Too many young men claim a woman for themselves before they have become the type of men worthy of the gift of a woman’s full self. There’s a need to maintain the measure of a man in any community for the health, safety and prosperity of families.
Whenever the river of culture is polluted with dangerous and destructive cultural problems, we must go upstream to the source. For most of society’s ills, they begin with the family and push even farther up to the state of marriage. A marriage, in an ideal circumstance, is meant to be between two well adjusted, healthy and whole people. Unfortunately that reality is growing more and more difficult these days.
We live in a culture that is unmoored from much of the moral communal context from which a healthy and long lasting marriage could have a fighting chance. Marriage itself is not even considered relevant to many, so this conversation might fall on deaf ears. Why marry if you can get all the physical benefits without any of the meaningful commitments? We must be hard at work in our communities nurturing, equipping, training and influencing men, especially young men. Investing in men will increase the likelihood of cultivating the conditions and potentials for a better community.
For this to happen we must help men become kings before they pick their queen.
In the Bible’s book on love, sex and relationships, the Song of Songs pictures the entrance to the domain of marital bliss as a locked garden with a key. It was a locked garden meant for one man who had won the heart and hand of his beloved and granted the key. It was both a private and public process, a reality that is shown throughout the book by the intertwined conversations between the couple, the daughters of Jerusalem(5:8), the mother’s house(8:2), the brothers(8:8) and the fatherly voice of blessing spoken over the couple(5:1).
Unfortunately these days, the individual key to the secret and locked garden is long lost, and no longer needed (Song of Songs 4:12). The gate is often left unlocked and wide open and there are fewer guarded walls of private gardens and more public gardens.
In days past acquiring that key meant a man had prove himself in some capacity to be worthy of opening the gate and enjoying all the delights therein. To be considered worthy is connected to the idea of getting the father’s blessing. It’s meant to be a safeguard against the flush of relational blindness that often falls upon a couple in the throes of infatuation or sexual desire. It’s a stable third party safety net, meant to safeguard the treasure of a daughter and a son.
A young man should have to prove himself in some capacity to earn the hand of a woman. To show her and the family that she will be protected and provided for by the man who marries her. A daughter is a peal not meant to be thrown to any piggish fella. Sadly, this standard is rarely in place anymore due to the deconstruction of the family, the plague of moral relativism and the devaluing of community, covenant and competence. Hollywood is the sacred book of romance, not scripture, character, tradition or family.
In the Lord of the Rings (in the Appendices A., all that stuff us nerds read at the back of the book) these ideas are told in the story of Aragorn and Arwen and her father Elrond.
Aragorn meets Arwen:
“The next day at the hour of sunset Aragorn walked alone in the woods…And suddenly…he saw a maiden walking on a greensward among the white stems of the birches; and he halted amazed, thinking that he had strayed into a dream, or else that he had received the gift of the Elf-minstrels, who can make the things of which they sing appear before the eyes of those that listen…For Aragorn had been singing a part of the Lay of Luthien which tells of the meeting of Luthien and Beren in the forest of Neldoreth. And behold! there Luthien walked before his eyes in Rivendell, clad in a mantle of silver and blue, fair as the twilight in Elven-home; her dark hair strayed in a sudden wind, and her brows were bound with gems like stars.”
Elrond, Arwen’s Father, Stand’s Between them:
“Aragorn, Arathorn’s son, Lord of the Dúnedain, listen to me! A great doom awaits you, either to rise above the height of all your fathers since the days of Elendil, or to fall into darkness with all that is left of your kin. Many years of trial lie before you. You shall neither have wife, nor bind any woman to you in troth, until your time comes and you are found worthy of it.”
‘Then Aragorn was troubled, and he said: “Can it be that my mother has spoken of this?”
‘”No indeed,” said Elrond. “Your own eyes have betrayed you. But I do not speak of my daughter alone. You shall be betrothed to no man’s child as yet. But as for Arwen the Fair, Lady of Imladris and of Lórien, Evenstar of her people, she is of lineage greater than yours, and she has lived in the world already so long that to her you are but as a yearling shoot beside a young birch of many summers. She is too far above you. And so, I think, it may well seem to her. But even if it were not so, and her heart turned towards you, I should still be grieved because of the doom that is laid on us.”
