Last week I proposed to my girlfriend and, amazingly enough, she said yes. If you knew me, you would know that is nothing short of a miracle.
As I began to share the news with family and friends, a trend developed among my male cohorts. Their response took some form or another of the sentence, “Wow, dude, that’s a huge step, I didn’t know you were ready for that.”
My response was: “Well, I’m not ready, but that’s not really the point.”
They weren’t expecting that answer.
My friends were expecting something like what we hear in movies or from guys who are unwilling to be vulnerable with one another: “Yeah man, trust me, when you meet the one, then you’ll just know!” As if you know your love is real when you experience this magic voodoo feeling of clarity that will just overwhelm you when you meet the right person.
But if I were to say something like that, I’d be lying. And I usually try not to lie.
This outlook which is expected from us is in fact the soul crushing myth perpetuated by those who claim that love is nothing more than a feeling.
So why do my fellow men ask that question? Why have I asked that question of others in the past? Because for most guys, this phantom thing we call being “ready” is our bulletproof excuse to delay doing the best thing in exchange for the easy thing.
Just look at the three hallmarks of how the current culture does romantic relationships and it’s easy to see how good men have gotten at delaying commitment.
- Safe Sex: The reasoning goes something like this, “Well, we need to know if we are sexually compatible right? It’s a huge part of a relationship! But we aren’t ready for kids. Instead, we use contraception which allows us to have safe sex and know if we are compatible. Win win!
- Live together before marriage: “How else are we supposed to know that our relationship can work before making a lifelong commitment? We have to be sure, and living together is practical. It makes sense. It’s safe.”
- We should get a dog before we get a kid: “We don’t know if we want to have kids yet. We want to travel and just do us for a while. We’ll just get a dog and see how that goes. After all, with divorce rates being so high, we should practice being parents together before bringing kids into the world. It’s the safe thing to do.”
All of this is nonsense. Safe sex is a myth. People who live together before getting married actually have higher rates of divorce than those who don’t. And having a pet is NOTHING like having a child of your own.
If the wise people in my life, the ones who have been married for 25+ years, have taught me anything, it’s that you can never be ready for something as big and beautiful and incredible as a lifelong commitment to another person. Being ready isn’t the point. Freely and willingly choosing to give your significant other everything you’ve got, for as long as you’ve got it, is.
The real tragedy is that when men delay doing the best thing in exchange for the safe thing, we deny ourselves the ability to thrive. When a man defends, protects, uplifts, glorifies, loves, and serves a woman, yes he gives up his independence, but in return his life is elevated to an entirely new level. He goes from coasting to thriving. From passive to passionate. From selfish to courageous. From a good man to the man of your dreams. And that’s not by some uncontrollable fairy magic, that’s the power of love as choice.
Unfortunately, what women have failed to realize is that they are complicit in this. Women set the standard for the relationship. Not men. And most women let men off the hook. Ladies, if you really loved him you would challenge him to be more than a safe bet. You would challenge him to reclaim the power of choice. And you would challenge him to love you the way Jesus loved the world in his time on earth.
In the hours before he was arrested, Jesus said something to his disciples that really knocks me out. He asks God, if possible, to spare him of the immense impending suffering. He essentially says, “I don’t want to do this. It would be much easier for me to open the gates of heaven without having to suffer so please don’t make me do it.”
Now, I am no scripture scholar. Nothing even close. But, what I read here is that Jesus identifies the complex surge of emotion humanity experiences when we are faced with the hard choices. It’s this feeling that, we know we are meant for something and we know we desire it deeply, but we don’t want to do it because our fears are yelling things at us like, “what if it’s really hard?” or “what if I fail?” or “what if I am not good enough?” or “what if it doesn’t work out!”
Jesus knew his mission in life was to destroy the power of death and save the world. And he had a truly deep desire to do it. But he also had a moment of gut wrenching hesitation before doing what was required to accomplish his mission. However, contrary to what our culture might say, the solution wasn’t for Jesus to feel better or find some safe way out. The solution for Jesus was to stare directly into the eye of his fears and choose the better path anyway.
The same goes for all of us. Especially men in relationships.
The honest truth is, I am not ready for marriage. Marriage scares the crap out of me!
I’m afraid of committing my entire life to one person. Terrified of accepting this incredible person’s love knowing that there is a really good chance that I will do something massively stupid that will hurt her. And, of course, scared of exchanging my independence for a life devoted to someone other than myself.
That kind of fear doesn’t get vanquished by some magic clarity that comes with “the one”. It’s still there and it will remain there even after I say “I do.” But that’s ok. It’s natural.
I didn’t propose because I was ready. I proposed because deep down in my soul I know God created me for marriage. I proposed because my future wife is an incredible woman and the life partner I don’t deserve but got anyway. I proposed because I love her more than I love myself. I proposed because she challenges me every day to become the man God created me to be. And I proposed because I want nothing more in life than her eternal happiness.
And that, my friends, is the point.
By Jack Beers
Marriage is an adventure – like going to war.