For some, finding love that lasts a lifetime is a smooth trek. But for most of us, the path is brutally bumpy.
One minute, I'm surfing the tube — looking for something decent to watch — and the next minute, I'm bewildered. What I'm seeing can't be real! I tell myself. It's got to be staged. But why? Who actually lives this way?
I've stumbled upon a popular daytime talk show that uses shock topics to boast ratings. Today's subject: "Transvestite Gay Males and Their Female Lovers."
I'm morbidly transfixed.
The host is interviewing a gay-identified young man named Charlie, who is dressed like a girl, and a lady named Sarah, who is dressed like a boy. Both claim to be lovers. Suddenly, the girl pulls an engagement ring out of her jacket pocket and kneels in front of the boy.
"Charlie, we've been friends through high school," she says, "and you know how I feel about you."
The boy blushes, and the audience cheers.
"I want to spend my life with you," Sarah tells Charlie, offering him the ring. "I want to have your children. That's why I'm asking you to marry me."
The audience roars even louder. Even the host begins to pressure him. "So, what's your answer, Charlie?" the TV personality says. "She obviously loves you. Are you going to say no to this beautiful young lady?"
"But I'm gay," Charlie responds.
"I don't care," his lover says. "I think we can have a good life together."
After a long pause — the audience still cheering — Charlie looks at the host and says, "Yes, I'll marry her. But only because I love that gorgeous ring!"
A Broken Vision
As outrageous as this scenario may seem, to me, it speaks of the casual attitudes our culture holds toward marriage.
True, Charlie and Sarah represent an extreme case — certainly not the norm. (What do you expect from daytime TV, right?) Yet for some, the marriage covenant is viewed simply as a legal contract — one that can be amended (or ended) at a later date. And too often, "as long as we both shall live" is replaced with "as long as we both shall love." Viewing marriage as anything less than a holy union ordained by our Holy God, a sacred institution shared between a man and a woman, can result in misery for everyone involved — friends, family and especially children.
I've cringed as some of my well-meaning guy friends have moved glibly through courtship and into marriage, not fully grasping the important, lifelong decision they've made. And some of the reasons they've given for heading down the aisle are just as weak as the one Charlie came up with: "All my friends and siblings have tied the knot." "I don't want to be alone." "I'm a romantic at heart who loves being in a relationship." "My parents expect me to get married." "Everybody at church will think I'm weird if I remain single."
When it comes to the matters of the heart, where do you stand?
What's at Our Core
I learned long ago that inside every man is a desire to love, to be loved and to move closer to the Source of love. This yearning is the essence of the human spirit; it's the origin of our highest hopes and most noble dreams.
A young man begins his journey on earth searching for his life companion. According to psychologist Donald M. Joy, this is how God wired the male mind. He even suggests that this "exclusive, lifelong intimacy dream" begins early in life.
There is one vision, especially, that young men consistently see. This is especially true of Christian young men, but it is also true of young men who may not hunger for faith in God. The same vision shows up in children from poverty and from wealth. Every boy who has not been abused or abandoned has the same dream: Somewhere there is a woman with whom I can share all of my secrets for the remainder of my life.
For some, finding love that lasts a lifetime is a smooth trek. But for others, the path is brutally bumpy. Listen to what a few of my male friends have to say on this subject:
"I've been burned in past relationships," says Philip, a single 30-something businessman in Los Angeles. "I'm settling into the idea that the solitary life of bachelorhood is a much more appealing option."
"Someone once said that a man is like a hermit crab," explains 22-year-old John from Fort Collins, Colo. "If we're vulnerable with our emotions and get hurt, we'll roll right back into that shell, vowing to never again crawl out. In all honesty, that's happened to me so many times, it's hard for me to open up to a woman."
Counter these thoughts with this quote from Chuck, a 38-year-old married man from Beckley, W.V.: "Next to my faith in Jesus, my marriage is the most precious thing in my life. I'm thankful God has blessed me with the woman of my dreams, a life mate who I trust. With every ounce of my being, I desire to protect and to lay down my life for her. But finding this depth of love involved a patient search."
Reclaiming the Dream
Like Philip and John, do you desire what Chuck has, yet feel clueless — perhaps even gun-shy — when it comes to relationships? What must you know now to be successful in a future marriage? How can you nurture true love — the kind that'll last a lifetime?
