I recently asked a woman who I deeply love to marry me. If you would have told me three years ago that I would be engaged — and who the woman would be — I would have laughed and offered a friendly wager of everything I had that this would not happen. This journey has been one of self-assessment, reflection, humbleness, personal development and prayer.
In the not-so-distant past, I would be what some would consider a “player” or “ladies man” (which I do not agree with). My pattern — which dates back to the fourth grade — was committing to a girl, things would be going well, and then I would self-sabotage the relationship. Usually by cheating on the person. The woman would be perplexed, she couldn’t understand why I would mess something up that was going so well at the time. After about a year or two, the relationship would eventually dissolve leaving the woman hurt and wounded.
My intentions were always good in the beginning. I didn’t go into the relationship looking to mess it up. And I did not even recognize that I was self-sabotaging it. The reason that I hurt and deeply wounded these women was because internally I was deeply wounded and hurt myself.
On the outside people see this sophisticated, strong, handsome (if I do say so myself) young man. But … who I was inside was a man who struggled with feeling of unworthiness, fear, and doubt, which I now recognize traces back to my early childhood. I would use these relationships to fill the voids in my life that were left by my experiences from childhood. I was looking for something that no woman on earth could provide. I was looking for someone to complete me, to take away all of the hurt, depression, and the internal loneliness that I felt in my inner core.
One day, I came to the realization that I was becoming the man that I did not want to be. And shortly thereafter, a co-worker introduced me to The Crucible Project. The Crucible Project challenged me to take a hard look at what is and not working in my life. This group gave me the opportunity to wrestle with God and discover new truths about myself. This work helped me to embrace my God-given masculinity which changed my heart, relationships, family, ministry, and career. This group challenges me to walk in my purpose and holds me accountable to living a life of integrity and balance.
Through this work, I discovered that my patterns could be traced to childhood development, and often times they were used to meet the legitimate needs of physical love and affection that I lacked growing up. I soon realized through this work that I am a man of purpose and I have to live in that purpose. I cannot accomplish my life mission alone. For every great man there is a great woman. I realized the benefits of a “helpmate” and that family and marriage is a great thing and can elevate you to new heights when done right. I humbled myself and recognized that I cannot do it on my own.
Another thing I had to realize is that the woman you initially desire may not necessarily be the woman you need. My fiancé and I met at our childhood church in 1995. She did not like me, and I did not like her – romantically that is. Quite frankly, I am probably the last person she would have ever thought she would be with. We just were not each other’s type. We got back in contact nearly four years ago, randomly at a T.J. Maxx (I found out later that she was there with another guy at the time) and we began to work on a friendship which grew into something more.
Through the years, I recognized that she loved me unconditionally. I was able to be vulnerable with her. We were on the same level spiritually. She supported me and she believes in my mission and calling. She did not emasculate me. She challenged me in all areas of my life, and quite frankly when my actions warranted her leaving me — as most women would have — she saw the best in me (even when I couldn’t see it in myself) and she didn’t run. She stood by me, covered me, loved me and made me want to be a better man for her and myself.
In the end, I am not everything she wanted. And she is not everything I wanted. But she is what I NEEDED! She is the person who loves me unconditionally, and that is unquantifiable. When a man findeth a wife he findeth a good thing. I found my Proverbs 31 woman!!!
By Walter Mendenhall
Walter completed his initial Urban weekend for men in 2013 and is currently enrolled in our Two-Year Transformational program. Having accomplished his lifelong dream of making it to the National Football League (NFL), Walter’s desire for mentoring and teaching young people prompted him to walk away from football to focus on pursuing his passion for teaching the next generation of leaders.
He is currently a professor at Northeastern Illinois University (Leadership Development) and South Suburban College (Sociology), and a successful motivational speaker and mentor.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Walter Mendenhall