“….But there will be no choice before Arwen, my beloved, unless you, Aragorn, Arathorn’s son, come between us and bring one of us, you or me, to a bitter parting beyond the end of the world. You do not know yet what you desire of me.” He sighed, and after a while, looking gravely upon the young man, he said again: “The years will bring what they will. We will speak no more of this until many have passed. The days darken, and much evil is to come.“
Aragorn Leaves Arwen and Rivendell:
‘Then Aragorn took leave lovingly of Elrond; and the next day he said farewell to his mother, and to the house of Elrond, and to Arwen, and he went out into the wild. For nearly thirty years he laboured in the cause against Sauron; and he became a friend of Gandalf the Wise, from whom he gained much wisdom. With him he made many perilous journeys, but as the years wore on he went more often alone. His ways were hard and long, and he became somewhat grim to look upon, unless he chanced to smile; and yet he seemed to Men worthy of honour, as a king that is in exile, when he did not hide his true shape. For he went in many guises, and won renown under many names. He rode in the host of the Rohirrim, and fought for the Lord of Gondor by land and by sea; and then in the hour of victory he passed out of the knowledge of Men of the West, and went alone far into the East and deep into the South, exploring the hearts of Men, both evil and good, and uncovering the plots and devices of the servants of Sauron. Thus he became at last the most hardy of living Men, skilled in their crafts and lore, and was yet more than they; for he was elven-wise, and there was a light in his eyes that when they were kindled few could endure. His face was sad and stern because of the doom that was laid on him, and yet hope dwelt ever in the depths of his heart, from which mirth would arise at times like a spring from the rock.”
This short portions of the story captures some very essential aspects of the masculine journey. Aragorn doesn’t marry Arwen until he becomes King. He spends 30 years becoming the man worthy of the woman, but in the full arch of the story, He doesn’t become King without Arwen’s help.
Arwen was instrumental in helping Aragorn in his journey to fully understand and embrace his true identity and take up responsibilities and honor of the royal throne as King. She was both the source and support of the core part of his masculine journey, as all women are for men.
“And while the world darkened and fear fell on Middle-earth, as the power of Sauron grew and the Barad-dur rose ever taller and stronger, Arwen remained in Rivendell, and when Aragorn was abroad, from afar she watched over him in thought; and in hope she made for him a great and kingly standard, such as only one might display who claimed the lordship of the Numenoreans and the inheritance of Elendil.” (Appendices A)
This banner and the Sword Anduril, were the sign and symbols that he was indeed the heir of Elendil. This heritage and identity allowed him to gain command over the Dead army from Dunharrow and led to the victory of the war on the Pelennor fields.
Arwen sent him the Elessar, Elfstone, through her grandmother Galadriel. This stone fulfilled the prophecy that the true returning King would have healing in his hands. All kingly men, know that a kingdom can’t be ruled by a sword alone.
‘Maybe this will lighten your heart,’ said Galadriel; ‘for it was left in my care to be given to you, should you pass through this land.’ Then she lifted from her lap a great stone of a clear green, set in a silver brooch that was wrought in the likeness of an eagle with outspread wings; and as she held it up the gem flashed like the sun shining through leaves of spring.” ‘This stone I gave to Celebrían my daughter, and she to hers; and now it comes to you as a token of hope. In this hour take the name that was foretold for you, Elessar, the Elfstone of the house of Elendil!’ (FOTR: Farewell to Lorien)
Aragorn (Elessar) born this this stone gifted to him through the love of his life. She was his ‘Helper” in the fullest sense of the Edenic promise. Noble women understand the power and place of their role as helpers, a title the Holy Spirit bears himself. They empower a man to become the person he was intended to be. Without them, we falter, with them we rise, and together rule and reign as co-equals to the glory of God.
“And word went through the City: ‘The King is come again indeed.’ And they named him Elfstone, because of the green stone that he wore, and so the name which it was foretold at his birth that he should bear was chosen for him by his own people.” (ROTK: The Houses of Healing)
Arwen helped Aragorn embrace:
His Identity…who he was
His Power…what he could do
His Purpose…whom he would serve
Every man’s identity, power and purpose is wrapped up in his relationship with a woman….Adam is always looking for an Eve. Men today need to grasp a higher God given vision of themselves and their spouses. They need to rise to the challenge to rule and reign over themselves first, before they even take the roll of a king. They must become men worthy of the hand of those they choose as the Queen of their hearts and home.
I hope and pray you are on that journey and helping other men in theirs.