Tag Archives: Complementarian

The surprising pro-masculinity message in the “Far From the Madding Crowd” film

Man helping a woman with proper handgun marksmanship
Man helping a woman with proper handgun marksmanship

So, I have about a half-dozen older and/or experienced Christian women who advise me and assist me in various ways. The wisest and most experienced is calm and thoughtful Dina. She has a very stressful job dealing with demanding women, and what she admires most in men is “masculinity”, which she defines as a man’s ability to tell a woman what is right and wrong, what God expects from her, what she should be doing with her life, and guiding her and providing for her through the steps to get there.

What makes Dina angry is when a man makes a fool of himself for youth and beauty, abdicating his role as moral and spiritual leader because of attraction / lust. According to Dina, men who have self-control think about what a woman should do that is morally right, with the goal of her producing a return for God. Men who are swayed by youth and beauty are willing to give up that leadership role in exchange for attention and/or sex.

So, with that said, Dina asked me to watch a recently-made movie called “Far From the Madding Crowd“, based on a novel by Thomas Hardy. I immediately said “no” because I know about Thomas Hardy from Tess of the D’Urbervilles, where he presents Tess as the helpless victim of Providence. I really hate that view of women, where they can do reckless, selfish things and then blame everyone but themselves for the destructive consequences of their own free-will decisions. But Dina said “wasn’t I right about the debate between David Robertson and Matt Dillahunty?” I said yes, and watched the movie. And of course, she was right, as she almost always is. This movie is a punch in the face to the radical feminism that seems to have infected so many young women, even in the church.

Here is a review of the movie by Rebekah, posted at her blog.

Rebekah writes:

What does this 19th century tale offer to modern audiences?  This latest rendering emphasizes something actually surprising and unexpected given that it is made in our age of radical feminism.  It is Gabriel Oak’s character that shines the most, not the proto-feminist Bathsheba.  […]In Bathsheba and Gabriel we see how men and women support one another in such a way as to ensure a flourishing in any role that fate might thrust on them.

[…]The relationship between Gabriel and Bathsheba, though unequal in earthly terms of authority and wealth, is one of mutual dependence.  We see Oak taking on a role of both counselor and conscience with Bathsheba – roles that in her striving towards independence she struggles to admit her need for.  She is not unlike the modern feminist in this regard, nor is she unlike all of us in our relationship with the Lord.  Her struggle is best seen in the various times she repels Gabriel only to find herself in desperate situations in which only he can help.  The filmmakers’ clever use of a recurring theme of Bathsheba galloping after Gabriel on a horse when he is needed is particularly moving (and surprising) here.  In the end, the film resists the urge to pander to our more extreme modern views on what women require to thrive.

Gabriel Oak also seems to be an embodiment of the biblical virtue of selflessness.  We see in his actions towards Bathsheba the Philippians admonition to refrain from “being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity,” but rather “in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself.” Indeed, vanity itself can be seen as a fateful character flaw of every major character apart from Gabriel.  He alone is able to move past rejection and carry on.  In fact, he is required to go so far as to be under the authority of the very woman who rejected his offer of marriage and, despite his continuing affections for her, witness her being courted and then married by another far less worthy man, Frank Troy.  No other major character is able to accomplish this challenge to their pride.  Though Bathsheba does eventually overcome the rejection of her husband, she only does so after tremendous tragedy and with the selfless and steady support of Gabriel.

Gabriel respects her independence, but, like a good shepherd, stays close by to protect and guide her.  Though he cannot protect her from her free-will choices, he does warn her.  He then remains faithful to her in the midst of the trouble she brings upon herself.  In this, he is not unlike our God, for he allows her to stray, all the while letting her know of a better course when asked.  And, she does ask.

In an important scene at a party, where Bathsheba must decide whether or not to marry a particularly obsessive suitor, when she asks, “Tell me what to do, Gabriel,” he simply tells her to “Do what is right.”  Is that not like our Lord?  Gentle shepherd, indeed, for our wild, independent hearts.  In this, I see Gabriel as most suitable for the role as the husband written of in the epistle to the Ephesians.  He loves Bathsheba “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her…”

Men and women both struggle with self-centeredness, but men usually work themselves out of it by studying hard things in school, and doing hard work that pays. Men have a natural desire to provide for others, and it is actually a duty laid out for them in the Bible. As a result of studying and working at things they don’t like, men typically are better at resisting their feelings and desires. In fact, if you ever want to make a woman less self-centered and emotional, leading her to study STEM and work a demanding job is a good plan. Dina has multiple STEM degrees, and a very difficult, challenging work history.

