Alright. This one may be a little sporadic and LONG, but it’s very personal . . . so stick with me. Yes it’s about romance and pain, the general threads of human motivation, but mostly what motivates me through life.
Normally I would put the video at the end, but hopefully the song will put you in a better place of receptivity to what I desire to share. This is from Mike Mangione, the song is titled “Born to Build a Home” so take a few minutes to listen and take in what he sings about.
Why this song? Pride and humility. Strength and weakness. Giving and receiving. Work and rest. All of these paradoxes can be seen through an idea that was/is a tradition. To be frank (while still being myself) the idea that a man should have his act together in order to be seen as a man. That he should have a plan and place so that he can invite his bride to join him, cling to him.
For those who know me, know that I’m not a huge fan of pork. If it’s in the main dish I’ll eat it, but if there is another option usually that is what I prefer. When people ask me why, normally I respond “because I’m half Jewish.” Confusion sets in because of course I’m kidding, but the underlying is that there are many scriptural traditions that I think are wonderfully romantic – and they’ve given me inspiration on some key ways to be a solid man. Some ways, very counter-cultural.
One of those Jewish traditions happens to be that before the wedding ceremony was completed the bridegroom would go and build a home for his beginning family. He would walk away from his lady with the departing words of “I’m going to build a house for you, and not coming back until it’s done.” I’m not a woman, so I don’t know. But ladies, if a guy walked up to you and said “I want to build a house for you and our future kids with my own two hands” . . . how would that make you feel?
From Dr. Brant Pitre in Jesus the Bridegroom, The Greatest Love Story Ever Told he writes :
“In ancient Jewish tradition, one of the duties of the bridegroom was to prepare a home for his bride, so that when the wedding was finally consummated he could take her from her own family and bring her to live with him and be a part of his family in his father’s house. As modern Jewish scholar Schmuel Safrai says: “The groom would go out to receive the bride and bring her into his house; in fact the wedding ceremony was essentially the groom’s introduction of the bride into his house.” Page 117
He then goes on to reference a few more traditional Jewish writings and scripture to support this masculine mission. Eventually it culminates with Jesus when he says to the Apostles He’ll go to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house, and then bring them to Himself. John 14:2-3. If you don’t have this book, go buy it right now and feel free to browse (and purchase) some of the other great materials:
Why is this tradition such a big deal? Because it’s practically never practiced today. DISCLAIMER: I’m not saying the following is bad, just an observation. However it seems that either because of cohabitation and change in economic conditions for housing and young people – but people are getting married much older and many times do not decide to buy a house until they are married and choose where they want to live.
This is why I wanted to be different, and where my pride partially took the helm. Part of this came from a conversation about finances with a young woman I was dating, but practically ever since I was 16 years old my parents formed me to pay for my own expenses. True story, I was essentially working full time before 18 and paying my own car insurance, gas, etc.
Our conversation ended up being us discussing how much money we had in the bank; being her parents paid for everything, she had exponentially more than me. After that I started scrutinizing where my money went, and discovered the bulk of it went towards monthly rent. At twenty-two years old I decided that I would never rent again and starting making a plan to purchase my first home. If I was going to pay so much for something, I wanted to keep some of the value – but also begin to form a stable foundation for my future family.
That conversation ended up leading to others and eventually the relationship was ended, which in turn inspired me to make another decision. At the time it was very difficult for me to invest in more than one big task (finishing college, local full time mission work, and dating). So the second vow was made: I wouldn’t consider dating again until I had my ducks in a row. Was it extreme? Yes, but for me needed to be made. If I wasn’t in a place to respectfully discern marriage – why play the game?
When the decision was made to move to Lafayette and go back to school, the house shopping began. I developed my financial plan and pitched it to the “Bank of Parents” a.k.a. Mom and Dad as investors. They accepted and we set up a plan that would be beneficial for them and me. Because I was only 23 (working less than 35 hours per week) no bank would let me sign for a mortgage. My parents purchased the house and we set up legal documentation that transferred financial responsibility to me with sole rights to the deed once the loan was paid.
At twenty-three years old I was paying a mortgage note.
Fast forward through a bunch of other details, it worked very well. I’ve since sold the first one and bought my second home (this time without the Bank of Parents as investors, WOO!).
This home is wonderful. Small, old, giant oak tree, horses in the back yard, great sunrise view, wonderful neighbors, and of course a picket fence.
My plan was working. Financially, dating fast (yes really) career wise, everything has fallen into place.
Once every other part of the plan seemed to be on course, I started praying and discerning again to start dating. Made sense? It was part of the plan? My romantic side started to swell and reminded me of Ally and Jonah in The Notebook. His dream was to buy the old house, fix it up, and they would live together there. Just like (sortof) the Jewish tradition of the Bridegroom building a home for his Bride. I started to feel like Noah (except the house I bought was in great shape and doesn’t need drastic remodeling . . .). ANYWHO.
I had the house! Now all I had to do was find the woman, woo her with some smooth/corny lines, and invite her to join me in the home I prepared. Simple enough?
