They Do Exist.

From The Men

From The Men: Women, Sex, & The Honeymoon.

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Editor’s Note: I am so excited to end this month with a post by my husband, Max Dubinsky. A few of you know our crazy Met-On-Twitter-Roadtripped-For-A-Year-Married-On-A-Cliff-Last-September story, but if not, let me simply introduce to you the greatest man I’ve ever met. A man who shows me daily why women are so valuable. A man who loves me for everything I am and everything I’m not – and a man I respect and adore. It’s so easy to believe as a woman that our greatest asset to a man is access to sex, and today Max shares a little of what he has to say about all this. He blogs at MakeItMad.com and tweets at @MaxDubinsky. Max, I love you. – Lauren

I used to fantasize about being married. Not about having a house, a white picket fence, a steady job, and a beautiful wife and adoring kids to come home to. No, I fantasized about my marriage being one camera shy of an amateur porn film Hugh himself would have envied. And as a single man, I was an expert on marriage. Lots of sex makes a healthy marriage.

On my honeymoon, I was going to lock us away in a hotel for a week and live on nothing but sex and cigarettes. The beat generation would have been envious of my whiskey and oxytocin enduced spaceman prose, high and poetic off the aura of my Helen of Troy.

Because sex is as close to perfection as any of us will ever get. In theory, one could say this is why we seek so frequently seek copulation outside of marriage. Because everything: anxiety, stress, depression, all of it, whether you love that person or not, dissolves into the stratosphere for a few near-perfect seconds when you’re tangled beneath the sheets and around each other. No drug nor drink does anything quite like it. Of course, in the case of, say, a one night stand, the crash back to planet earth from the heavenly stars above is painful enough that the only cure is to become an astronaut again.

I knew the high. I was determined, destined, desperate, to safely orbit the the earth for the rest of my life.

Then I actually got married. A whirlwind romance I wouldn’t recommend to anyone who gets queasy on ferris wheels and other carnival rides that go round and round. We read our vows and committed the whole hoopla of our love in front of 14 other people and God Himself six months after we met in person, on a cliff. And our honeymoon – - 3 days in a Denver hotel where we instagrammed pictures, watched a movie starring Matthew McConaughey, had dinner with my family, and enjoyed a couple of root beer floats amongst other acceptable activities upon our undefiled marriage bed – - was not exactly something Ginsberg would have been compelled to write about.

3 days wasn’t a week, nor did we do anything no one had ever seen or experienced before, but I was in love and found it a success nonetheless. Next, we were going to have our own apartment in a new city. We were going to work from home, which meant sex in the morning, sex in the afternoon, and sex before bed. We could spend entire days naked and marveling at each other’s bodies.

Except we went from our hotel in Denver to living in the backwoods of Oregon for 3 months in a half-finished basement where the nearest neighbor was seven miles away and reports of Bigfoot ran rampant through town. It’s hard to be naked and having sex every night when someone is constantly walking around upstairs where the vents conveniently carry your cries of passion, and a big hairy apeman with a possible penchant for the voyeuristic is lurking right outside your window.

The sex will get better when we move to LA.

So we moved to LA. And got a place of our own. But that didn’t change the fact that my wife married a man who lives in constant speculation that a Zombie Apocalypse is around the corner, and her new home sits right on a fault line. I find it far more difficult to be protective of my wife when I’m not wearing pants, no matter how often I go to the gym. I’m convinced Adam didn’t cover up because he was ashamed, but because if he had to slay a lion for his beloved, defeating such a beast seems immensely more probable when your reproductive organs can’t be mistaken for a midmorning snack.

I’m not expert on being married. In fact, I know less about marriage now than when I was single, but I can tell you this: the sole value of a woman in a man’s life is not sex. Unfortunately, ask any single man, particularly Christian, and he’ll tell you how he can’t wait to have a wife so he can have sex.

Here’s the thing ladies and gentlemen, it turns out the value I find in my wife, my lady, my queen, is not how quick she is to jump in the sack and perform a marathon with me. (I’m sure I sound like a scumbag for believing that the most important part of being married having sex. It’s not that I didn’t think women were valuable, but I was so far gone from my pornography addiction, it makes it more difficult to see women are capable of anything else.)

The first thing God deemed “not good” was being alone. So he gave Adam someone to do life with, not someone to just, well, do.

My life is easier because of my wife. She works in the same industry I do, and she’s good at the things I am not. She’s the one business partner I can consult knowing that she has no one’s interest at heart but mine. She’ll choose an action movie over a romantic comedy, finds the show Archer both appalling and hilarious, is ready to go on an adventure at a moment’s notice, doesn’t get angry (but does get anxiety) when I give a homeless man our well-earned money, and on a Saturday night she is perfectly content Googling pictures of sea monsters and puppies with me while watching awful movies on Netflix.

Her value isn’t held in cooking dinners, cleaning the house, doing the laundry (tasks that I regularly do –  with joy, I might add), or being readily available for sex, but in being herself. The woman God created her to be. “Herself” is the founder of this website; a leader with a heart for broken, young woman; a survivor of an abusive, controlling home; a storyteller, an artist, a photographer, a writer, a lover. These are the reasons I adore Lauren. These are the reasons she is valuable as a woman. These are the reasons I am crazy about her, and why men are crazy about their wives.

If you’re a woman and you’re reading this today, know that your value lies in precisely who God had in mind when he laid the foundations of this planet – and not solely in your body and your ability to satisfy a man.

Men, know that sex is the reward of healthy relationship with her – and not what makes her valuable. And tell her this.


From The Men: A Letter To The Rejected Woman

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Editor’s Note: I’ve been reading ‘Repenting of Religion’ by Greg Boyd this week (thanks Emily for the rec!) and it’s wrecking my heart. It’s a reminder of how quickly we’ve fallen away from doing the primary thing Jesus showed us how to do: love. Jesus saw you and me as worth dying for, and we must to see others in the same way, all differences aside. Worth dying for. Worth loving. Today’s submission is by Michael Doyle, and I am so happy to be posting it. – Lauren

Dear Women,

I want you to take a good look at yourself in the mirror. What do you see? A little girl? Do you see someone weak, maybe a broken mess? Do you see someone who lacks confidence, your hurts and pains? Do you see what he did to you? Do you see only scars?

I know the world likes to see you for everything you’ve done, good or bad. I know your friends like to bring up the past and tell you that it’s okay to your face, but criticize and slander your name when you aren’t looking. I know that your church loves you when you stay pure, substance free and love God by being perfect and flawless. But this is a letter to the women who have experienced rejection from the church; as soon as you don’t show up one Sunday or let a curse word fly or make a “mistake,” you are shunned or don’t feel welcomed.

This is a letter for the sometimes lost, sometimes broken, sometimes lonely women.

You are labeled by everything you do, and the pressure that is coming at you from every angle can be unbearable. Who can you turn to when everyone has turned away? Who is there to lift you up when you can’t pick yourself up off the bathroom floor?

I will give you the answer to that question.

Jesus.

Jesus is there, every time. Through every drunken night, through every one night stand. Through every curse word, every regret that you have hidden from the world. He is there. He looks past the hurt, pain and scars. He looks for the princess that His father created. He looks for the sister that He saved from death and despair when He hung on a cross to die.

There is an amazing story of Jesus showing grace and love to a woman in the Bible. This woman had a reputation, and leaders in the town found her committing a sin. They pulled her from where she was found and drug her through the square. These men threw her in front of Jesus, ready to thrown stones at her.

Then He turn towards her accusers and asked what she had done.

They repeated her transgressions with great delight, as if exposing her made them feel better about themselves. Jesus said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus bent back down and kept drawing in the sand.

One by one they threw their stones down to ground and walked away, humbled and ashamed. After the last left, Jesus looked up from his drawing, and at the woman again. It was just the woman and Jesus.

What we find strange today is that Jesus was without sin, yet he looks graciously upon us as sinners. He didn’t pick up a stone of judgment or hate or malice or disappointment and throw it at her with all of his might. Sometimes we forget that after all the stones we’ve had thrown our way, Jesus is the only one who won’t. He didn’t turn away from her and run. He didn’t tell her that she wasn’t good enough.

He loved her.

He accepted her for everything that she was. All of the baggage she brought with her. For all of her flaws, imperfections, and wonderfulness. The wonderfulness that comes with being a woman, a woman who is so dearly loved! For the beauty that was created in His likeness. Because you are beautiful, and you are so loved.

And that is what we as men should do. We should love everything about you, never casting a stone. And I’m sorry for those who have. I know there are good men out there, but I know you’ve met plenty of bad ones along the way. Forgive them and don’t cast stones back, either. Commit your life to Jesus every single day; someone who will love you unconditionally. You will find that your purpose in life is so much greater.

So, I want you to take a good look at yourself in the mirror again. What do you see? It is my hope and prayer that you see someone who is loved and accepted. You are someone who is deserving of joy and happiness, who can do anything. You are someone who has the confidence to walk with her head held high. You love your family and friends without holding back. You bare stretch marks from birthing children. You hold and nurture and have abilities to make the world come back together when it feels like the pieces have fallen apart. You are beautiful, you are good, you are a child of God. Perfection, created to love and be loved.

Thank you for being so beautiful and thank you for being you.

From,

Michael


What A Man Wants From A Woman

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Editor’s Note: Today’s post is written by Dan Bode. He lives in Sacramento, California and blogs at Thoughts of Dan. It’s beautiful, and challenging. This is also the last week of posts from men, so if you’d like to share your story on learning to set boundaries, go ahead and submit it for the upcoming month! – Lauren

What men want from women will always be a much debated topic, as will what women want from men –  but we can still talk about it.

One thing I believe is almost universally true is this: You can easily overwhelm us, and we fear being overwhelmed.

Our society has taught us all that we each have certain roles and limitations within a relationship with a member of the opposite sex.  Men are supposed to be strong, solid and relatively unemotional – and women are supposed to need protection, love and understanding.

Society screwed us all up pretty well there.

When men display emotion it is viewed as a weakness, and for women to display strength is offensive.  These are changing, but still widely held viewpoints if you sit back and observe how it is actually played out in daily life.

On top of all this we add the dimension of Love, and the myriad definitions of it that each of us has, and everything gets mixed up!

I’m a single man of 51.  My wife died a few months ago, and I am discovering completely different aspects of love that I never would have imagined before.  I didn’t want that relationship to end so I still had the desire for love when she died.

First of all, let’s get something straight right now: being single does not mean you are incomplete.  Being single does not mean we are a bunch of “half-persons” running around searching for our other half so we can be “whole.”  God made us complete in Himself so we don’t have to be in a “relationship” to be a finished product.  That being said we have to acknowledge that God made us to be social beings, and “in relationship” with other people.

Being successful in a relationship requires what we have been trained to minimize: Commitment.

When we enter a relationship, we most often approach it from a dating standpoint. Which means we’ve put the romantic aspect on it from the start before we even really know anything about the other person.  We put our best face forward, and don’t let the other person see who we really are until we figure they like us enough that they’ll be ok with our faults.