I would be suspicious of men who don’t prioritize providing, (as in 1 Tim 5:8), because working and saving gives a man practical experience at self-denial. When a man gets accustomed to working to share with others, it helps helps him to lead a woman to do the same: deny her feelings and desires, and make prudent decisions that will allow her to love and serve others – including God – in a sustainable way. Over the long-term, this practice of effective, self-sacrificial love will be worth more to the woman than the short-term pursuit of fun and thrills. To provide for a woman means to look into her future, and make a decision today to set aside something that will help her to deal with what the future has in store for her.

Dina’s advice to young women

I asked Dina to take a look at the draft of this post before I hit “Schedule” and Dina said:

What I would advise to all young women is not to expect a Gabriel Oak to be waiting for you at the end of your reckless years of hooking up, partying and wasting your youth on fun and men who have no desire to lead you to God or guide you to goodness. Don’t expect the hot stud that your friends approve of to turn into someone with the character of Oak with the magic powers of your premarital sex life. Find a man who doesn’t give in to your every whim, because if he does, you will only resent him for it, and blame him, for being what you thought you wanted him to be.  Find a man who leads, one who demonstrates self control, self denial, who can provide and protect. And most importantly, respect him for doing it.

Emphasis mine.

Sound advice from the Dina, young ladies. By the way, Dina’s favorite drama is the BBC production of “North and South” from 2004. I also give it a 10/10.

What do men want from a marriage?

Man helping a woman with proper handgun marksmanship
Man helping a woman with proper handgun marksmanship

Well, my friend Curby sent me this article from a very conservative Calvinist blog. It talks about one of the things that men want from a marriage. I thought I would post it here, and affirm its truth, so that all my feminist readers can have steam shoot out of their ears.

Excerpt:

Men are created different than women. And man’s priorities, deep in his very being, are very different from the woman’s priorities.

[…]The family was created to be an institution, and that institution has a purpose and function in God’s order for the things: to expand the dominion of God’s people over the whole world (Gen. 1:27-28). The purpose and function were first given to the man, and he is supposed to be the chief carrier and executive of that function. And just as the woman was uniquely designed and gifted to discern and understand the issues of relationships, the man was uniquely designed and gifted to fulfill the purpose of taking dominion over the earth. The father’s and the husband’s position of the man is not primarily focused on relationships – that’s what he was given a wife for. That responsibility is given to man to ensure that his family fulfills its purpose in the plan of God in conquering the earth. Man’s very being is outward-oriented, not inward-oriented. His interests would be in work and war, not in feelings and relationships. While women also have their part in business (Prov. 31) and war (Judges 4), by creation ordinance it is man’s realm and sphere of responsibility and authority.

And therefore a church that preaches only relationships and no purpose, will tend to attract mostly women, not men. And when the family is preached as mostly relationships but the purpose and the functions of the family are not preached, men influenced by that preaching won’t be interested in having families. That’s just the created nature of things.

Men feel obligated to do something that is going to please God. And relationships and feelings are not the something they are trying to do:

The Bible has little to say about a “relationship with Jesus.” In fact, Jesus Himself speaks about a personal relationship between Him and His disciples only in two places, and He gives a very simple explanation of what a personal relationship with Him is: obedience to His will. In Matt. 12:46-50 He explains how one gets to be a member of Jesus’s family: “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” And then again, in John 15:14, “You are My friends if you do what I command you.” There is no special theology of “personal relationship with Jesus” in the Bible; that personal relationship is very simple: do what He commands. It is not based on emotions or feelings. It is based on the self-conscious commitment to do what He commands.

But what He commands is given in the whole Bible. And it starts with the Dominion Mandate for man and his family to fill the earth, and subdue it. And this means that there is purpose and calling to man as a father and husband to work, fight, educate, care, build, lay foundations, protect, conquer, establish. There is a purpose to man’s life. And that purpose is matched by the inclination in the heart of man to do these things. A man’s heart is thrilled by the possibility to work and conquer. And when the family is presented to him not as an institution of dominion – that is, an institution for work and conquering – but only as a place for “relationships,” he won’t get excited about it. He will leave the church and find another place to work and conquer.