Poll 20 people and you'll probably end up with 20 different answers to these questions. (Obviously each guy and each relationship is different.) Here are some basic insights I've discovered in my own journey that have shaped my views on love, sex and marriage.
I kept our relationship within sight of our families. God gave me my beautiful wife Tiffany. (We recently celebrated 10 years of marriage.) One of the first steps I took before our courtship was to ask Tiffany's dad for his permission to get married, as well as his blessing on our life together.
In the months that followed, Tiffany and I made every effort to "pull off our masks" and get to know each other openly and honestly. This meant countless hours having fun together and asking each other hard questions. We believed that true intimacy always grows slowly out of the solid soil of "knowing" each other casually and intently.
Some of our best dating memories are of the times we spent with each other's families, sharing meals together or going to movies with our siblings. Not only did they provide accountability during our courtship, but they helped us to bond as one large family.
I built a spiritual foundation before marriage. Early in our relationship, I took to heart what Pastor Greg Laurie has to say about relationships in his book God's Design for Christian Dating:
Now is the time to establish good habits with your mate, such as praying together, studying the Bible together, participating in fellowship with other Christians at church, and even witnessing together. As you lay these foundations and build upon them in years to come, your relationship will stand strong.
During my courtship, an older married friend served as a mentor to me. He handed me that quote from Pastor Laurie along with this advice: "Keep your relationship with Tiffany grounded in God. Don't let a day go by without praying for her and with her." While I'm certainly not a "super saint," I've done my best to follow that wisdom.
I took seriously God's gift of purity. Nothing can ruin a relationship quicker than going too far, too fast, too soon. I'm proud we made a commitment to stay pure for each other — and for God. Yet at times, I couldn't help wondering why God didn't give men and women sexual desires on our wedding nights — and not a moment before?
Tiffany and I eventually concluded that "saving ourselves for each other" involved much more than staying clear of an invisible "sexual sin line." Instead, we began to see that pursuing a life of purity really meant living in obedience to God. Did we truly want what Christ wants? Did we want to do things His way? Did we desire His standards?
Bottom line: If we truly believed that our bodies were temples for the Holy Spirit, we needed to make sure they were places fit for God. We took to heart 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body."
I brought my sexual weaknesses into the light. After all, I knew I couldn't hide from them. (God already knew what I thought and did in private, and He understood my struggles better than me.) I made every effort to consistently pray and confess my sins to God. I acknowledged before Him my lack of power to control my sexual urges on my own.
I took seriously what Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:8-9: "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings."
I also met every Friday morning with an accountability buddy — a single guy my age named Brent. He'd ask me tough questions about my relationship with Tiffany, as well as my desire for purity. We'd talk about our struggles and victories during the week. We'd also read Scripture and pray with each other. Brent was someone I could trust and talk honestly about my sexual feelings.
I asked God to heal my sexuality, making it the awesome thing He intended it to be. The key to healthy sexuality, I believe, is outlined in Scripture. Here's what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5: "It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God."
To me, this passage was saying one thing: Sex is a big deal.
Therefore, I could not treat it casually. I knew it involved some "man-sized" responsibility. I believed that sex was much more than adult recreation. For married couples, intercourse creates a deep, powerful bond — sort of a relational Super Glue. And that bond must be protected and shared for a lifetime in a sacred marriage covenant.
For additional thoughts on this subject, check out "The Marks of Manhood" by Dr. Albert Mohler.
I accepted a season of patient waiting. In order for our love to blossom into what God wanted it to be, I knew that waiting was the key. During our engagement, Tiffany and I committed ourselves to listening to God patiently. We believed that these times would draw out, stretch and ultimately strengthen our relationship.
We were committed to our future life together and wanted to take the right first steps together. Sadly, we'd seen too many friends rush into marriage without fully understanding the important, lifelong decision they'd made. Instead, we knew it was important to use our months before marriage to do some serious preparation — which involved getting some premarital counseling from a trained therapist.
Through this process, Tiffany trusted my lead, knowing that the Lord has promised to speak to both of our hearts — in His time, during His chosen season.
Copyright 2008 Michael Ross. All rights reserved.