What we should do is let the relationship start as a friendship and be honest about who we are.  Instead, we risk a greater sense of rejection when you discover the person you think you have fallen in love with doesn’t like who you truly are after all. Or your own disappointment when you find out that honestly? You can’t stand him.

We are all taught to treat relationships as temporary.  Like clothes you try on to see if they fit just right, and then toss on the floor of the dressing room when they don’t conform to our ideal.  We have to understand that we cannot enter into a relationship with the intention of “changing him/her.”  The only ones who can change a person are God and themselves.  Anyone else who tries will be met with abject failure.

This is the opposite of what we are called to do in a relationship.  Love and relationship are all about one thing: commitment to the person as you know them to be.

Men as a general rule have learned to be afraid of commitment.  The rate of fatherless children is higher now than it has ever been, so the example men have grown up with is one absent of any male commitment at all.  This isn’t an excuse at all; it’s just the way it is.

As much as men might fear a committed relationship, we also realize at some level that this commitment is well worth it.

Love, as God created it, is meant to endure. My wife died, but our love did not. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul says that “Love never fails.”  He’s right.

Love doesn’t fail – we do.

We insist on putting human limitations on the gifts of God and insist that we can’t maintain the standards He has set.  The truth is that love endures our human limitations.

Love, as God created it, is not meant to meet my own needs.  It would not survive any conflict if it was.  Love and forgiveness go hand in hand so that we can each forgive the truths that we try so desperately to hide from each other.

Maybe this is stuff I just wish I could tell my younger self, I don’t know.  But it is what I know now, and what I will live by and teach with every opportunity that comes my way.

So as a man, what would I like to see in a woman?

Someone who sees herself as valued already, and isn’t afraid of being honest about who she is.

Someone who isn’t afraid to insist on being treated fairly, and treat him fairly in turn.

Someone who will allow a man to show his emotions without fear, because the comforting circle of the arms of a woman who loves him is a powerful thing – whether he will ever admit it or not.

Love requires Forgiveness. 

When we participate in romance we are living out our fantasies of being in love with our perfect match – but since no one is perfect we have to apply Grace to cover the others faults and fall in love again with this person who, while not nearly perfect, is indeed our perfect match. 

What does a man really want?

He wants a beautiful woman, but not the beautiful woman you might think.

If you as a woman wish to see beauty then go and take off the makeup. Look in the mirror.  This is the face of beauty, but you must learn to see it in yourself.  See yourself without the blinders of this world’s definition.  See yourself as God intended you to beAct as though you are as beautiful as anyone else around you.  The man who recognizes that beauty in you is the one who knows what he wants and will strive to meet your needs with what he has to offer you.  (There is a caveat to this whole argument: many men in today’s society are completely blind to true beauty, but you’re better off ignoring them.  That man will only cause you pain.)

Wait.

As hard as it is, please be patient with us.

You will find each other when you are supposed to.

Because in the end, what a man wants isn’t nearly as important as who you are meant to be.


From The Men: Break-Ups Hurt Us Too

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Editor’s Note: It is so easy to feel like a break-up is the worst for you, that your ex-boyfriend feels nothing – and that it’s unfair. Several women in our community have sincerely asked, “Do men have a hard time with break-ups?” and Stephen Green has done an awesome job of answering this question for us. – Lauren

Dear Women:

My name is Stephen. I’m writing this letter because I want to share a little bit of truth about the male gender that seems to be so misunderstood.

A lot of women think that when it comes to breakups, men are emotionally unattached and simply “move on” from the relationship. If only it were that easy. It is often forgotten that men are emotional creatures just as women are, but culture teaches us to suppress our emotions or to give off a persona of being “tough” and unmovable.

Over the summer a friend of mine had a terrible breakup with his girl friend of 7 months, and when I saw him at the beginning of the school year I could tell that something was, at the very least, bothering him. We had a brief conversation about it and he told me that he was going to be fine and that he was moving on. We went our separate ways and the next few times I saw him he was his typical, outgoing self. About 2 months later, however, I was sitting out in my car with my friend talking when he pulled his car into the parking lot and parked just a few spaces over from me. I looked over and I saw the tears running down his face. I called him over to my car and he admitted to having been crying over the girl that he had broken up with at the beginning of summer. He and I talked again a couple weeks later over the same reason.

Men are not emotionally unattached, even if we appear to be. While it is possible that they have taught themselves to be numb to the pain, it still has an effect on our souls.

As for me, while I’ve never experienced the pain of a break up, I have repeatedly experienced the pain of rejection. And most recently I have been found in a situation in which I like a girl and she likes me, but she has decided that it is unwise for us to date and has chosen not to enter into a more serious relationship with me. Even though this is technically not a breakup, it seems to me to be just as severe and I have cried several times over the matter. I have taken a stab to the heart by someone I have been close to for a very long time and have come to have a great deal of love for.

From my perspective it seems like she is far less hurt or emotional concerning her conclusion (which is based off of her plans for the future rather than not actually wanting to be with me), but I am careful not to assume that she is emotionless.

As a disclaimer: there are men out there that seek to date for physical pleasure and never enter into a truly emotional state within in the relationship, and he was therefore half hearted in his dating. If a man is truly unemotional (not just in look but in reality) then he was never really committed and dated for a self-centered reason, which is hardly dating in my opinion.

There were several topics I could have shared on, but unfortunately I couldn’t possibly write on all of them in one letter. So I end with this: remember that men have emotions. Perhaps they are not “as emotional” as women, and perhaps even unwilling to reveal what they believe to be “weakness”. But even if you can’t see it, the emotion is there.

Please do not play with our emotions. A lot of men play with the emotions of women, and they are most recognized and despised, but people seem to excuse women when they play with our hearts and it does a great deal of damage. (I have seen with other friends of mine do this in order to simply get the attention of guys to make her feel better.) This also affects our opinions of women, which can be just as twisted as women’s perspectives on men.

God loves you, and there are good men out there. God will lead you to the right person, and there might be pain in that process. But in the end you will be unified with the one who will complete you and in your relationship bring to you a better understanding of God, because in our unity with our spouses we experience a measure of what it means to be the Image of God.

With Love and Sincerity,

Stephen


A Thank You To Women – From A Man.

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Editor’s Note: It saddens me greatly that we as women hear very few men thank and praise us for who we are, or who we are striving to become. It’s a brutal world out there, and the fight to live as new creations in Christ is just as hard on both sides, for men and women. I chose this month’s topic in hopes of a reparation of sorts between the sexes – apologies on both sides are needed, as is encouragement from both sides. Today’s post is a thank you to women from Aaron. He tweets at @voluntaryaaron. – Lauren

You were often the protagonist in my story; the woman taking the risk, living in faith, moving beyond her past, living on love and embracing your identity as a new woman in Christ. I want to tell you that your story mattered. Your life was at times exactly the inspiration that I needed. The character of a young woman, perhaps scared of what life was really like, apprehensive of what her future might hold, of what her past might have meant – but all the while stepping out into the life she could live in Christ.

You were brave, faithful and encouraging.

When your story was revealed to me, not as a creation of Victoria’s Secret or Cosmo or Hollywood, but as a product of your own real life, and now real grace, I was filled with some hope, and I’ll admit, some attraction too.

So I want to say thank you, good women. In the past year my own life has experienced growth, and I must thank God for the way he used the unique heart and nature of some Godly women to speak truth into my life. I may not have always been as active in your story, in helping you in your journey as I could have been, and as I should be as a brother in Christ, but I was observing and learning and growing. I needed good women. Real women. Women who had hurts, yes, but also victories and hearts and humanity and emotions and who were willing to be vulnerable by sharing and living their story. By allowing me in, if it meant seeing you both in joy and sorrow, but most of all in reality.

I may have just listened, only offering you my silence, but maybe that’s all you needed. I feel like I grew and learned so much about you, about me, about who we are becoming in the love and peace of Christ. So to the good women who are living out their transformation, living out love, living out faith, and doing it all in a world that desperately needs rescue and restoration, I thank you.

It’s not easy being a woman. And it’s not easy being a man. But it becomes easier when we communicate, share and help each other – even if that just means our interactions and relationships with each other, in whatever ways those take place, are lived honestly and to edify each other, to both our benefit and to the glory of God. By being and living as the woman God made you.

Your heart, your emotion, your brain and your sexuality – they are all in some way a gift to you. When I started seeing them as gifts to you, to me, to us all and from God, it was a catalyst for growth in my life. Your unique heart, emotion and nature were revealed in your faith, worship, and prayer, the smile on your face and the daily life you were living. It was all beautiful and good; a glory to God and a blessing to me.

Now, when I think of those times when I felt the most masculine, I realize it was often in my observation and admiration of you, how God made you. Differently, indeed –  but different was good, helpful, encouraging.

Seeing you as a beautiful woman of God’s creation, both of us with roles to play in bringing life and hope to this world in our own unique ways brings me closer to agape love, closer to respect, and it is here where lust and greed are driven out. Your burden is not to conform to a beauty standard, and it’s not to bear the responsibility of my sexuality or the behavior or misbehavior of men. My heart truly breaks when I think of those times when you were made to feel ashamed to have the body of a woman, her heart, and nature. When men, when I, twisted those gifts of your sexuality into my entertainment, my self-worth or my possession, and then used that to define your worth, it was all to cover up so many sins of our own. The blame and the shame weren’t yours to be burdened with.

However, we are getting back to hope. The hope you gave me as a woman living out a good story, the hope that good women were also real women. Women I knew. This hope was also that your own good woman story is not only your story, it is really our story. In our new creation lives the love of God.

You and I become more similar, unique in our respective natures as man and woman, but with a task to encourage each other to live these lives as good women and men. It is also these “new creation lives” as good women and men that give glory to God and bring hope in love to this world in our relationships, restoring our sexuality and rescuing love in a world that is desperately in need.


To The Women Looking For a Good Man

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Editor’s Note: The phrase “good man” can seem so idealistic, so impossible, so unreachable – for both the imperfect man and for all the women looking for one. Do you know what really makes up a good man? Do you really know that his heart’s relationship with Jesus Christ is infinitely more valuable than what he has and the lifestyle he is pursuing? Jake Dudley writes today on where to find a good man. He blogs here and tweets at @jakedudley. He also wrote I Want The Girl Of My Real Life for us. – Lauren

Am I a good man?

This is a question I muse over very often. One that i ask myself when I’m living out the beauty of Jesus that I believe in so deeply, or also when I’m choosing to ignore that beauty in the name of lust, pride, selfishness or idolatry. And unfortunately, I’m deeply ashamed of the answer I usually deserve.

A good man? How could I be classified as such when I struggle so often with the way I view women? Or what about the times I choose to recklessly abandon my trust in Jesus and take matters into my own hands? A good man? Surely my completely immature reaction to the individual who cut me off on the highway disqualifies me from ever being associated with good men.