So let me say something about this, and please don’t be offended. My views do go against the popular view of marriage today.

If I were to get married it would be to a woman who understood that my purpose in working from age 20 to age 60 is not primarily to provide a her with feelings and relationships and peer approval.

My purpose in marrying is to make the marriage promote the things that God likes, and oppose the things that God doesn’t like.

In my case that means:

  • impacting the university with apologetics and conservatism
  • impacting the church with apologetics and conservatism
  • impacting the public square to promote policies that enable Christian living
  • producing as many effective, influential children as I can afford to raise

With goals like that, it is important for me to find a woman with a good education (STEM degree) and some work experience, because understanding education and career will help her to lead the children and mentor others effectively.

So if I were courting a woman interested in marrying me, I would be trying to convince her that we could do better for God with this plan, working as a pair than as two singles. And she would have the opportunity to listen to and improve the plan and decide whether to sign with me or not. No one is forcing her to marry me, she gets to choose if she thinks that my plan to make the marriage serve God is acceptable to her. We would look in the Bible together and then look at the culture and decide what areas needed our efforts and what would be the best way for us to impact those areas.

That’s what I mean when I say that men ought to lead in a marriage. I mean that men should have a plan for making the marriage serve God in a practical way. He needs a wife in order to help him execute his plan to serve God, especially if the plan involves children and other relationships with people outside the home.

Now what shall I do if no woman accepts this idea that marriage is about negotiating a plan and then achieving it for God’s benefit?

Well, that is fine with me. Although I budgeted for a stay-at-home wife and tuition for four PhD-credentialed children, if I cannot find such a woman, then I should take my earnings (after taxes) and spend them on other things, like helping young Christians to grow and become influential. And I should use some of that money on blogging and other related activities that I can do myself. At least that way, I am going to deliver some sort of a return for my client – or Client, rather.

The surprising pro-masculinity message in the “Far From the Madding Crowd” film

A man leading a woman upward
A man leading a woman upward: another in a series of posts designed to defeat feminism

So, I have about a half-dozen older and/or experienced Christian women who advise me and assist me in various ways. The wisest and most experienced is calm and thoughtful Dina. She has a very stressful job dealing with demanding women, and what she admires most in men is “masculinity”, which she defines as a man’s ability to tell a woman what is right and wrong, what God expects from her, what she should be doing with her life, and guiding her and providing for her through the steps to get there.

What makes Dina angry is when a man makes a fool of himself for youth and beauty, abdicating his role as moral and spiritual leader because of attraction / lust. According to Dina, men who have self-control think about what a woman should do that is morally right, with the goal of her producing a return for God. Men who are swayed by youth and beauty are willing to give up that leadership role in exchange for attention and/or sex.

So, with that said, Dina asked me to watch a recent movie called “Far From the Madding Crowd“, based on a novel by Thomas Hardy. I immediately said “no” because I know about Thomas Hardy from Tess of the D’Urbervilles, where he presents Tess as the helpless victim of Providence. I really hate that view of women, where they can do reckless, selfish things and then blame everyone but themselves for the destructive consequences of their own free-will decisions. But Dina said “wasn’t I right about the debate between David Robertson and Matt Dillahunty?” I said yes, and watched the movie. And of course, she was right, as she almost always is. This movie is a punch in the face to radical feminism, and the leading man is indeed a masculine leader, according to Dina’s definition of masculinity.

Here is a review of the movie by another lady I admire, Rebekah, up at her blog “The Thoughtful Christian Parent”.

Rebekah writes:

What does this 19th century tale offer to modern audiences?  This latest rendering emphasizes something actually surprising and unexpected given that it is made in our age of radical feminism.  It is Gabriel Oak’s character that shines the most, not the proto-feminist Bathsheba.  […]In Bathsheba and Gabriel we see how men and women support one another in such a way as to ensure a flourishing in any role that fate might thrust on them.

[…]The relationship between Gabriel and Bathsheba, though unequal in earthly terms of authority and wealth, is one of mutual dependence.  We see Oak taking on a role of both counselor and conscience with Bathsheba – roles that in her striving towards independence she struggles to admit her need for.  She is not unlike the modern feminist in this regard, nor is she unlike all of us in our relationship with the Lord.  Her struggle is best seen in the various times she repels Gabriel only to find herself in desperate situations in which only he can help.  The filmmakers’ clever use of a recurring theme of Bathsheba galloping after Gabriel on a horse when he is needed is particularly moving (and surprising) here.  In the end, the film resists the urge to pander to our more extreme modern views on what women require to thrive.

