Regarding Roses…

Every rose has its thorn/ just like every night has its dawn/ Just like every cowboy sings a sad, sad song/ every rose has its thorn

                                                                                                – Poison Lyric

If you would pick a rose, Shakespeare once said, you ask for your hands to bleed.

The point of the Bard’s poignant observation was, of course, to highlight the inevitable pain inherent to the pursuit of women.

Or, more accurately, to the pursuit of a woman… For the man who pursues women (plural) seldom gets hurt. How can rejection possibly hold any lasting sting, really, for the man who regards each woman as no more or less valuable than any other?

To the bulk of the world, pagans that they are, forging relationships is little more than something to do with one’s time. Some make light of marriage, preferring the easily-made and easily-broken bonds of quick romance. Some marry, but always keeping an eye upon the now socially-acceptable ‘out’ offered by divorce. Terms like ‘mother’ and ‘father’ have now been replaced by such crass terms as ‘baby mama’ and ‘baby daddy’. ‘Wife’ has been replaced by ‘ol’ lady’ and ‘girlfriend’. We as American men very often, it seems, make a mockery of what was once meant to be sacred.

We, the Church, know better. The bond of marriage is meant to mimic the bond that Christ yearns to have with us – unbreakable, and ever-maturing. Thus, we who have been marked as Christ’s take the pursuit of a woman rather seriously.

Not that I myself am perfect, of course. I still have my moments of irritation with the gentler sex, and perhaps a part of me always will. I dislike that they are so closely-knit, closing ranks with each other the very moment that they perceive some imagined threat from the men-folk. I hate that they are so much more prone to gossip, drama, and generally getting their knickers in a knot at the drop of hat.

I hate that they don’t have to do anything but sit tight and look pretty, taking their pick from the men who dare to ‘hit on’ them. It is the men who must reach out, taking risks, chancing humiliation, and repeatedly winding up with egg on their faces – while the ladies need only wait passively for that which they know will eventually come to them.

In the Christian world, we as men are asked to ‘encourage our sisters’, getting little to nothing in return – while they sift us out like wheat, each woman searching for the man she wants. I know getting annoyed with this is sinful, for true love gives with no thought of reward. Somehow, though, I don’t think I get annoyed on purpose. I’d rather not be annoyed, honestly, but it just sort of happens.

Which makes me wonder how one defines the proverbial ‘rose’, really. Is the true rose among women a rare creature, elusive, hardly-seen, and captured only with difficulty? Or is every woman a rose, requiring only the right partner to bring out the beauty in her?

I don’t know the answer to that. No man does, and any man who says he does is lying. I suspect that most women know the answer, but they aren’t telling.

Most women aren’t roses to me, but that doesn’t lessen their worth one whit. I get to know one every now and then only to realize that, as appealing as she is, she’s not what I want. Such women aren’t roses, they’re just… daffodils, I suppose. Pretty, interesting, and worthwhile, but utterly lacking in that deadly combination of danger and beauty that defines the true rose.

Some women look like roses. They have tough stems and lots of thorns, leading me to believe that there might actually be a rose hidden beneath their leaves. But after a great deal of time and effort I pull the stem from its roots, unfold the leaves and behold! …no rose. Just a thorny stem. So I let the silly creature fall from my now-gory hands, and look elsewhere. The flowerless stem won’t be lonely for long; she’ll just wait for the next hapless soul to come along and pick her up, coyly folding her leaves as though she really might conceal something desirable.

And maybe to some other guy, she does… But I’ll never know, will I? Because I’m me, and not some other guy.

Sometimes we forget, we men, why we even suffer these indignities in the first place. We suffer them in the vague hope that we will someday marry the perfect rose, that one woman who will help us become the best possible version of ourselves.

But oh, how easy it becomes to lose sight of the prize amidst all the drama!

But if the point is marriage – a real one, and not some half-cocked mockery of a union – then one must ask oneself what defines marriage, at least from the masculine point of view? What is it, exactly?

Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her… (Ephesians 5:25, NET)

Once that really sunk in, the very thought took my breath away.

I always thought marriage was about me. What do I want? Who do I want? What goals of mine can I manipulate her into helping me achieve? What foibles of mine must she put up with, subjecting her needs, wants, and desires in order best complement wonderful ol’ me?

…just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.

I am part of the Church – so what, precisely, did Christ do for me? Well, He spent thirty-three years as meat puppet, humbly stepping down from Heaven in order to prove to me that He really could relate to me. He became so much less than what He really was, in order to become what I needed Him to be. He went to the temple and Jerusalem and boldly declared Himself God, refusing to shut up until the Jews killed Him – effectively committing suicide, willfully, and knowingly. He then suffered crucifixion meekly, silently, and He did it all so that I could have the relationship with Him that I do today… even though it was I who nailed Him on the cross to begin with.

And this is the example that I am meant to follow, should I ever manage to successfully pick a rose.

Simply put, in regards to marital relationships: It’s not ‘what would I do in order to get what I want from the relationship?’ It’s ‘what wouldn’t I do, because I love her.’ In marriage, there can be no ‘me’, at least from the male point of view. Any man unwilling to see it that way has no business in the rose bed.

But why? Why is it so blasted difficult to find one’s rose? You’d figure the God that asks so much of a man after the union would cut us some slack before it. Why’d He make women into such contrary creatures? It would seem, in this matter, that He often acts in seeming incongruence with his ‘lovingkindess’ (hesed, in Hebrew, a word commonly used in the Old Testament).

God never acts inconsistently with His inherent kindness; if we would think so of Him, the problem lies with our perception, not Him. Still, I don’t know the answers to the above question, nor does any man. I suspect that women do, but they’re not telling.

Perhaps my confusion lies with my own self-delusion, my inability to be self-aware. I have a much-loved friend who incessantly bewails the fact that he is yet unmarried. I’m dying to tell him that it’s because he’s about as mature as a stewed beet, but what good would that do? If he were able to digest that tidbit of wisdom, then he wouldn’t need for me to tell him. Then he’d of course change it, and he wouldn’t resemble a stewed beet. Regardless, though, he’s too blind to see this – just as I am probably too blind to see similar flaws in myself.

In any case, there is one question that every man must ask himself before wading into the rose bed, seeking a mate. He must be honest with his self-directed answers, or else he will fail to find that which he seeks. He will fail, and then he will also become embittered by the petty wounds dealt by the wannabe roses, the thorny stems utterly bereft of flowers.

The irony is, even after answering the question, the seeking man is never actually guaranteed a rose. But not asking it would be a crime.

And the question is this, put before every man whether he wants to cognitively ask or not…

How much of your own blood are you willing to shed, just to pick a rose?

Hmmmm…

My advice to you, brethren, is to stock up on band-aids!

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