These things are very true of me. And if my sin defined who I am, then the title of “good man” would look elsewhere for its keeper.

But luckily, we good men and women aren’t defined by a sin or a standard or a relationship or an image; we are defined by the grace of Jesus Christ.

So what does that mean for those good women out there who are searching for a good man?

It means you have to be willing to find a man who is marked by the grace of a very big God.

A good man isn’t going to be found with those words as his self-proclaimed title. A good man isn’t going to be found wrapped in perfection or riding in on a white horse.

A good man is found humbled, broken and aware of his need of the best man to ever walk the face of this planet.

A good man is found at the feet of who Jesus is.

You see, a good man is marked with a story. And that story just might involve beauty and honesty and courage. But the other side of his tale may also include selfishness, pride and fear. Regardless of the roles he’s played in the story, a good man’s true character is defined by a loving, grace-giving Savior who looked past OUR deficiencies before WE were ever even born and still chose to suffer a brutal death on OUR behalf.

Looking for a good man? Stop looking in a shiny box with a neatly trimmed bow and start looking in the dust beneath the arms of an all-powerful God.


From The Men: What Decides How Much A Woman Is Worth?

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Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Nick Martin. He tweets at @nickmartin7 and blogs at definedbyYou. You might want to bookmark this to read on the hard days. – Lauren

Dear You,

Yeah, you. The one reading this.

Even the fact that you’ve stumbled across these words is further proof of the point that I’m about to make. Don’t believe for a second that you’re reading this by mistake.

Allow me to let you in on something you may or may not already know (or believe). If they’re words you’ve already heard, that’s alright, let them sink in one more time. Because Truth is something that never tires.

You, are invaluable.

Let me dig a little deeper into the meaning of that word to paint a clearer picture for you. The dictionary defines the word invaluable like this:

“beyond calculable or appraisable value; of inestimable worth; priceless.”

Here’s where the problem lies; you search for and attempt to find your value in so many other places than it’s true source.

“If only I had a body that looked like this…”

“If I have sex with him, then at least I’ll be worth something to someone…”

“I’m single. If I was really worth as much as you say I am, at least one guy would pursue me…” 

The only dictionary you should ever use to define your worth is the one that was written by my Savior. I don’t know if you’ve met him yet, but his name is Jesus Christ. His Word says a few things about who you are: you are his precious, beautiful, daughter. It’s been awhile, but if I remember correctly they taught us all the way back in elementary school that by definition, the daughter of a king is referred to as a princess. She is to be cherished, honored, admired, and revered. To disrespect her, is to disrespect the king. But don’t be mistaken, you aren’t just the daughter of any king; you are the beloved daughter of the King of Kings.

God knit you together in your mother’s womb and created you in His very own image. He refers to you, as His masterpiece. The Creator’s greatest creation. Pause for a moment and let that sink in.

For those reasons alone, your value is intrinsic and irrevocable.

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or what’s been done to you. It doesn’t matter how dark of a past you might have or how broken you may be.

Your value cannot be damaged, destroyed or even diminished.

So please, let the Truth scream louder than the lies.

Next time you hear a voice that tells you that you aren’t worth it, that you have no value, or that you’re unlovable, know this; there is a Love that was purchased for you on the cross. A Love that determined that you were worth dying for. And single, married, or anything in between that Love always has been and always will be passionately pursuing you. So run towards it and embrace it. And never forget that because of that Love, your value is not dictated by whether or not you have a man pursuing you.

Maybe you’re thinking, “I’m too broken for a love like that.” And if that’s you, I am sorry. I’m sorry that you had to experience whatever it is that left you broken. Let me say this: until you bring Him all of the broken pieces, He cannot begin to put them back together. But when you bring them to Him, I promise you that He’ll put them back together more complete and whole than they were before. Because He is a God who makes beauty from the brokenness.

In the same way that His Love cannot be earned, it cannot be lost or taken from you. So breathe easy, because there is nothing you could ever do that could make Him love you less.

Let that be enough.

Rest in that.

Because that is truth.

In Him,
Nick


A Letter To My Future Wife: What I Undeserve

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Editor’s Note: A girl asked me earlier this week, “I lost my virginity, but now I’m waiting for marriage. I don’t know how to overcome my feelings of worthlessness. I can’t help but think a guy that waited for his wife would want a girl who also waited.” My heart broke because I’ve felt that. And it took me years to truly understand that we are all broken, and our worth is held in Jesus even when we act in ways that make us feel we’ve lost it. The good man will see you not as you once behaved, but as Jesus says you are. Joey Shadel is 18 years old and writes this letter below to his future wife – and expounds upon this idea beautifully. – Lauren

To My Wife,

You’re beautiful. You’re stunning. You’re absolutely perfect in more ways than you know.

I know you’re out there; I know you’re living life just as I am mine. If not now, then someday you will read this letter and gain some insight into who I was before we married. That being said, it might be the only aspect of my life before we met to make you proud.

I say you won’t be proud because frankly I’m not proud either. My heart breaks knowing how I betrayed you with those other women. I regret every touch, every kiss, and every fake “I love you.” I was so consumed with lust that I had mistaken it for love, when you are the only woman I want to ever truly love. For everything, I want to apologize.

Whether it was teenage drunkenness, images on a computer screen, or fantasies in my mind, I defiled the essence of who a woman was. I deliberately turned my back on my calling from God and chose immediate satisfaction. Satisfaction that withered as soon as my pants were back on; satisfaction that left a bowling ball-sized guilt in my chest. She was a physical means to a lustful end, and I had taken advantage of a sinful opportunity. I didn’t see her as a daughter of Christ, and I was becoming her future husband’s greatest enemy. I didn’t treat her body as a temple and took from her what only one man deserved. At the end of the day, my heart was broken for this woman and shattered for you.

If you were in the room, I can only imagine your reaction. You probably wouldn’t watch, you certainly would not want to. Youd probably feel betrayed, like I was cheating on you in front of your eyes. You’d probably be angry, ready to slap me and kick her out of the room for stealing my affection. You’d probably feel your heart being ripped from your body, dropped to the floor, and spat on. You’d probably cry out to God for mercy not to watch, forgiveness for me, and the strength to move on. You’d probably feel broken, expecting more than just an apology. It may never be enough, but it’s all I can say – I’m sorry.

I can see the tears knowing I took from you what only you deserve. You deserve a husband that honors you in his words, thoughts, and actions. I have not been that, and I have begged God for his forgiveness. As promised, he has forgiven me, and I hope you can forgive me, too.

This is a poem I wrote to you, titled What I Undeserve.

What I Undeserve

as i watch the sun rise and the weary sun set,
it reminds me of your eyes all dressed in regret.
not regretful of your past, but regretful of mine,
knowing that it’s been all but divine.

He has chosen to forgive me long long ago,
with a heart of compassion that i see you bestow.
its one of many reasons i get lost in your soul,
trying to save the heart you’ve inadvertently stole.

i can’t wait til the day i see your shining face
all dressed in white at a methodical pace.
walking toward me to begin our life as one,
blessed by the Father, Spirit, and Son.

You are what I don’t deserve. God’s grace will bring us together when I have done absolutely nothing to deserve it. Yet I suppose it wouldn’t be grace if I did.

My prayer, at this present time, is that each day God is preparing my heart for you. Marriage is for life, so may what we’ll have last forever. I pray that Christ is not only your Lord, but that He is also your Savior, blessing you with the fruits of His Spirit. My worry is that if you’re in love with Him, then I will be such a disappointment. So I pray that each and everyday I will become less like myself and more like Christ, and that the fruits of His Spirit will also grow in me to naturally honor both Him and you, his daughter.

I know you’re not perfect either. I know you’ve made your mistakes too, perhaps with sins very similar to mine. If your heart is broken, I pray God will repair it. If you’re burdened from sin, I pray He will take away the guilt. Someday I want to look you in the eyes, forgiven, forgiving, and sharing with you a love the past cannot hinder.

I can’t wait to know you inside and out. I want to hear all your favorite stories, music, and movies. I can’t wait to meet your family and learn who you were before we met. I praise God for your beautiful soul and the blessings He will pour into my life through you. Someday we will share a life together. We’ll move on from the past, love every moment of the present, and gratefully await all the memories of the future.

“Sixty queens there may be, and eighty concubines, and virgins beyond number; but my dove, my perfect one, is unique.” Song of Songs 6:8-9.

Love Your Future Husband,

JPS


From The Men: Thoughts On Rape Culture & Women Being Right

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Editor’s Note: Today’s post is written by Matt Peters. He wrote me a little bio, so I have to include it, because it’s amazing: “Matt is a just a guy who has followed Lauren and Max’s adventures and loves their exploits, cheers their successes and frets over their hurdles. He sometimes chimes in on Facebook. He acknowledges that this post is written with an extremely cis-gendered and heterocentric bias. His Buddhist beliefs extend the sentiments expressed above to all people because everyone is worth it. He believes in one simple rule: “One World. One Pain. One Love.”” – Lauren

I was once told that, “God created women so that men would see their beauty and their compassion, and be reminded of His love for the world.” I mean, really, think on that. Imagine the power implied in that statement: You – woman reading this – are a reflection of God’s own love for all of Creation. Your presence is a love note from on high.

I love those words. It is a shame that, as people, we don’t see the divine in the mundane beauty of our fellow humans.

What I’m going to type here is nothing new. You know this. It’s in your DNA. But the world works so hard to make us all forget it. It’s easier if we all forget. It makes people pliable and easily corrupted. We flood ourselves with media that says you need good hair, better hair, a better complexion, darker skin, lighter skin, longer legs, a nicer set of breasts, a higher and firmer ass. We reinforce the idea that smart isn’t sexy, and that sex is a coin you should give out or not give out for Byzantine and conflicting reasons.

We live in a culture where the word “rape” gets tossed around like some sort of nerf word that we use to mean “inconvenienced”. You see it in off the cuff commentary like, “Man, I bet my accountant is just raping me with fees this year.” or “Man, did you see the (sports team) get raped by the referees last night?” Any time there’s a prison rape joke, or a victim of assault is asked what she was wearing or how late she was out at a party, it all contributes to a rape culture that men are seemingly blind to but women see with eagle-vision -like clarity, and the message is simple: your pain doesn’t matter because you don’t matter.

As a man, I can’t even imagine what that kind of world is like, even though I am a part of it. I don’t question my looks based on my weight, or my (thinning) hair. I don’t question my worth based on whether or not I have a spouse attached to my arm or a passel of children. Even if those media arrows are pointed at me, I’m not aware of them. Certainly there’s enough television programs that show the oafish man-child husband married to the gorgeous and witty wife. If anything, media tells me that I can take very little care of myself, and I’ll still find a woman who is willing to settle for me and be both hooker and mother-figure depending on my whim.