Gabriel Oak also seems to be an embodiment of the biblical virtue of selflessness.  We see in his actions towards Bathsheba the Philippians admonition to refrain from “being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity,” but rather “in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself.” Indeed, vanity itself can be seen as a fateful character flaw of every major character apart from Gabriel.  He alone is able to move past rejection and carry on.  In fact, he is required to go so far as to be under the authority of the very woman who rejected his offer of marriage and, despite his continuing affections for her, witness her being courted and then married by another far less worthy man, Frank Troy.  No other major character is able to accomplish this challenge to their pride.  Though Bathsheba does eventually overcome the rejection of her husband, she only does so after tremendous tragedy and with the selfless and steady support of Gabriel.

Gabriel respects her independence, but, like a good shepherd, stays close by to protect and guide her.  Though he cannot protect her from her free-will choices, he does warn her.  He then remains faithful to her in the midst of the trouble she brings upon herself.  In this, he is not unlike our God, for he allows her to stray, all the while letting her know of a better course when asked.  And, she does ask.

In an important scene at a party, where Bathsheba must decide whether or not to marry a particularly obsessive suitor, when she asks, “Tell me what to do, Gabriel,” he simply tells her to “Do what is right.”  Is that not like our Lord?  Gentle shepherd, indeed, for our wild, independent hearts.  In this, I see Gabriel as most suitable for the role as the husband written of in the epistle to the Ephesians.  He loves Bathsheba “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her…”

Men and women both struggle with self-centeredness, but men usually work themselves out of it by studying hard things in school, and doing hard work that pays. Men have a natural desire to provide for others, and it is actually a duty laid out for them in the Bible. As a result of studying and working at things they don’t like, men typically are better at resisting their feelings and desires. In fact, if you ever want to make a woman less self-centered and emotional, leading her to study STEM and work a demanding job is a good plan. Both Dina and Rebekah – like all of my female advisors – have STEM backgrounds, and demanding work histories.

I would be suspicious of men who don’t prioritize providing, especially as they get older, because it is the experience of self-denial and endurance that helps a man to want to lead a woman to do the same: deny her feelings and desires, and make prudent decisions that will allow her to love and serve others – including God – in a sustainable way. Over the long-term, this practice of effective, self-sacrificial love will be worth more to the woman than the short-term pursuit of fun and thrills. And men know this – we can look ahead and see where a woman needs to be, and then coach her on the interim steps, however difficult those may seem in the moment.

Dina’s advice to young women

I asked Dina to take a look at the draft of this post before I hit “Schedule” and Dina said:

What I would advise to all young women is not to expect a Gabriel Oak to be waiting for you at the end of your reckless years of hooking up, partying and wasting your youth on fun and men who have no desire to lead you to God or guide you to goodness. Don’t expect the hot stud that your friends approve of to turn into someone with the character of Oak with the magic powers of your premarital sex life. Find a man who doesn’t give in to your every whim, because if he does, you will only resent him for it, and blame him, for being what you thought you wanted him to be.  Find a man who leads, one who demonstrates self control, self denial, who can provide and protect. And most importantly, respect him for doing it.

Emphasis mine.

Sound advice from the Dina, young ladies. By the way, Dina’s favorite drama is the BBC production of “North and South” from 2004. I also give it a 10/10. If you’re looking for a good movie to get for Christmas, I recommend asking for that one.

Rebekah’s comments on the post

Rebekah wrote to me privately to react to the post:

I think you’ve touched on something important that’s a pitfall for women today – and really, men, too, but maybe less so – we live in a time of radical autonomy PLUS radical “feelings” orientation. Yes, I agree, women might be more prone to being affected by these because we do tend to be more feelings oriented. Plus, the pendulum has swung w.r.t. women’s rights compared to Hardy’s day.

Yet, can I say that from my virtuous single women friends I hear that it is hard to find a man that acts like a grownup? They are finding that many men watch porn and play video games after work each evening. They are not being responsible with their hearts – porn WILL affect their marriage one day. It’s a huge temptation for them. I think this is a major pitfall that men face today.

And, notice that each of these pitfalls – of men and women – feed and reinforce the other.

