. Women are vulnerable, and need to feel the power and love of a protective man. Men are initiators and explorers, and need to feel they can protect and provide for their families. Women may have a greater need for security simply because they are so dependent on protection during the time of child bearing and rearing.
Fortunately, love has a way of getting past our usual selfish habits. We may have a relational style that currently does not meet our mate’s emotional needs. If we deeply love, our goal is to meet those needs, and when we do, we feel happy ourselves because we have succeeded in providing what our beloved needs. We are willing to self-examine, and change.. This “change of heart” can bring great satisfaction in itself, especially as we see how our women blossom before us. But also, living more deeply from the heart can make us feel more vital and engaged generally. In this way, men and women “complete” one another.
So men, my encouragement is this: love her. Love her with everything you’ve got. Pour yourself out without reservation. See past her flaws and failings. Forgive her missteps. Envision her in all her goodness and glory within the heart’s imagination. Believe in what is best and good in her, even when she acts disrespectfully or vindictively.
Do not wait for her to love you as you expect to be loved. Do not require her to concede in exchange for your concession. Do not wait for her to meet you half way, for “half way” is on the road to hell. You can only love her this deeply by choosing to view and embrace the positive and beautiful in her. You must let the imperfect simply slip away from your memory. Can you do this? Of course not. If you could love like this on your own, you would have done it by now.
But Jesus can give you such a warrior’s heart of love. Seek out the Jesus who faced and overcame Satan Himself, and carried out a hero’s journey to save the world. No meek and mild Jesus who became a doormat, but the warrior who overcome the darkness of this world, and rose victoriously. Scripture teaches us that we have that same power, if we will call upon it in faith. 1 Corinthians 6:14; Colossians 3:19 [“Husbands, go all out in love for your wives.”] Be this hero. Start the hero’s journey today, with Jesus at your side.
(C) 2010 FXP