I can’t walk the path any woman walks. It’s a world too alien to me. What I can do is listen. I can listen to every lover, cousin, friend, roommate, aunt, or stranger who tells me they’ve been hurt, abused, broken, or assaulted in the same quiet, shell-shocked voice. I can offer encouragement when I hear about humiliation at the hands of someone she trusted with her life and more than her life: her future and her heart. I can remove words like bitch, whore, and slut from my vocabulary in hopes that in some small way, it affects my small corner of the world and my orbit of friends by making things feel a little more safe and accepting. I can read a strong opinion of a woman and ask myself, “Would I be pissed off if it was written by a man?” and keep my reactions in check so that I don’t fall into the trap that “women shouldn’t have strong opinions.” I can do my damndest to be an ally and when I fail, try harder and expect more.

And right now, in this space, I can tell you the things that are worth repeating.

You’re right. That guy who is pissed off at you because you won’t sleep with him instead of your jackass boyfriend? He’s a jackass too.

You’re right. It is your body. You get to make the call. Who you show it to. When you show it. If you show it ever.

You’re right. If Christ (or any religion) is so strong in your life, settling for someone who doesn’t believe isn’t going to last long for you. It isn’t about the guy; it’s about the guy’s relationship with Christ (/religion) being important to you, too.

You’re right. How you dress is not an invitation for others to stare.

You’re right. You don’t have to smile because some strange person tells you to.

You’re right. Sometimes “no” does mean “yes,” but anyone who has pulled himself off a sobbing woman has no question as to what the hell he’s just done.

You’re right. If your man watches porn and it bothers you, he should drop it simply because it bothers you.

You’re right. You are funny.

You’re right. You are smarter than you are afraid to believe.

You’re right. You are beautiful

You’re right. You are worth it

You’re right. You deserve your own forgiveness and love.

You’re right.

Nothing I wrote is earth shaking, or original. But it was worth repeating.


Dear Sister: An Apology From An Adulterer At Heart

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Editor’s Note: These letters from men are continuing to re-break my heart and re-heal it simultaneously. Thank you, men, for rebuilding our faith in you. And for rebuilding our trust in the promise that “God forms the hearts of all men.” Today’s post is by Eric Novak. He blogs at ericnovak.com - Lauren

Dear Sister,

Letters shouldn’t always contain, “I’m sorry.” They shouldn’t always be an apology, shouldn’t always seek forgiveness.

There is a time to write letters with words of life, letters containing advice, letters bringing fourth congratulations, and letters filled with sympathy. I wish I had the time and place to write more of them to you because there is so much I want to say. However, today, this letter does contain, “I’m sorry.” I just wish it could be hand-written with my name signed on the bottom and handed to you. Maybe that tangibility would show you how deeply this letter is felt. After all, it’s one that I live.

I wouldn’t have always called you my sister, because we didn’t always have the same Dad. Your Father spoke and out of His mouth came light, color, and beauty. My dad spoke and created the centerfold. While your Father created roaring oceans and set boundaries for those same waters, my dad showed me how to surf the Internet for the perfect girl. While your Father was whipped, His back bleeding and torn down to the bone, He was slammed to the ground, nailed to a tree, and hoisted into the air naked while your Father died of a broken heart. My dad fed my lust through the senses that God gave me and told me to eat until I was filled: “It doesn’t hurt anyone, son!”

Your Father is pretty amazing. He picked you up off the streets, adopted you, bought you with a price, and called you His dearly beloved daughter. I can’t say you deserved it; none of us did. In the very act of dying, He took your sin upon His shoulders – God saving you from God, God saving you from yourself, God grafting you into His family. I’d like to say that we had a more active role in getting picked, but the strangest thing happened, Sister. He did the same thing for me. He adopted me even while I hated Him and changed my heart.

Sister, I’m sorry for objectifying you. If you knew how our Father has applied the Holy Spirit to my heart in an active work of transforming and conforming (something still happening), you’d understand just how painful the very idea of porn is to me now. When God created sex, He created it as a pure and holy sacrifice between a man and woman, consummated in marriage for His glory. He created it to draw a husband and wife together with an intimate knowledge of each other, creating a lasting bond and worshiping Him in the holy act. How far have we fallen from His plan, that we find a pagan priest offering the sacrifice of a woman’s body to the idol of sexuality and then we worship that image as well?

Sister, don’t believe the lie that all guys are stuck on porn or that you’ve got to look or act like a porn star to get one of us. Don’t think that there aren’t some of us who struggle against it, some who have had their minds changed by Jesus. Know that we are out here: men who fight against porn, men who want to have a standard for Jesus our Lord and you. There are men who say, “I’ve made a convenent with my eyes.” There are men who look away.

In closing, I want to thank you for the pain that you’ve endured from our actions. Thank you for praying for us, not catering to our sinful desires and upholding a standard of purity. Know that Christ is faithful to forgive us even as we stumble. Know that the cross is big enough to receive all uncleanliness. Know that we are great sinners, but Christ is a great savior.

Know that you are loved.

Your Brother,
Eric


From The Men: It’s Not About Lust, It’s About Value

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Editor’s Note: Matt Shedd blogs at The Unreformed and tweets at @sheddmatt. Today, he shares his story on masturbation, porn, lust, and value. He is a youth paster, a husband, and a good, good man. – Lauren

Dear women,

I spent eight years of my life living under the addiction of pornography and masturbation. The sin was mine; the guilt my own. There is not a single woman in the world who needs to apologize to me. It was never your fault.

It was mine.

Most of us guys start out finding porn not in any attempt to sin or lust, but out of sheer curiosity. We are young and just beginning to notice that the girls around us and especially the ones older than us are just different. The difference itself is almost intoxicating.

And so we look, lustfully yes, but lustful curious about why we are lusting!

None of this is new though, and the real issue isn’t what first brought me to pornography. The real issue is what kept me coming back. It is here, dear ladies, that I will ask a favor of you.

So often women get blamed for men’s lust and that is about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. It is not your dress that makes my mind impure. I have looked down more at the chest instead of the eyes more times than I can count, but trust me it is not your fault. As I guy I will find a way to lust when I want to lust.

What really trapped me in pornography for years? I didn’t feel valued. I felt like a body with no worth. I had no purpose, and worse, no inherent value. It was in the moments of worthlessness that I chose the only option I thought available to me: I dehumanized others through pornography and lust. I searched out women to call slut and whore. I sought those I could control because it was only in those moments of power that I could forget about my worthlessness.

This hurt and devaluation came from many areas. My parents valued me, but at this time of adolescents parents were not the affirmation I needed. My friends probably did value me, but sarcasm killed any sense of value I could have known.

But it was the girls, the ladies, the young and powerful women who cut the deepest. The words of the women around me emasculated me the most. I desperately wanted to be accepted by these girls. Girls were new to me, and I wanted to know that I had value to them; that in some way they needed me as I needed them. I am not talking about any sexual way, just the way human beings need each other. I wanted them to need me.

They clearly did not. One girl regularly called me gross. My greasy junior high hair was not my fault, but they couldn’t have known that at the time. As the girls chose who to hang out with, I was never part of the “in” crowd. At church it was worse. These girls would flirt to get me to help them, or to take them somewhere only to ditch me later.

Ladies, that stuff hurts.

It was not until college that I found out two important truths:

  1. My value comes from Christ alone.
  2. People value who values them.

The first is the clear root of my sin—I was looking for my value in women, not in Christ. Once I felt the love and acceptance of Christ, I stopped trying to be what I thought women wanted; I started being what Christ wanted me from me.

I started loving his way. I started showing value to the women in the school. I started encouraging them to pursue dreams. I sought their opinions on deep matters of faith, and I shared my haunting past— because in Christ, women and men are all valued, loved, and empowered. As I did this, a wonderful thing happened: women started empowering me as well. They started encouraging me and pushing me and challenging me. The encouragement that they gave allowed me to pursue God more fully.

Ladies, if I could share one thing with you today it would be this: empower the men around you. It really isn’t about dress codes and lustful eyes; it’s about worth. One of the great warnings to young men in the Old Testament is to avoid women who continually bring you down. The reason is simple: you as a woman have the ability to empower or emasculate.

Now that I am married, I am telling you that I can face any discouragements at work, from friends or enemies I may face—as long as I know my wife believes in me. She has the power to build me up or tear me down with her words. She is a great encourager. She has given life to me.

The best way to empower the men around you is to encourage their walk of faith. Nothing will go farther in building healthy friendships with men than reminding them of their responsibilities as part of the community of faith. Push them to excel in those areas.

Also, please validate the good that comes from their mind. When they fall prey to lust, don’t tell them how disgusted you are (it destroys and dehumanizes), instead let them know that you know they are better men than what they just showed. Let them know that you have seen the good in them, and that you want them to pursue that good.

Lastly, please pray for the men in your life. We all really struggle with what it means to be a “man.” We all struggle with feelings of worthlessness. We need not only your encouragement but help from the Holy Spirit.

Pray with us and for us.
Sincerely,
Matt


Are Men Scared Of Strong And Talented Women?

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Editor’s Note: I first found Jed Brewer thanks to his heart-stopping article for Relevant Magazine titled, “The Sin You Can’t Quit.” Since then, I’ve loved his raw, ask-me-anything goodness that’s found over on his blog. We asked you women on Facebook if you had any questions for a man – and I asked Jed to answer one. And he did. Marvelously. You can follow Jed at @jedbrewer. – Lauren

Question: “Are men attracted by strong and talented women or scared of them?”

Hey Sis,

This is a great question. And the unfortunate news is that, yes, some men are terrified of strong, talented women.

Some men see a successful woman, or a talented woman, or a capable woman as a threat. The woman’s awesomeness holds up a mirror to what’s missing in that guy’s own life, and he hates her for it.

It gets worse, though. That same kind of man doesn’t really have friendships with other guys, and for the same reason. He can only stand to be around wounded, insecure, passive men. Because Real Men scare the crap out of him.

So, that kind of guy views everyone and everything as competition. He can’t be happy for anybody else, ever. He can’t celebrate other people’s victories. And he can’t even enjoy his own, because he always feels like he’s at a deficit.

And you, my sister, should not have anything to do with a man like that. And you don’t need to.

The reason you don’t need to is that there is a different kind of man out there. He’s far rarer, but I promise he does exist.

This is a man who knows what he brings to the table. Knows what his strengths are. Knows what his weaknesses are. And accepts himself.

Some people would call that “confidence”, and that’s a part of it. But what we’re really talking about, though, is actual, Biblical humility. Humility doesn’t mean being down on yourself. It means knowing who you are, and accepting it.

A humble man is able to be confident. He’s confident in the strengths God has given him. He’s aware of his growing edges, and he takes them seriously, but he’s also confident that God is at work sanding them down. He’s confident that there is a purpose to his life – that he was made for a reason – and, because of that, he’s able to face uncertainty in life with resolve, and not panic.

As I bet you’re guessing, that kind of real humility comes from a deep walk with the Lord. Knowing that you are loved and accepted, as you are, with full disclosure of all your shortcomings, allows you to love, and accept, yourself. To quote David Mamet, humility is peace.