I would recommend STEM for everyone since the humanities have become so radicalized. I wanted to be an English major, as well, but my father wouldn’t let me because of the leftist values in those departments. STEM is a much safer bet and much surer return for the $$ spent.

That’s a generalization, though. I have a friend that majored in English at Hillsdale – a very conservative university. She’s amazing and brilliant. So, there are exceptions – I am sure you’d agree.

I am glad you liked the movie. And, I agree “North and South” is excellent – one of my favorite books and movies.

There are exceptions, I do agree.

Finally, I have some advice for Christian men. If you pick women who will advise you, don’t pick women who just want attention and control over you. Pick women like Dina who understand your male nature and will attempt to persuade you with facts and arguments, not feelings and sex appeal. And whatever you do, don’t marry someone who cannot communicate and disagree with you in an analytical way. That becomes a nightmare when they have the leverage of no-fault divorce to hold over you.

What do men want from a marriage?

A man leading a woman upward
A man leading a woman upward

Well, my friend Curby sent me this article from a very conservative Calvinist blog. It talks about one of the things that men want from a marriage. I thought I would post it here, and affirm its truth.

Excerpt:

Men are created different than women. And man’s priorities, deep in his very being, are very different from the woman’s priorities.

[…]The family was created to be an institution, and that institution has a purpose and function in God’s order for the things: to expand the dominion of God’s people over the whole world (Gen. 1:27-28). The purpose and function were first given to the man, and he is supposed to be the chief carrier and executive of that function. And just as the woman was uniquely designed and gifted to discern and understand the issues of relationships, the man was uniquely designed and gifted to fulfill the purpose of taking dominion over the earth. The father’s and the husband’s position of the man is not primarily focused on relationships – that’s what he was given a wife for. That responsibility is given to man to ensure that his family fulfills its purpose in the plan of God in conquering the earth. Man’s very being is outward-oriented, not inward-oriented. His interests would be in work and war, not in feelings and relationships. While women also have their part in business (Prov. 31) and war (Judges 4), by creation ordinance it is man’s realm and sphere of responsibility and authority.

And therefore a church that preaches only relationships and no purpose, will tend to attract mostly women, not men. And when the family is preached as mostly relationships but the purpose and the functions of the family are not preached, men influenced by that preaching won’t be interested in having families. That’s just the created nature of things.

Men feel obligated to do something that is going to please God. And relationships and feelings are not the something they are trying to do:

The Bible has little to say about a “relationship with Jesus.” In fact, Jesus Himself speaks about a personal relationship between Him and His disciples only in two places, and He gives a very simple explanation of what a personal relationship with Him is: obedience to His will. In Matt. 12:46-50 He explains how one gets to be a member of Jesus’s family: “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” And then again, in John 15:14, “You are My friends if you do what I command you.” There is no special theology of “personal relationship with Jesus” in the Bible; that personal relationship is very simple: do what He commands. It is not based on emotions or feelings. It is based on the self-conscious commitment to do what He commands.

But what He commands is given in the whole Bible. And it starts with the Dominion Mandate for man and his family to fill the earth, and subdue it. And this means that there is purpose and calling to man as a father and husband to work, fight, educate, care, build, lay foundations, protect, conquer, establish. There is a purpose to man’s life. And that purpose is matched by the inclination in the heart of man to do these things. A man’s heart is thrilled by the possibility to work and conquer. And when the family is presented to him not as an institution of dominion – that is, an institution for work and conquering – but only as a place for “relationships,” he won’t get excited about it. He will leave the church and find another place to work and conquer.

So let me say something about this, and please don’t be offended. My views do go against the popular view of marriage today.

If I were to get married it would be to a woman who understood that my purpose in working from age 20 to age 60 is not primarily to provide a her with feelings and relationships and peer approval.

My purpose in marrying is to make the marriage promote the things that God likes, and oppose the things that God doesn’t like.

In my case that means:

  • impacting the university with apologetics and conservatism
  • impacting the church with apologetics and conservatism
  • impacting the public square to promote policies that enable Christian living
  • producing as many effective, influential children as I can afford to raise

So if I were courting a woman interested in marrying me, then that would be my time to persuade her that the areas I want to work on are important and suited to our skills. I would not be trying to put God on hold so that I could focus on giving her fun, thrills and happiness. Instead, I would be trying to convince her that we could do better for God as a pair than as two singles. And she would have the opportunity to listen to and improve our plans to serve God and decide whether to sign with me or not. No one is forcing her to marry me, she gets to choose if she thinks that my plan to make the marriage serve God is acceptable to her.

