Have you ever seen someone, perhaps a child, attempt to open a flower before it blooms? When someone attempts to pull back the petals on a rose for the purpose of peering inside, they destroy the flower. Flowers are analogous to women. A flower’s petals open and spread when it receives the warmth of the gentle sunlight, without which it will never open. So it is with a woman. When a man attempts to pull back woman’s “petals,” when he manipulates, coerces, intimidates, pressures, forces her to expose her beauty, he can crush her confidence, purity, dignity, and ability to become vulnerable and to trust. When this happens, a woman can become ashamed, overprotective, suspicious, and resentful.
However, when a man offers his bride the warmth of the Son-light, that is, the divine love planted within his heart, she becomes trusting, vulnerable, and more willing to unveil her exterior and interior beauty before him. Why do so many women’s “flowers” remain shut tight? Because they have yet to experience the tender, gentle, self-giving love of the Son of God through their husbands. Because of this, the world never encounters the real gift of her person, her gift of womanhood and beauty, which remains locked up inside of her.
In a certain sense, the measure of a man is determined by how he lives in relationship to woman. Does he force her to pull back the petals or does he love her in such a way that she becomes who God has called and destined her to be. Does he protect her dignity, guarding her mystery, or does he reduce her to an object to be used to fulfill his disordered need for self-gratification?
A man’s essence—what constitutes the core of his being—is how and to what level he sets the pace of self-sacrificial love for his wife and children. To truly set this pace, a man is to embrace woman in three ways: First, he is to embrace all women, their beauty, dignity, and person, by striving to defeat and overcome lust in the heart; second, he is to embrace his wife by remaining yoked to her and bearing her burdens as his own; and third, he is to embrace the Woman, the Blessed Virgin Mary, by doing what St. Joseph did: entrusting his entire vocation as a father and husband to this great lady.
Remember, the measure of a man is determined by how he embraces woman. Over the next several reflections we will meditate on what it means to embrace, protect, and cultivate the “flower” of woman, that she may reveal her awe-inspiring, God-given, beauty.
St. Joseph discovered himself, his mission, and his capacity for greatness by living in relationship to his wife, Mary. So it will be with you. You will discover your true capacity for fatherly greatness only in light of being a heroic husband for your wife.