This all brings us back to your question. Would that humble man be attracted to a strong and talented woman? Yes, of course. But that only tells part of the story.

A humble man wants a humble woman. So that means a woman who is in touch with both her strengths and her weaknesses. A woman who embraces and develops her gifts, but who also faces her insecurities and hang-ups head on.

A humble, Godly man wants to love a woman completely. He wants to love all of her, including the parts that could use some work. But the woman has to accept herself in order to receive that love. Otherwise it falls on deaf ears, or, worse, is rejected.

And, just like for the man, accepting yourself comes from knowing that God has first accepted you. Loving yourself comes from knowing that God has first loved you.

As you live into and embrace that reality, accepting and loving yourself today, as you are, you will find that the right kind of guy finds you completely irresistible.


Your Body Is Never The Problem

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Editor’s Note: Modesty and lust are heated topics within our community, and we are tackling them full-on. Over the next few months we will be working towards debunking the “modesty myth” of our traditional conservative backgrounds and looking at what the Bible actually says, what women are really “responsible” for, and what freedom looks like. Today’s post is by Hugo Schwyzer, Ph.D. He’s a professor, author, speaker, father and husband – and Jesus lover. He teaches college courses on women’s history, men and masculinity, body and beauty, and more. We love him for his commitment to remind us of the strength of both men and women. He blogs at hugoschwyzer.net and tweets at @hugoschwyzer. – Lauren

A few years ago, I read a blogpost in which an adult woman named Rachel recalled that when she was a teenager, she struggled to find a way to dress that would keep “creepy older men” from hitting on her while still attracting guys her own age. As a male youth leader for many years, I was often asked a similar question. Here’s the response I wrote, addressed to the 16 year-old Rachel – and all the young women like her.

Dear Rachel,

I wish that I could offer you specific fashion tips that would guarantee that creepy older guys wouldn’t hit on you. For that matter, I wish I could share with you how to dress in a manner that would assure that your peers wouldn’t frequently judge you, either to your face or behind your back. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how to ensure those things — because the sad truth is that no matter how you dress, no matter what you wear, you will be perceived by some men as a target for their unwanted advances.

You may have heard people say things like “girls who wear short skirts are asking for ‘it’”. By “it” they may mean anything from rape to crude comments and penetrating stares. But as you may already have noticed, girls aren’t immune from harassment when they’re wearing simple or “modest” garb either. I’ve had plenty of students who’ve been accosted while wearing sweatpants or long dresses. I’ve had Muslim students who chose to wear head coverings, and they’ve been harassed both religiously and sexually. The bottom line is that there’s nothing you can wear that will guarantee respect from others. And the reason is that the root of this problem isn’t skin or clothing, it’s our cultural contempt for women and girls.

Have you noticed the way this works yet? If a girl is thin, she’s accused of being “anorexic”; if her weight is higher than the cruelly restrictive ideal, she’s “fat” and “doesn’t take care of herself” or “has no self-control.” If she wears cute, trendy clothes she “only wants attention” and if she wears sweats and jeans, she “doesn’t make an effort.” If she’s perceived as sexually attractive, and — especially — if she shows her own sexual side, she’s likely to be called a “slut.” If her sexuality and her body are concealed, she’s a “prude.” As you’ve probably figured out, the cards are stacked against you. You cannot win, at least not if you define winning as dressing and behaving in a way likely to win approval (or at least decent respect) from everyone.

The advice I’m going to give may sound clichéd, but it’s important nonetheless: you should dress in a style that makes you comfortable.

Comfort, of course, has many dimensions. There’s physical comfort to consider. A fashion choice that leaves you sweating and itchy on a hot day, or shivering on a cold one, is by definition uncomfortable. When the weather’s warm, wearing more revealing clothing is often as much a matter of comfort rather than style.

Of course, there’s a psychological aspect to comfort, too. The more revealing your clothing (regardless of your reasons for wearing it), the more of your body others can see. It’s important to be honest with yourself about how that makes you feel. Different people have different levels of comfort with having their bodies noticed. That’s a normal variation, and the key thing is to be aware where you are on the spectrum. If your peers or parents urge you to dress in a style that leaves you feeling vulnerable and uncomfortably exposed, you have a right to push back against them. The reverse is true, too.

It’s important too to note that however much skin you are revealing, you are never responsible for another person’s inappropriate behavior. Save for the blind, we are all visual people. We notice each other. There is no right not to be seen. But there is a right not to be stared at with a penetrating gaze of the sort that makes you feel deeply uncomfortable. While it may seem that you get those leers more often when you’re showing more skin, you’ve probably noticed that you get those creepy stares at other times as well. And the key thing you need to know is that men can control their eyes — they really can — and women can control their judgment. Your body is not so powerful that it can drive others to distraction. (And yes, if we’re honest, sometimes we wish that our bodies were that powerful, particularly if it meant drawing the attention of someone to whom we are attracted!) If some men choose to be distracted by you, that is their choice, a decision for which they (not you) are solely responsible. No matter what anyone tells you, you need to remember that.

It is not inconsistent to want to be seen and not be stared at. You know the difference, I suspect, between an “appreciative look” (which can feel very validating) and the “penetrating stare” that leaves you feeling like crawling into a hole. While people are not required to give you the former, it’s not unreasonable to expect them to avoid giving you the latter. It’s also not unreasonable to want guys your age to be interested in you, and want the creepy old ones to leave you alone. Remember, it’s not hypocrisy or naiveté on your part to dress in a way that you hope will get you that positive attention you want without also bringing the negative attention you fear and loathe.

Sometimes, of course, we need other people’s insight and advice. There are little fashion rules that it can be helpful to know (even if only for the sake of breaking them, like the old one about not mixing browns and blacks, or not wearing dark-colored bras under light-colored tops.) Friends and family members may have suggestions for what colors or styles are most flattering to you, and sometimes those suggestions may be helpful. I’m certainly not suggesting you shouldn’t listen to those tips. But I want you to know there’s a world of difference between saying “you know, I think lime green isn’t really your color” and saying “you shouldn’t wear short skirts, because then men will think you’re easy.” The former bit of advice is rooted in an aesthetic truth (aesthetics is a fancy term for the study of what is beautiful or good), the latter in an anxiety that is based on a false assumption about male weakness.

It’s okay to ask, when headed to a new school or a workplace or a party, about the dress code. Few of us want to stand out as totally different from everyone else. Most of us can figure out that what you wear to a birthday party at the water park is different from what you would wear to a funeral service in a church. Dressing for the occasion is part of living in a community with others. But that standard should still have room for a lot of flexibility. A bikini is probably not appropriate at Thanksgiving dinner (unless you’re poolside), but when it comes, say, to school, don’t let anyone tell you that can’t dress up (or down) depending on how you feel.

Here’s a key point: As a father and a teacher and a youth leader and a feminist man who has been around a while (and worked with thousands of young people), I want you to know that while not all men are safe and trustworthy, men’s bad behavior is never, ever, ever, ever, ever “your” fault. Your miniskirt doesn’t cause guys (of any age) to do anything they don’t choose to do (no matter what they say to the contrary). It’s not your job to dress to keep yourself safe from men.

Lastly, let me say that finding your own style is an adventure. It involves a lot of trial, and some not infrequent errors. I promise you, ten or twenty years from now you’ll look at photos of yourself at 16, roll your eyes, and say “What was I wearing? What made me think that looked good?” Despite what some folks tell you, these are not the best years of your life. Not even close. And in terms of your style and your beauty, you aren’t anywhere near your peak. I say that not to belittle you, but to reassure you that you don’t have to get it right yet. You have much more time than you think.

All the very best,

Hugo

Comment Policy: For many of us “raised Christian,” this may rub you the wrong way. We recommend doing some additional reading before you get too flustered: Calling Bullshit On Religious Misogyny, How Modesty Made Me Fat (& her followup: A Response), How The Myth Of Male Weakness Turns Women Against Each Other and Modesty, Lust & Emotional Rape. If you wish to disagree, please do so constructively and respectfully.


What To Look For In A Man: A Good Man’s Advice

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Editor’s Note: Scrap everything that’s on your “Man I Want To Marry” list, and listen to Tyler’s advice. We love it. Tyler Crowley lives in Richmond, Virginia with his wife, three daughters, and his son. He is the director of worship at Hope Church and enjoys playing in a rock band, pho, film, songwriting and recording, and traveling. He tweets at @thetylercrowley and you can find him on Facebook too. – Lauren

After many conversations with young men and women, I felt compelled to write a letter to my daughters. Take this as a word from a husband and father who wants the best for my daughters – and for all good women.

My dears,

After 37 years of being a guy and hanging out with guys, and 17 years of being a married guy and watching other married guys: here is my best advice as to the qualities you should be looking for in a guy that you are dating. Now, I’m assuming you’re attracted to this guy. Attraction is important – that magnetic “spark” is a catalyst that ignites intimacy in a healthy relationship. Attraction just happens – it’s the one thing you don’t have to be intentional about. Once it happens, the challenge is to assess the character of the guy while you still have a relatively clear head. In that critical early stage, here are the things I hope you will look for:

Treats his parents and older generations with respect
Particularly his mom. Does he display some tenderness toward her? Is he patient with her questions and annoying “mom stuff”? Does he focus on the good in his family of origin? Does he seek counsel from his father or “father figure”? Does he show respect for those older and wiser than himself?

Maintains physical fitness
I’m not talking about a guy who’s all into his body for vanity’s sake, but someone who enjoys the discipline and benefits of being fit. I’ve found that guys who prioritize some physical discipline also tend to have discipline in other areas of their life. It’s a great marker for their future as workers, dads, and husbands.

He’s got a “band of brothers” – Christian men that are “in it” with him
Men are not meant to fly solo. You want him to have community with guys who are trying to be men of character. The guy that scares me is the one that doesn’t have a close network of respectable men around him. So, don’t resent his occasional “beer and cigars” night – he neds that support..

Works hard – doesn’t act like the world owes him anything
If he has a sense of entitlement, drop him like a hot potato. Your generation is maybe the most pampered and catered to in history. You may have to look hard to find the guy with a real work ethic who expects to have to earn everything good in life, but it’s worth the wait!

A real relationship with Jesus
You can tell a lot about a person’s relationship with Christ by how he prays. Is he comfortable praying in front of you? When he prays, does he sound like he’s talking to a real person with whom he is acquainted? Also look for someone who integrates the ‘spiritual’ and the ‘natural’. His faith should come up in everyday conversations and situations. He’s the same person on Friday night and Sunday morning.

He’s honest enough to say things that you may not want to hear
If he never disagrees with you or challenges you on any point, then he’s not being honest. You want a guy that values truth and integrity. That’s a core element of character, and character yields trust. When you admire a man sincerely, you can trust him even when you disagree.

A sense of humor – he can laugh at himself
Beware the guy who takes himself too seriously. That can be a sign of self-absorption. You want a guy who can find the humor in life – you will need those moments of laughter.