So, during the courting, we would look in the Bible together and then look at the culture and decide what areas needed our efforts and what would be the best way for us to impact those areas. But always with the goal of being effective on the things that God cares about. So, no expensive vacations to foreign countries every year just because she wants to travel, that money can be used to organize apologetics events. We have to agree that the purpose of the marriage is not to go have adventures abroad when there is a culture perishing right here at home.

That’s what I mean when I say that men ought to lead in a marriage. I mean that men should have a plan for making the marriage serve God in a practical way. A man needs a wife in order to help him execute his plan to serve God, especially if the plan involves children and other relationships with people outside the home. I do think it is a good idea for a woman to get a degree and have some experience in the workplace before she marries, although she should stay home once children arrive. She should certainly make every effort to be debt free, moved out of her parents’ house, and investing in a retirement fund. There should not be any fun-pursuing, or thrill-seeking going on unless the financial and professional situation is under control.

Now what shall I do if no woman accepts this idea that marriage is about negotiating a plan and then achieving it for God’s benefit?

Well, that is fine with me. Although I budgeted for a stay-at-home wife and tuition for four PhD-credentialed children, if I cannot find such a woman, then I should take my earnings (after taxes) and spend them on Christian scholars instead. And I should use some of that money on blogging and other related activities that I can do myself. At least that way, I am going to get some sort of a return on my earnings for my client (God). So far, I’ve run into a lot of kickback from the single women I’ve approached because they want to sort of wing it, and make their feelings and their relationships the goal of the marriage. Very often, they consider their feelings God speaking to them. But what God is telling them is never good for God, and always for making themselves happy. But I want a wife who puts serving God above her feelings, and empowers me to serve him instead of trying to serve herself first and foremost.

Moreover, I would just add that any woman who accepts her husband’s plan as her own, and develops the skills necessary to help him, is going to have more love than she can handle. The experience of being listened to, understood, respected and assisted by a woman produces lots of affection, devotion, protectiveness and desire from a man. Think of it this way. Very few people in this world care about what we are trying to do for God, except potentially our wives, if we choose wisely. Right now, the environment is very much against the plans of Christian men. The experience of having a woman help a Christian man to execute his plan is Earth-shaking for him. After so many years of struggling to do everything himself for God, suddenly another human being comes along who can understand what he is trying to achieve and can freely choose help him to achieve the things he cares so much about. That is what a man really needs from a woman. Respect for his deepest aspiration – to serve God and to make his life count for the Kingdom. And when a woman gives a man that respect, she will have something much better than fun, thrills, and freedom from responsibilities and obligations. She will have love from a husband – love that lasts a lifetime.

Is love more about accepting a woman as she is, or growing her into something better?

A man leading a woman upward
A man leading a woman upward

On Saturday, my friend Dina asked me to do a Bible study with her, and she chose Ephesians. I decided that if I read it right away, it would give me more time to think about it. So I was on the treadmill today listening to all six chapters of it, and listening to some parts over. I have an NIV dramatized Bible on my smartphone, so it’s super easy to listen to. Something stood out to me when I was listening to Ephesians 5 though, so I wanted to write about it.

Look at this from Ephesians 5:25-31:

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,

30 because we are members of his body.

31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

I have always tried to apply this verse when dealing with women, and even when mentoring men. In my relationships, I try to listen to the woman’s story and then try to think of where she is trying to get to in her life as a Christian. To help her along, I try to engineer activities that will allow her to grow in strength and confidence by achieving better and better things. There is no shortcut to confidence based on mere words, you have to help her do hard things so she has the experiences of feeling scared, failing, practicing more, then finally succeeding. Although a woman might think that it’s fine to study English for a year, then drop out and sit around the house drinking beer and watching TV, a good man will not think that’s acceptable. If a man loves a woman, then he wants to build her up into something nice for God. And in truth, that will be more fulfilling for her in the long run, although it might conflict with her feelings in the short run.