I thought the mere fact that I owned a house would be enough to make a woman melt and want to join together for a life of love in Lafayette. The happiest city in the country.
WRONG. Then I began to notice a trend, this is where my pride started to hurt.
DISCLAIMER: I’m not saying the following observations are wrong, just something that caught my attention because it’s the exact opposite of what I have been working to build.
- My cousin has moved to Minnesota where his wife is from.
- My roommate moved from New York to Louisiana to be close to the woman he was pursuing.
- My cousin’s husband moved from North Dakota to be close to her.
- Another friend’s fiancé is moving from Florida to join her in New Orleans.
. . . the guy moved to be close to the girl.
Now yes. I understand that we in the United States are not ancient Jews and there are huge cultural and social differences. Blah blah blah. What I’m asking is what happened to make it normal for a man to no longer strive to build his own? Back in the day, when we used to have agrarian communities, you couldn’t even have a family unless you could run a farm or build your own home.
Again quoting Jesus The Bridegroom:
“The Torah has thus taught a rule of conduct: that a man should build a house, plant a vineyard, and then marry a wife. Similarly declared Solomon in his wisdom, “Prepare your work without, and make it ready for you in the field; and afterwards build your house” Proverbs 24:27 “Prepare your work without” – that is, a dwelling-place; “and make it ready for you in the field” – that is, a vineyard; “and afterwards build your house” – that is, a wife. (Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 44a) In contrast to modern-day weddings, in which a couple will often get married and then pool their resources in order to buy a home or apartment, in the first-century Judaism, it was the duty of the bridegroom to go and prepare a place for his bride to dwell before he took her to himself.” Page 117
Echoing the reflection in Mike’s song. Men, you are born to build a home. http://mikemangione.com/track/739545/born-to-build-a-home?feature_id=159834
Does that mean if you don’t put up the framework yourself that you are less of a man? No. but what it does mean is we as men, husbands, future husbands, fathers, and future fathers need to quit being passive and start being men of action.
Your namesake and very existence proves there were men before you who labored laying the next step on the stairway in the legacy of your family, and by your vocation as a man you are to do the same.
Regardless of what modern sociology touts, and what seems to be off-putting, there is a right order to the family unit – and the man is destined to be priest, prophet, and king of his home.
So here’s where the pride and prejudice shows up. I’ve left my father and mother, labored, set a cornerstone, however none of my invitations to join me on this journey have been accepted (hence I’m still single).
Have I been a perfect man? Nope. Have I been lazy in my efforts to pursue a woman? Yes. My confession to you is I thought if I did all the other hard work first, that everything else should be easy. And boy have I been wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, I have been on dates, I have pursued (half-hearted to some extent) women recently. However one thing I’ve been firm, that has been a hindrance to part of my effort is the pride I hold in what I’ve worked to build.
My crashing nights of working long hours, going back to school non-traditionally, being at break even for years because I’m sacrificing for the future – to me would all feel in vain if I had to walk away from it because the women I’ve met and been interested in have little to no interest in moving.
The frustration of efforts comes from an observed paradox within modern romance. Women desire a man who is decisive, has direction, has an active role in being a leader and invite her to join him in great adventures. However men today are the ones moving across the country so she can be close to her family? a.k.a. he has permission to join her in her current life to be absorbed as a passive part of her family?
This seems like a lament, and it is. However the conflict (and beautiful reality) within my heart is also what motivates a man to act. Woman.
- What motivated me to get my G.E.D. after quitting high school to start community college? A woman.
- What motivated me to leave New Roads and move to Thibodaux? A Woman.
- What motivated me to move for Lafayette, go back to school and pursue a real career? A woman.
- What motivated me to build/buy a home? A woman.
- What motivates me to fast and pray continually? A woman.
- What motivates me to do things I would not normally do? A woman.
What is the only evidence of that love? Action. Making a gift of yourself for their good. So I understand why my friends are moving across the country to be with the one they love, but it’s damn hard for me to accept that I would be called to do the same. Unwilling? Not necessarily. Pride? Absolutely.
I’ve made so many changes for women in my life that concluded in vain result, so in effort of protection, it’s partly fear that fuels my pride and my resistance to huge change again. Do I practice what I preach? Yes and no. Have I fallen short in proving my love through action. Yes.
Do I want to be like Christ, to have prepared a place for you? Absolutely. Do I guarantee that if you accept my gifts of sacrifice your life will be awesome? Absolutely. It doesn’t mean you will never see your family again, if anything I want to be a part of your family.
But I was born to build our home. What I am asking is that you trust me in what I’ve worked so hard to give you. You motivate me. You move me. You inspire me to act. What I am asking is that we can make our own family with the name given to me by my father. That name is now mine, will one day be yours, and one day our children’s.
Enough sappy stuff. Ladies let your men be men. Men, when the opportunity arouses your call to be a man – be that man. Build that home.
Resources and recent inspiration:
Dr. Brant Pitre. Jesus the Bridegroom, The Greatest Love Story Ever Told.
Mike Mangione, musical artist.
Maccabee Society men’s group. Do Women Desire the Patriarch? Maccabee Society