Manages money well so that he can be generous with it
Look for a guy who sees money as a means, not an end. You definitely want someone who is positioning himself to be able to earn a good living, and who understands the power of saving and exercises restraint in his spending. But the real win is when his heart behind all of that is to give generously and be useful in God’s Kingdom.

 

Finally, let me say that these are qualities to look for as indicators of character, not a checklist to relentlessly apply to every poor, unsuspecting guy! No man will possess every one of these qualities in full measure, but look for someone who is at least growing into these virtues. When you meet a guy you like, just make it a private exercise to observe his character in these areas.

My hope for you is that you find a man of character to whom you can entrust your deepest heart – that’s how we were meant to do this journey called “life”. Sometimes it will be great, and sometimes it will be hard as hell. You will deeply disappoint each other at times, but as you keep forgiving, keep loving, and keep honoring the vows you make to each other, you will find the deepest of all human relationships – where you are most deeply known and yet most deeply loved.

Always yours,

Dad


From A Man: On Love, Insecurity, & Falling For Broken Girls.

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Editor’s Note: This might be one of my favorite posts we’ve ever published. It was submitted by Luke Hassevoort. You can find him on Twitter at @LukeHassevoort. Men, if you’d like to submit this month but you don’t know exactly what, consider choosing one of the questions women have been asking to write on. – Lauren

A friend once asked me, “Do you always fall for broken girls?” It wasn’t a question I needed to think about for long. I do fall for broken girls, and caring about them has resulted in a lot of pain.

I’ve used the word “love” far too casually in my life. It’s not that I think you shouldn’t use the word love to describe the way you feel about someone, or that there is something inherently wrong about using the word love as liberally as you find comfortable; God knows the world needs it. But I think I’ve abused the word. Love is powerful, it is profound, it is a word that builds and enriches. Yet love is not some simple salve to mend wounds, it is so much more than that, and deserves to be so much more than that.

Far too often I have used the word love out of desperation, afraid of losing something that was never really mine to begin with. And in my desire to express my deep affection and in hopes of drawing in that which I loved, I cheapened the word, made it into a plea. I thought, if I could only entice this girl with that word, she might not leave.

But that’s not the way things work.

And when you throw that word out and it’s left hanging in space, that’s a painful thing. It makes you feel as if the bottom of the world dropped out and you’re left standing on nothing but a history of similar mishaps and missteps. In a very real way, we begin to see our present and our future as a prolonged and tragic enactment of our past. I don’t think we feel despair because of the hurt in our lives; I think we feel despair because we’ve lived the same story on repeat and see no possibility of living a different one.

We are indescribably insecure.

For the longest time I’ve tried my best to ig50nore this insecurity, this brokenness. Instead, I focused on the brokenness of girls I loved. In them I recognized something I felt in myself but was too afraid to fully acknowledge. And in a very real sense I was under the delusion that if I could only heal them, make them feel as if they mattered, it would somehow heal me.

But that’s not the way things work.

Sometimes people don’t want to be healed, and sometimes they want to be healed but you can’t do it. And when you can’t, you begin to wonder, “Do I matter?” It’s incredibly difficult to watch someone struggling with despair, or anxiety, and it’s even worse when you get it in your head that you can fix things and rewrite their history in a way that leads them out of that dark place but the truth is you can’t.

It’s really bad when you’re in that dark place yourself and need to be healed but don’t know it.

By focusing on the brokenness of others we make it easy to forget about our own. We compare our struggles, and if we don’t judge ours as measuring up to the suffering of others we discredit it, write it off as insignificant when it isn’t.

I’ve had my fair share of relationships that have ended in pain. I know the feeling of walking home alone, wondering when the reality of the situation would sink in and the overwhelming sense of isolation would build its walls around me. I know the months afterwards when the presence or absence of the sun does not determine the greyness of the skies. No amount of pain is insignificant. And though we try to make it less than what it is, we do it because we’re afraid of the stark reality that sometimes life is filled with loneliness. This is a hard thing to accept, and often something we don’t want to believe about a world created by a loving God.

Jesus knew this better than any of us.

As he was being crucified, he called out, “Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We are given a profound picture of Christ feeling the weight of our sin, and for the first time, experiencing the separation from God that we are born into. Jesus, wrenched from the arms of his Father, crying out, giving a voice to the loneliness we all feel.

What has become apparent to me is the fact that most brokenness and hurt comes from a place of monophobia, the fear of being alone. While we might say we want answers from those that hurt us, or reasons why we are where we are, those things ultimately leave us in the same place.

What does heal us, however, is presence. Simple, unconditional, presence. This is another thing I learned from the friend who asked me if I always fall for broken girls. She taught me that it was okay to be broken, and in some strange way that I don’t fully understand, in our brokenness we can still be complete.

It was never the case that I saw myself as more put together, or more whole than these girls I cared about; it was simply that I wanted them to never feel that brokenness themselves. Now, I think brokenness is what brought us together and what continues to bring me closer to those around me. It creates a sense of recognition and relationship, but one that takes a lot of work. Pain builds walls, walls less like simple wooden fences between neighbors and more like mountain ranges between strangers in a foreign land. It is the job of love, not to break the walls down, but to scale them and, over time, extend a hand to the stranger on the other side. And when that stranger takes your hand in theirs, it can be the most beautiful thing in the world.

It has been my experience that women are better wall builders than men. But they are also better wall climbers. They know how to expose the scars on their arms and line them up with yours, not caring that they don’t match, just making you feel like yours aren’t so hideous.

Accepting that is something that I’m learning, slowly, and I hope my sisters can continue to teach me and my brothers about the beauty of brokenness.


A Letter From The Nice Guy

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Editor’s Note: In today’s post, Douglas opens up a little bit – and asks you women to do three things. Love it. Douglas blogs fiction at Conversations With The Devil and tweets at @Douglas_AmongUs. He’s a writer, self proclaimed nerd and, as the title suggests, a nice guy. Men – want to submit something for this month? Check out the Contribute page. We’d love to hear from you. – Lauren

When I heard the Good Women Project was taking submissions from men, I jumped at the chance. Not just because I welcome any opportunity to write, but I’ve been reading the blog for a while now and have been amazed (and educated) by all the things that have been said – though I realize they may not have been meant for me.

At the same time, I find myself unsure of what exactly I can offer. I ask myself: what do I have to say to you? What can I, as a guy, say to you that would mean anything? Do I even have the right?

Because I’m a man (not much of one but enough of one) trying to tell you how to be better women. How dare I. What do I know?

So, I won’t tell you how to be better women, mostly because I don’t think I have to. The women in this community are doing a great job of that already. But I do want to ask something of you, and I want to tell you something about being a man, or at least my version of it.

You see, I’m not a typical guy. I don’t like sports. I’m not macho or attractive or all that ‘masculine’ by most people’s standards. I’m what you might think of as the typical nice guy. In fact, I’m definitely what you’d think of. But I’ve seen enough of what people call ‘men’ to be ashamed for my gender. I read the articles in this blog, about the men who have hurt women, the men who have hurt you. The men who have abused you physically and emotionally, who have told you that you weren’t worth it; men who have taken from you what never belonged to them; men who have convinced you that you were a thing and not a person; men who have been anything but love to you and, in turn, anything but men. And, as strange as it may sound, when I read these stories, along with shame and sadness, what I feel most is the overwhelming desire to punch those men in the face.

I’m serious. I have a black belt; I feel I could pull it off. I imagine if any man tried to do any of those things to a woman I know: to my real sister or my sister in Christ, to a co-worker or a friend, to my nieces, and I wonder, as nice as I am, if I would be able to control the wrath that would stir up in me.

But as much as I want to play the protector, a role I believe men are called to fill but so few really do, I wonder what God really wants of me. Because I don’t need to tell you how to be women. I wouldn’t know where to start. And when I think of the women in my life, I don’t think of girls in need of saving. I don’t think of damsels in distress, that tired, old metaphor. I have a hard time imagining a weak women because I don’t know any, because every woman I know is strong in her own way, beautiful in her own way, wonderful in her own way, even if they don’t realize it. Even if someone may have told them otherwise.

And while I believe I am called to fight for you, and as much as I want to, I realize there is more to it than that. Because the truth of the matter is: we are not meant to fight this war for you, we are meant to fight it with you. Partners, teammates, warrior princes and princesses, as a mentor of mine would say.

Because you need us, but we also need you. So, if I could ask anything of you it would just be this:

1. Find better men. Don’t settle for less than what your worth, not from yourself, not from society, and especially not from us. Take it from a nice guy: we exist, please come find us. We’re great listeners.

2. Challenge the men in your lives. We need it. We need to rise the occasion, and we need you to remind us of that, so that we can return the favor.

3. Don’t believe the lies. Because if I’ve learned anything from the women I know, it is that you are all amazing. All lovely, all wonderful, all strong. You are not too much or too little. You are not broken or a waste or worthless.

And lastly, I don’t know where anyone reading this might be in her life. I can’t imagine what they may be going through, and I feel so inadequate to try and give them advice. But, ladies, if you ever meet a man who tells you the kind of lies written about here, who treats you like anything less than what God made you, who tries to treat you like an object of his pleasure. Please, do your gender and mine a favor and punch them in the face. And if you can’t bring yourself to do that, come find me. Because we all have fists and hearts. And I think it’s high time we used them both.

Sincerely yours,

The nice guy.


Dear Woman In The Photo – An Apology For Using Porn

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Editor’s Note: Today’s post is Anonymous. And nothing more needs to be said. BUT – we just launched our sister Spanish site this week! If you have friends in Latin America, please pass it along: www.proyectomujeresbuenas.com! – Lauren

Dear woman in the photo,

You don’t know me. I’m a guy who found pictures of you online and masturbated while looking at them. That sure is a creepy opening line for a letter, but please do read on.

I’m writing because I need you to know I’m sorry, and I would like to ask your forgiveness. Maybe I’m doing this more for my own benefit – to remind myself that you are a real person – someone’s daughter, sister, girlfriend, mother maybe. An aspiring actress, a hockey fan, a secret poet… I’m not doing this out of some kind of pressured guilt; I just need to say this.

I want to tell you that you are far too valuable for me to use your body like that, even as an image, and for that I am so sorry. I don’t know how much you got paid for those photos, if anything, but however much it was, you are worth more. More than any amount of money anyone could ever pay. More than any image could ever convey.

I used that image of you to get what I wanted without having to give anything, and I now realize that is unhealthy for me as a man. Here’s why:

You are worth more than any man could ever give, which is why when you give yourself to a man it is a gift he should spend the rest of his life even trying to match with his love, understanding, support, and anything else you might need.

As a man, I believe the very highest life I can lead is to live in gratitude for what I have been given and to really give something to the world. I believe I was born to make a difference, to care for people, and to be the best father, brother, son, friend, husband, colleague, that I can be to the people in my life. When it comes to sex, pornography allows me to act out my desires and get what I want without giving anything.

