Please know that this article is the result of my own processing, and is not a proclamation that I have it all together. Each of my last three articles about relationships have not been hastily-written and thoughtlessly-posted, but rather have been written with a lot of careful and heartfelt consideration (with counsel from trusted community). You may not agree, and that’s okay. Just know that what I write is what I’m learning for myself, not self-righteous advice I’m arrogantly offering the lowly around me. And the reason I allow these lessons to be public is to allow God a chance to relate to others who are also learning. God has used my past failures and heartbreaks in that way. I have a book to prove it. And I trust that He will continue using my brokenness to somehow bring blessings out of the pain.
And with that, let’s begin…
It’s the classic Disney tale. A woman is trapped in the attic of a 12-story tower, guarded from escape by a two-headed dragon. And there’s a man, brave and honorable, who is storming the tower to rescue her. He slays the dragon, carries her down to his white steed, and they ride off into the sunset.
Okay stop. We all know this story is a fantasy. But pay close attention to the world around us and you’ll realize that, when it comes to relationships, our fantasy story is often slipping into the realm of non-fiction. Well, everything but the happy ending, at least. And what we think should be an easily attainable real-life relationship is appearing more and more like a cartoon, complete with talking animals and fairies. Okay maybe not fairies. I did just adopt a puppy, though, and part of me wouldn’t be surprised if she sings the theme song to my life while I sleep. That’s how confused I’ve become. Next stop: Narnia.
When I think about relationships, a story begins to brew in my mind where the baggage from our past and the insecurities about our identities and self-worth are suddenly transformed into a two-headed dragon. Its fire-breathing purpose is to keep us locked away in a part of our own hearts where no one can reach us or love us. This is where we can become Satan’s prisoners, trapped in the attic of a 12-story tower, helpless and desperate for someone to slay the dragon, break down the door, and rescue us.
This is just based on my own experiences, but it seems that women are more often the ones trapped in a tower. Men, the traditional “pursuers” of relationships, have a natural inclination to come to the rescue by storming the tower. We want to slay the dragon, kick down the door and fix all the problems she has. And it’s our own dragon, which is following us around, that convinces us such things are possible. We have our own insecurities that make us want to prove that we’re strong enough to do anything on our own. Insecurities that make us want to be in complete control as the unquestioned, righteous hero.
To the woman in the tower…
I’m not a woman, so I know I can’t say much. But I do know that Jesus is the only one who can slay the dragon that you see guarding your chamber doors. In fact, He already has (“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6,7). You only need to accept this victory, and then live in celebration that it’s been done. Follow Jesus down the staircase from the secluded attic to the ground floor of your heart and live a quiet, peaceful life there. Open the doors and the windows; bask in the sunlight. Down there, fulfilled and reliant on God, you’ll be free to choose with a clear conscience which man you’d like to continue following Jesus with. You no longer need to cling to the one or two suicidal men who are willing to storm your tower and start fighting a dragon that only God can defeat.
To the man about to raid the tower…
Society (and Disney) tell us that we should sacrifice whatever we need to and fight as hard as we can in order to win a woman’s heart and lead her with faithful strength and courage. What they don’t tell us is that there’s no shame in pausing for a moment to first consider if the battle before us is even winnable. Basic chivalry is one thing, but an all-out war against that dragon is too big for us to walk away from wearing the hero’s cape. We would be lucky to escape with nonfatal wounds because that battle was intentionally created to be too big for us. It’s not our job to save or fix her. That victory comes only from her individual relationship with Christ. A woman trapped in the attic of a tower by a two-headed dragon is not a challenge to save the day; it’s a warning to steer clear and wait for a woman who has allowed God to take His rightful place in her life…without you. (Or at least a woman who’s well on her way to doing so.)
It actually represents a very big red flag in our own hearts when we view a hurting, insecure woman as an opportunity or a challenge. This is the footprint of our own dragon that’s been following us around. If we truly want to become a Godly man who can love a woman the way she should be loved, we need to let Jesus slay the beast that makes us want to take His place as the hero.
Why do we feel the need to be the hero? Is the motivation behind our rescue attempt just to take her for ourselves and to hide her at the top of an all new tower where we can control her and (maybe unintentionally) breed a completely new dragon of insecurity for her? You immediately say “No,” but stop and think about it. Why do hurting, insecure women attract us, while stronger, more faithful and secure women intimidate us? Is the reason we want to climb someone else’s tower only to get away from our own two-headed dragon that’s been following us around? Maybe it seems easier to focus on fixing her problems than confronting our own.
No matter how beautiful she is, or how great the conversation seems to be while we’re standing outside on the grass and she’s leaning out of the attic window, don’t be fooled. A sleeping dragon is still a dangerous dragon, and it’s still a terrible idea to storm the tower and start a battle that you cannot win. If she hasn’t trusted Jesus to defeat the dragon and walked with Him in faith down to the ground floor of the tower where she’s living a healthy, faithful life on her own, she’s not ready to join you on your journey in following Christ. And if you’re not pursuing Christ, then maybe your only hope is to keep storming towers with hurting, insecure women trapped at the top. You’ll likely spend the rest of your life fighting dragons that you cannot defeat.
We, too, need to be on a faithful, individual path following Jesus. And our motivation for doing so can’t be centered on finding a spiritually healthy woman to spend 40 to 50 years with. We follow because that path is how we can eventually spend all of eternity with the God who slayed our own dragon. It’s the safest, most secure path there is, regardless of the company. That’s not to say there won’t be a few snakes or even a highway robber or two along the way, but God has given us the weapons to fight against those enemies (and notice they’re much less threatening than two-headed, fire-breathing dragons).
We will each need to be carried at times, but there is no shortcut for women; no rule that says the man should be willing or able to carry a spiritually unhealthy woman the entire way through a relationship. She will not be perfect (no one is). But she should be spiritually healthy enough to walk right there beside the man because her choosing to love and fight for him will take just as much strength as it takes for him to love and fight for her. As a helper, a woman will need to support, encourage, and protect a man just as much as he supports, encourages, and protects her. Maybe that’s why the same Greek word for “helper” is used in Genesis 2:18 (where Eve is described as Adam’s suitable helper) and Psalm 30:10 (where David refers to God as his helper).
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