Being a man of the male persuasion, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I’ve thought about women now and again in my life; though more so “now” than “again”; and often what my brain is doing shouldn’t be counted as actual thought, that would be making it sound way too intellectual and sensitive. Certainly, when a man sees an attractive woman his brain must be functioning at some level. Maybe at about 3% capacity but functioning a bit all the same. I am no different than any other easily distracted and attracted man.
However, when I say that I am thinking about women a lot these days, I don’t mean that I’m daydreaming about being stranded on a deserted island with a Victoria Secret model. Instead, I am feeling a great freedom these days to truly consider the women in my life and the great contributions they have made and continue to make for me and those around me; to truly consider women as so much more than the attractive counterpoint to men.
This headspace feels like freedom because being caught up in the sexual attraction brain freeze is a form of incarceration. When women become almost solely objects of desire, men lose the opportunity to experience the fullness that can come with the contributions of women to their lives. Either the superficial attraction becomes the focus or the lack thereof, and men miss out on the other gender that, to borrow from a sappy movie catchphrase, completes them.
Though I have always given lip service to the idea, only recently have I truly seen that women continue to be undervalued and unappreciated in our culture – our supposedly advanced and sophisticated culture – and men are the ones who need to do something about that. I am as guilty as the next guy in sometimes seeing women as the “window dressing” of life. Nice to look at, a great distraction, but not fully formed human beings in my mind; not people who have amazing gifts, abilities, thoughts and passions. I am guilty of focusing on the wrapping paper while being clueless about the gift inside.
What has got me thinking more deeply about women than I ever have? Getting older has probably helped (with, one would hope, the corollary of getting wiser); becoming more self-aware and aware of the other selves around me also contributes. But mostly it is concrete examples in my life at present that are driving home the point of how much I owe to women in my life – their encouragement and guidance, friendship and strength.
I’m thinking of women a lot these days because I’m thinking of the great group of women co-workers I have at the day program where I work. We all care for adults with special needs and I have come to greatly love and appreciate all those I work with, male or female. But in the women I see such an amazing combination of elements. They are compassionate, nurturing, funny, resilient, goofy, tough, honest, bold, adventurous, creative, innovative, thoughtful, courageous, vulnerable and strong – sometimes all in the same shift! In an environment that can be physically intimidating and emotionally draining, they continually shine.
I’m thinking of women a lot these days because I’m thinking of the woman I call my “little sister in Christ”. She is a fellow worker in the weird and wild gong show known as Christian ministry. When she lets loose with her powerfully honest voice, singing lyrics drawn straight from her soul, it grabs a hold of my heart and doesn’t let go until long after the song is finished. We say mean things about each other with a fondness and admiration that only brothers and sisters can get away with. For me in my stumbling and fumbling walk as a pastor, she has helped pick me up time and time again.
And, finally, I’m thinking about women a lot these days because I’m thinking of the one woman whose life story is being written along with my own. The woman who has given more to me than I have the right to ask of anyone. She has challenged me to be who I have been created to be because she so deeply loves who I have been created to be. Authentic, intelligent, insightful, faithful – she is so many things I aspire to be and cannot be without her there to spur me on to be so. She is the woman who continues to help me become more and more of the man I should be. And I am deeply, deeply in love with her.
Nothing can top this way of thinking about women, guys. There are so many banal and boorish ways available to us of shutting our minds off from truly considering women as the people that they are. It’s up to us to shut down those things and open up to the life-giving reality of being fully human together as men and women.