Everyone knows sex is powerful, and I don’t want that power to be harnessed toward my getting what I want like a spoiled brat. I want the emotional, spiritual, physiological, and physical power of sex to be an expression of my desire to give – that very real desire in me to love one woman with total commitment and without conditions. I don’t want to enjoy any woman’s body until I have first given her my heart, as to do so is to deny my highest purpose and to lower a woman’s value to that of an object to be used and thrown away.

I want to give sex the place of intimacy and respect I’m convinced it needs.

I’m sorry I used your image to attempt to satisfy my desires. I’m deeply sorry that guys like me create a demand for pictures of girls like you, and I need you to know that you have a purpose and a destiny so much bigger than how outwardly attractive you are. I don’t know why you posed for those photos – maybe you needed the money, maybe you were forced, maybe you enjoyed it – really, it doesn’t matter.

Just please believe me when I tell you that you were made to be cherished, protected and loved; that kind of love really does exist no matter how dark this world seems at times. I’m working toward living out that kind of love, and I hope somehow this letter can help both of us discover more of it in some small way.

In my heart of hearts I apologize to you – you unfortunately being just one of many unique expressions of beauty I have reduced to a thrilling image and a one-time experience.

You are worth more. I am worth more. Let’s never settle for less.

Yours sincerely,

Guy who just realized there’s a woman in the photo


Dear Beautiful: An Apology From A Man.

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Editor’s Note: Welcome to March!! This month we are publishing open letters from men to women. I am so, so excited about it. If you are a man and want to contribute, please visit our Contribute page. Your letter can be to a specific woman, a certain kind of woman, women who have experienced ________, or to women in general. This is your chance speak encouragement, an apology, an explanation – anything you’ve been unable to say. Today’s post is by Jason. You can find him at @jasonmstauffer. – Lauren

Dear Beautiful,

I am sorry.

I want you to know that the way I treated you wasn’t a reflection of you—it was a reflection of me.

When I ignored you, and avoided eye contact. I wasn’t rejecting you; I was protecting myself from being exposed as rejected.

I recognized your beauty, and said nothing. I wanted to tell you, but even more than that, I desperately wanted to show you—to paint you a picture of your true self. But you paint with colors—not dirt.

I thought I was dirt, and I knew that you don’t serve fine wine from a clay pot.

I didn’t make time for you when you needed me to, because I saw no value in my time. I could not fathom being needed.

I withheld my love under the assumption that you had it together, and I didn’t. I felt my love was worthless. I never imagined that I could have been exactly what you needed at that moment.

I did not hold back my sarcastic comments, and hurtful jokes. I wasn’t attacking you; I was protecting myself. I was creating a “safe” distance between us.

My ignorance of your feelings, was a result of not being familiar with my own heart.

The problem with my actions wasn’t you. It took me thirty single years, a counselor, and many close friends to figure out that my problem was me—I did not feel worthy.

I lacked the realization that God’s opinion of me defines my worthiness.

If you are still waiting for someone to notice you—to show you your worth—remember that “Mr. Right*” has a lot wrong with him. And that you only have to wait for him as long as he has to wait on himself.

The tough part of life is that you—just like Jesus—have to wait for the world to recognize the Truth that’s inside of you. In the meantime, you need to know that if men are not treating you the way you want to be treated it is not your responsibility to change that. It because of them. Not because of you.

Your only obligation is to believe the truth about yourself. When that belief is alive in you, everything you have ever wanted will notice.

Love,

Jason


From The Men: Love, Respect, And My Wife.

Editor’s Note: It is a gift getting to hear men share what they love & treasure about their girlfriends & wives. So often we don’t know how much we mean to them. And often, we have trouble putting ourselves in their shoes to see from their perspective. Jaymes Downer writes about love, respect, & his wife. Jaymes is Production Coordinator for Think Tree Media, blogs at jaymesdowner.com & tweets at @jaymesdowner. – Lauren

In a mere 18 days I will kiss my wife and more than likely hand her a cheezy Hallmark card with a typical message scribed inside. It will read, ‘Happy Anniversary.’ It has almost been a year since that amazing day, though it feels like only weeks. On the other hand, it feels like too many years to count.

I will start by humbly admitting that I have learned more in the last 347 days about myself than I had the previous 9,120 by far. My wife has often been the instrument used in this grueling self evaluation and reconstruction. She has a grace about her that allows her to perform extreme surgeries on my character without me feeling much pain at all…if any.

You quickly learn things when you begin life with your spouse. With two small words you instantly become someone else.

I do!

I do…want to spend the rest of my life with you.

I do…want to love you unconditionally a receive the same love from you.

I do…want to have fun and be there through the good and the bad.

I do…want to let you into the most intimate places of myself.

In two words, life flips. And so does the switch…at least it did for me.

Shortly after our wedding I began to realize things that I never noticed before. Things my wife would or wouldn’t do that either made me feel amazing, or incredibly pissed off. Woah. What was this?!?!? Almost instantly I began feeling dependent on her for certain responses, or praises, or support, or …trust.

I’m not talking about the, ‘it’s cool babe, she’s just a friend’ kinda trust. I’m talking about trusting that I have your best interest in mind far above my own personal gain. Trusting that I’m going to make the best decision for our family. Trusting that I will always take care of you and ensure that you have everything you need.

My wife has become incredible at this over the last few months. I could literally wake my wife from her sleep right now and tell her that I felt like I was supposed to quit my job and God was going to provide for us through the next season. She would say, ‘ok hunny, I trust you to make the best call for our family and I trust that you hear God,’ she would then roll over and scoot her body against mine and fall back asleep.

This makes me feel incredibly confident. I know there are people who may be reading this and think that I am a controlling pig and my wife should have a voice of her own. Let me assure you, the senario I described above would have a very similar result if the roles were reversed. The effect that this has in really hard to explain unless you have personally walked in it. Knowing that no matter what, your partner is standing right behind you. Not only holding you up in support, but really pushing you forward.

This next one is a common one. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Oh I’ll tell ya what it means to me. It means being on my side now. It means not siding with your mother just because she is your mother anymore. It means not gossiping when all your girl friends are dishin the ish about their men. It means not talking down to me, but instead choosing to be an encouragement…even when I’m a douche bag.

Men gravitate towards respect. It’s why we want to be the boss. Or why we want to be the best guy out on the field. Paul Walker said it best in The Fast and The Furious…’But if I win, I take the cash, and I take the respect. To some people thats more important.’

As corny as that movie may be, that line screams truth. Men crave respect. It’s that simple. As woman, you will just have to know this. Just like we as men don’t have to understand your emotions, you may not understand respect and what it means to us…but you better just respect it!

There have been times I’ve felt disrespected, but my wife had no idea. I will give you an example so you see what I mean.

My wife needed some advice on how to handle a situation. She called and told me she needed to ask me something and informed me she was at a friends house. I drove over to see what was up. She posed the question and I began with my answer. Quickly I realized that she had already discussed this with the friends that were still present as they collectively began to knock down my response. I closed up pretty quick. I wasn’t going to sit there in front of friends and have my answer bashed before it was out of my mouth.

My wife wasn’t sure what went wrong, and honestly you might not see the problem either. The way I saw it thought? My opinion was irrelevant, unless of course I sided with the opinion of the group. I felt my wife was looking for permission to do something that she had already decided to do rather than ask what I really thought. The main issue I had was the audience we had. It literally felt like she sat me down in front of a crowd and asked my opinion only to spit on me and say, ‘I don’t give a $H!% what you think, I’ve made up my mind.’ I absolutely know now that was obviously not her heart, but that doesn’t change how I felt…come on ladies, give me a little credit for talking about my feeeeeeelings.

More important that any of that, if I could have only one thing? It would be for my wife to know that I love her.

I want it to be the most solid thing in her world. I chose her. Out of all of the girls in all of the history of the world, I chose Jordan Leigh Howeth (now Downer). I long for her to fall asleep at night knowing that fact. Knowing that my love was a choice. My love had free will.

So Jordan Leigh Downer, if you are reading this…

I want trust, I need respect, and I love you.


From The Men: Who We Really Are

Editor’s Note: This may be the greatest challenge, encouragement & truth I’ve heard spoken about masculinity. Women, are you speaking to a man’s potential? When was the last time you praised a man for his strengths? Men, do you know your potential? Are we handling lust, porn, and gender differences correctly? Bob Hamp is a man I respect deeply; Pastor of Freedom Ministries at Gateway Church, counselor, author, father, & truth-speaker. He is marrying Max & I this weekend! You can read Bob’s blog here & follow him on Twitter at @bobhamp. – Lauren

The women were up in arms!! The way the men were treating them was demeaning and de-humanizing. In fact it wasn’t so much the way they were being treated, it was that they were being treated as if they didn’t exist.

Ignored. Interaction was kept to a minimum. Every woman on staff had begun to feel they were being treated as an object. A grunt, a minimally worded directive, these had become the norm as the men in the organization set a cultural standard for the treatment of their women.

Upon further investigation, I found that the previous leader of the organization had entered into an inappropriate relationship with one of the women on staff.

In an attempt to protect the women, and preserve the organization, all the men on staff had agreed that they simply would not relate to the females on staff. They had made a classic blunder. A common mistake that people and organizations, and yes, cultures make, when they try to fix a problem. They had taken the problem and moved to a false opposite. In their mind, the opposite of an inappropriate relationship was to have NO relationship. You only have to read the words to recognize the blunder. Clearly the opposite of an unhealthy relationship is a HEALTHY relationship.

It’s good that our Christian culture is wise enough to avoid this silly mistake. Or are we?

Asked recently about ministering to men, I made the comment that I think men need to be treated differently. We need to talk about more than just how not to lust. Men’s ministry often becomes about accountability, paying attention to family, and ways to keep from looking at porn. When are we going to realize that the opposite of pornography is not NO pornography. The opposite of pornography is men stepping into the fullness of God’s design for true and healthy masculinity.

During my sixteen years as a counselor in private practice, I saw again and again that the real reason people seek help is not for the problems of their lives, rather people seek help because they deeply struggle with bad solutions to the problems of their lives.

The problem we men struggle with is fatherlessness. We struggle with understanding and living in deeply satisfying relational intimacy, with both genders. We struggle with fears of inadequacy, and a lack of familiarity with the emotional territory of the heart. We struggle with the loneliness that comes from our fear of failure, and not knowing how to relate to women in healthy ways.

The opposite of pornography is not the absence of pornography. The opposite of pornography is when men learn to discover their true identity. It is when men can find God to truly be the Father to the Fatherless. It is when Men discover that risking is the only way to learn new ways to relate; when women learn how to help us in these areas, instead of simply criticizing us for our inabilities.

I am tired of hearing it drilled in to my gender that we will always struggle with lust, and that because we are visually stimulated we are doomed to always struggle with our eyes. Isn’t it much more likely (and more biblical) that any struggle with our eyes is first and foremost a struggle with the heart? Isn’t it possible to recognize a woman’s beauty at all levels and not wander into places in our heart that are out of bounds?