C.S. Lewis makes the same point in “The Problem of Pain”:

Finally we come to an analogy full of danger, and of much more limited application, which happens, nevertheless, to be the most useful for our special purpose at the moment—I mean, the analogy between God’s love for man and a man’s love for a woman. It is freely used in Scripture. Israel is a false wife, but her heavenly Husband cannot forget the happier days; ‘I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thy espousals, when thou wentest after Me in the wilderness.’ 6 Israel is the pauper bride, the waif whom her Lover found abandoned by the wayside, and clothed and adorned and made lovely and yet she betrayed Him .7 ‘Adulteresses’ St James calls us, because we turn aside to the ‘friendship of the world’, while God ‘jealously longs for the spirit He has implanted in us’.8 The Church is the Lord’s bride whom He so loves that in her no spot or wrinkle is endurable? For the truth which this analogy serves to emphasize is that Love, in its own nature, demands the perfecting of the beloved; that the mere ‘kindness’ which tolerates anything except suffering in its object is, in that respect, at the opposite pole from Love. When we fall in love with a woman, do we cease to care whether she is clean or dirty, fair or foul? Do we not rather then first begin to care? Does any woman regard it as a sign of love in a man that he neither knows nor cares how she is looking? Love may, indeed, love the beloved when her beauty is lost: but not because it is lost. Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal. Love is more sensitive than hatred itself to every blemish in the beloved; his ‘feeling is more soft and sensible than are the tender horns of cockled snails’. Of all powers he forgives most, but he condones least: he is pleased with little, but demands all.

[…]We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character. Here again we come up against what I have called the “intolerable compliment.” Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life—the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child—he will take endless trouble—and would doubtless, thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and re-commenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumb-nail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.”

Imagine that you have signed up for swimming lessons and then your instructor takes you aside and says “listen, you really have talent at swimming. I think that you could compete in the Olympics if you apply yourself. I want you to work harder than everyone else here, and practice more on your own.” How would you feel? The extra practice is going to cut into your TV and popcorn eating time. You are not even sure that you want to be an Olympic swimmer. What good is it to you if you are one? Why can’t your instructor just accept you as you are and leave you alone to do whatever you want? If he loved you,wouldn’t he just let you do what you wanted? Well… that’s the challenge of letting yourself be led; recognizing leadership as love, and submitting to it.

Choosing a good leader

I have some advice for women who encounter men who believe that they have talent and who try to get them to grow into something better. A good man who wants to marry you is going to audition for the role of husband by trying to lead you upward. That’s what love is, self-sacrifice designed to help the other person grow. It can be scary to let a man lead you. Letting a man lead you is especially hard if you have been indoctrinated by feminism to not trust men, or if you have had experiences with bad men who abused your trust and vulnerability. What if what he wants you to do is hard, and exposes you to failure? That won’t feel good. Would he reject you if you failed?  That wouldn’t feel good. How can you tell if this man can be trusted when so many others have failed to be trustworthy? Aren’t men all the same?

So here is some advice for picking a good leader. You can look around at some of the other people that this man has tried to lead, and see how it has worked out. Are the other people that he’s mentored happy with the results? Did they achieve more with his mentoring than without it? Has anyone he mentored been left in a worse state than they were in when he started investing in them? Were any of the people he mentored rejected for not being good enough? If they tried but failed to be perfect, did the man give up on them or was he delighted that they tried and achieved something less than perfect? Does he try to surround you with other people who are older and wiser so that they can mentor you and support you as well? I think that answering those kinds of questions can show whether the leading is meant to help you or harm you. The answers to those questions counterbalance the feelings that we all have when someone tries to love us upward.

And if a man isn’t trying to audition for the husband role by leading you, then you should ask yourself why.

Clarifications:

  • this doesn’t apply to dating, only courting. Also, I don’t believe that men should not be allowed to ask women out until they have a degree / trade and a job and some job experience
  • this advice only works with men who are capable of leading, it’s not some sort of given that all men get to lead without qualification
  • when I am talking about leadership, I mean leadership before marriage in order to improve a woman’s skills so she can serve God better, e.g. – improving apologetics or public speaking or teaching
  • the goal of this is for the man and woman to experience how a man leads before the marriage, so that there are no surprises after the wedding
  • leadership to me is the same as leadership in the corporate world, it means providing a vision, building consensus, enabling others to do their best, and motivating them with rewards and/or recognition
  • examples of me leading a woman are: leading her to complete her undergraduate degree, leading her to start a masters, leading her to pay off her debts, leading her to teach in church, leading her to give lectures on apologetics issues, etc.