This is NOT what is communicated, when we are sent the constant message that we are weak, lustful creatures, who need women to dress differently in order to protect us from our poor uncontrollable masculine responses.

I feel certain that when Jesus approached prostitutes, He did not avert His eyes. In fact, I feel certain that He looked at them in ways that, allowed them to be known by God, in ways other than they knew themselves. Cannot we too, look at women who have found their identity in their sexuality and allow them to experience respect, even when they do not respect themselves?

For too long we have declared what our weaknesses are, instead of standing up and reclaiming our strengths.

What if instead, we begin to tell men that we are created in the image of God, with the capability for true and honest love and respect. That as fathers, we can give our sons and daughters a sense of deep identity, and validate their true self. We can foster a sense of security, competence and safety when we hold our children close, and learn, in a Christ-like way, how to handle their weaknesses and frailties with grace and empowerment.

What if instead, we tell men that they can treat other women as people of value; that when we purpose to learn from them, we can see the world from our hearts and not just our eyes.

What if instead of fearing and belittling the emotional and intuitive world of a woman, we allow them to help us open up to a new way of relating, and a new understanding of how to nurture and motivate? If we did that, we could truly allow them to be helpers suitable to our needs.

In the same way that the diet industry has inadvertently created a fast food boom, I fear our singular war against pornography can create a guilt and shame induced appetite for more of the very thing we war against.

What if, instead of simply telling men how NOT to fill the emptiness of our souls with porn, we begin an honest and gritty journey to tell men that God created us to live a life of deep relationships, competence, and legitimate power.

He has made available to us many legitimate ways to experience companionship, intimacy, respect and relational wholeness.

What if both genders stopped accepting this view of the poor crippled male and began to declare the power of the restored masculine soul?

We were created to be sons of the Father of all fathers. We were made to steer the universe alongside the Firstborn of Many Brothers. We were made to receive and give the deepest kind of love as a means of being partners in covering the world with the Glory of God. We were made to not only receive but to walk in the kind of intimacy that can only be described as “One-ness”.

Let’s stop telling men what they cannot do, and instead, let’s begin to tell them who they are.


From The Men: A Love Letter

Editor’s Note: My dear friend Andy Dew wrote this love letter to his woman, and was willing to share it with us! THIS is how love, intimacy, and relationships should look like. And this is how much a man appreciates a good woman. Pay attention, ladies. You are an immense asset. You can read Andy’s blog here or follow him on Twitter at @andydew. – Lauren

Dear Good Woman,

I wanted to take time to let you know how much I value you as a woman.

So often, it’s hard for me to express these feelings face to face, but it’s not because I am a typical guy who cannot show his emotions. It is because the qualities I cherish most are so precious, I rarely even speak them out loud.

Our relationship started with surface things like our personalities meshing the right way, common interests, ect, but I have discovered that you posses the deeper things I hold out for. The beautiful attitudes I was made to protect, encourage, and eventually unite myself to in marriage. Parts of who you are seem so rare, almost impossible. I find it difficult to articulate what it means to “value you as a woman”, but I feel I must communicate my heart the best I can.

Your joy humbles me, your faith encourages me, and the way you hear from God inspires me.

Your joy comes from the understanding God has given you of how much he loves you. It is unique because it comes from God and flows with who he has made you to be. It transcends being “bubbly” or always positive. Your joy is authentic with an almost unsearchable depth to it. It confronts insecurities yet it remains gentle.

You know I sometimes struggle with self-pity. What you don’t know is that your joy naturally leaves no room for that.

I believe joy is really just being glad about God’s love for us. When I remember this simple (sometimes painful) truth, I realize there is no room for self-pity when receiving God’s love. Self-pity then, is drowned out with the gentle embrace of God’s grace. You help me to know God more, just by being yourself. To me, this is true relationship, that we might mutually encourage one another to know God more individually, and grow in our love and appreciation for one another.

Your faith is childlike, which sometimes can be misdiagnosed as foolish. Authentic faith can’t be exercised without sometimes looking foolish.

I want to speak purity over you and your faith. The other day, I got three mosquito bites on our walk together. You prayed God would heal those annoying bites. It might have looked silly or foolish, but I’ll never forget laughing and rejoicing with you an hour later when the bites were completely gone. Whether it’s God healing a mosquito bite, a broken bone, or a deeply rooted insecurity, your faith encourages my faith. It’s a reminder that God is active and he loves us so much. He cares about our prayers and the desires of our heart.

The way you hear from God inspires me because again, it is unique to you. You go after what He says and don’t worry about it fitting the perfect mold.

You know you do not have to compromise to increase your chances of finding or keeping a man. Your self worth is wrapped up in countless words of affirmation from your heavenly Father, despite the verbal abuse heaped on you by your earthly father. I love that you tell me exciting things God is telling you, not because you think I’ll value you more, but because you trust me. You seem to trust God’s word and his voice, no matter what he is saying. Honestly that can be scary at times, but it is ultimately reassuring.

Like myself, you are not perfect. That’s the beauty of all this. The more we admit we don’t have it all together and don’t try to pretend like we do, the more God’s redeeming power can break through. Long before me, you told God for specific reasons that you could not be with a man who ever looks at pornography. For the past four years, God has been overwhelmingly faithful to me in freedom from pornography.

I used to fear coming off as self-righteous in declaring God’s redemptive work in me, but then I realized it was very important to you, and many times encouraging to others. Thank you for calling out God’s redemptive work in my life. I find myself being more other-focused around you which is rare in any kind of relationship. I thank God for you and feel blessed to know you. As our relationship is lain before God, I have joy because he holds the best for both of us no matter what.


From The Men: To My Future Wife

Editor’s Note: Think men don’t know how to romance a woman? You haven’t met Cory Copeland. And if you think sex is all men want, you’re just talking to the wrong guys. Cory is the creator of ToMyFutureSpouse.com and writes some kickass stuff on Tumblr. (My personal favorite is his reminder that the good men are still out there.) You can catch him on TWitter at @cory_copeland. – Lauren

Seeing as how I don’t know who you are yet still plan to make you my wife, I thought I’d give you a heads up and list some of my wants and desires. Some of these are literal while others are merely products of wishing I knew who (and where) you are.

I want our meeting to come from the story books and lovers’ films—your smile melting my world and holding my breath hostage. That day will be the day my life can begin.

I want to hold your hand softly and squeeze it ever so slightly as we walk among the falling leaves, our common infatuation growing with each step we take.

I want my heart to be filled for you—each moment I share with you being a moment I could never live without. Those moments will be the ones we smile and reminisce over when we’re old and gray.

I want to show you that a man can treat you the way you deserve, lifting and supporting you in reverence and respect as you should’ve been your entire life.

I want to surprise you by bending to one knee in the fresh snow; my hands lightly grasping a shining diamond perfectly fitted for your lovely little finger. And while the words may falter and catch in my throat, you’ll see the look in my eyes that tells you I want you to be mine forever.

I want to write you the loveliest vows, hold your hand and kiss your lips as the minister blesses our union. That day will be the day my life forever gains a purpose.

I want to gently wake you up on Saturday mornings and make love to you as the sun’s rays try their best to sneak into our bedroom. We won’t be bothered with notions of disturbance but rather become lost within our pleasure, within our satisfactions, within our love.

I want us to be equals and partners, leaning against one another when times are rough and making decisions as one instead of one reigning over the other. In life, in love we will be side by side.

I want to disappear with you into a foreign land once a year, our taste for adventure and roaming the globe satisfied within the company of each other as we experience new cultures together.

I want to cook for you when you’ve had to work late and are worn to the bone. We’ll sit in the soft light and I’ll listen as you share the frustrations of your day with me.

I want to watch over when you when you get sick, preparing your medicines and massaging away your aches and pains.
I want to show you off to all my friends and have them grow green with envy as they realize they’ll never have a woman like mine. With you on my arm, I could never lose.

I want to ravish you on a warm spring night, our fevered looks and flirting touches no longer able to restrain our deep desire for one another. On these nights, our sweat will mingle and our breaths will quicken but in each other, we will have found the fleeting beauty of love.

I want to be the father you’ve always dreamed of for our children—strong and firm yet smiling, loving and accepting.
I want look at you after many years of marriage and still know that you’re all I’ll ever want or need and that you and you alone, fulfill me in all the ways a wife can satisfy a husband.

I want to grow old with you, our skin softening and our eyes fading. We’ll hold hands and take that same leave laced walk we took in the beginning, our hands still clasped together, the love between us as vital as ever.

I want to love you a day past forever. When our existence has expired and we are but a memory to the children and grandchildren we’ve left behind, I’ll still love you.

I want you—and I want you for forever.


From The Men: I Want The Girl Of My Real Life

Editor’s Note: Thank you all for your immense patience with the delayed posting this month. I’m getting married in 2 weeks (!!!!!!!) and I’m very, very behind in my commitments. And with that, Jake Dudley shares his thoughts on finding the woman of his dreams. He tweets at @jakedudley and blogs here. Check out RESTORE:REDEEM; he seeks to add value and subtract shame by telling the stories of those who don’t have a voice. – Lauren

Let’s cut to the chase…

I’m a single 23-year-old male and on the prowl.

Don’t judge me. You are too. On the prowl, that is. If you’re a single lady, you’re walking into a room thinking one thing:

“Will I meet the man of my dreams tonight?”

And there, my friend, lies the problem. Don’t worry, I’ve believed it for far too long too. The myth that is “the person of our dreams.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that you’re not everything some man has always prayed for and dreamt about. What I AM saying is that it’s not a standard that you, or me, or anyone else for that matter, should be trying to live up to.

Seriously, think about it. The “woman of someone’s dream?” Who wants to only exist in someone’s dream?

Not me. And more importantly, I don’t want the woman God has for me to be living in my dreams either.

I want her to be real. A real woman with real passions and dreams and struggles and quirks.

I want the girl of my dreams to be the girl of my real life.

I want to know that she is just like me. I want her to know that she’s not some far-out figment of my imagination that always feels like she has a standard to meet. Nope. I want a girl that needs. I want a girl that sings in the shower and tries to play drums on her steering wheel. I want a girl that wants to be told she’s beautiful. I want her to cry when she’s hurt and stand up for her self when she’s mad. I want a girl to tell me how she feels.

I want a girl that’s real.

Trying to be a “girl of someone’s dream” is a dangerous girl to be. Why? Because you’ll always be trying to be someone that is perfect instead of who God has called you to be…

You.

You can’t be anything more. To try to be the “girl of someone’s dream” is to be something that you weren’t created to be. Don’t be someone’s dream girl. Be someone’s real girl. Be you. Everything that you have to offer. All of your mess, all of your struggles, all of your joy and vision and passion and desires.

When you start living in who you are, the girl of real-life, you’ll see that that is what every guy has been searching for all along.