A real knight

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We’ve heard, haven’t we girls, about the knight in shining armor?

I thought I knew a little bit about what my knight in shining armor looked like.  But I had mostly a faraway picture, and I didn’t really know.

What I did know were snapshots and short movie replays from moments with men in my life: my father, mentors, friends, boyfriends, and Hollywood.  What I’ve seen that seemed knightly; what I’ve seen that wasn’t.  I had a sort of scrapbook of ideas, not all of which made sense together or even tried to make sense together.

I didn’t really know what my knight looked like, but I had the most critical idea right.  I knew he had to follow the Knight, Jesus Christ.  I knew that if he didn’t follow Jesus, who is the nonpareil of honor, integrity, commitment, thoughtfulness, gentleness, compassion, truth, patience, valor, courage, forgiveness, zeal, heroism, and sacrifice, no matter how “knightly” he would try to be on his own, he’d never be any of those traits.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jesus, quoted in John 15:5, NIV)

A man without Christ can try to mimic these traits, but he cannot have them within himself.  Since we are all made in the image of God, we have a knowledge and even a desire for these traits.  But Jesus teaches that they simply aren’t within us without Him, like there’s no fruit on a dead branch.

It follows from Christ’s teaching that the more passionate a man or woman is for God, the more intense the qualities of a knight or lady will be in that person.

I didn’t know much of the details of what my knight would look like.  But I did know that for him to even be a knight, he had to follow Christ, and for him to be ready for the battlefield, he had to be passionately following Him.

I have gotten to see knights from far away, or in brevity (I have dated a knight before who was a valiant knight, just not my knight), or from different perspectives than personal romance . . but to meet my own knight up close was a whole ‘nother story.  I found that, although I had a “big picture” idea of what a knight looked like, I mostly only recognized what my knight would look like from 500 feet away.  Up close, the picture was fuzzier, until recently.

Some of what I share in the following wasn’t what I thought of when I heard the word knight . . until I got to know my knight, Benjamin.

First of all, valor in day to day life doesn’t always look like how it does in the movies, but it is much, much more romantic.  Here’s what I mean: Although it’s very great to think of a knight in shining armor rescuing you from a life-or-death accident, or tracking you down after thousands of miles of searching . . opportunities for that don’t, well, don’t happen much in real life.  And even if they do happen in real life, they are usually much more fraught with nonglamor than in Hollywood.

But here are the kind of opportunities that really do happen in day to day life.  They might not seem like opportunities for a knight to step in, but oh, they definitely are.  It is opportunities like these that have drawn me close to Ben.

The opportunity to wait outside a bathroom while a plane is about to take off–a plane you are supposed to be on to take you back to your own country, but you wait anyway because you don’t want to leave the girl in the bathroom behind . .  Yep, that story really happened to me, and Ben really waited on me.  We were the last two from our group who made it through customs.  Ben waited on me, because he didn’t want me to be left behind alone.  He told me later that he figured we might have to get the next plane out of Guatemala.  Now, Ben didn’t know me very well then.  But he wasn’t willing to leave me behind.  He stayed with my luggage and he waited for me.

The opportunity to hold a girl’s hair, and the flowers you bought her, while she gags in the airport trashcan because she got very motion sick on the plane ride to see you . .  It might not be what he had in mind, but Ben loved me even when I arrived in Pennsylvania with much sickness and very little romance.

The opportunity to wait patiently for the girl who eats super slow to eat her half of the shrimp at Olive Garden . .  It’s true.  It matters.

The opportunity to pull the bandage off the girl’s arm really fast so it won’t hurt as much because she had an IV in her arm at 4 o’clock that morning because of a viral stomach bug that went on a rampage at her work . . I still flew out to see Ben the evening after my visit to ER.  He came to the airport with Capri Suns (the 100% juice kind, no high fructose corn syrup), no-salt saltines, and a tender hug.  I love him.

The opportunity to let a girl scream in a car (an enclosed space!) and not lose your temper . . Early on, I had a major blow-out that didn’t really involve Ben but that he landed in the center of.  It flared up in the car, and I snarled at him for minutes and minutes and eventually ended up screaming at him and demanding he not try to tenderly touch my hand.  This is a pretty awful story for my part, but since this is about knighthood, I want to share this one, because it’s important.  Ben could have reacted with justified anger.  He absolutely could have.  But he chose to get quieter and quieter.  He saw that, although I was extremely and inexcusably unjustified in my reaction, it was a deep spiritual wound.  He never said a word bad to me about it, ever.  He never brought it up.  I remember him asking me, gently, if it was okay for him to hold my hand again several minutes after the explosion.  I know that some would say he was weak, or stupid, but I saw in him the love of Christ and I feel radically ashamed of how I treated him . . whereas, if he’d raged back at me, I think I would not have realized as soon as I did how ugly I was being.

The opportunity to send cards, even if you used to think cards were a merchandised emotional hoax . . Ben was pretty down on commercialized cards, until I explained to him the longing I had to receive them.  I am a Hallmark commercial generation girl and romance cards are keepsakes for my love language.  Ben humbly accepted this, and began sending me card after card (even cards with photographs of puppies).  He’s given me cards with lists of things he loves about me scrawled on the inside, little drawings, his funny sweet lopsided hearts on the envelopes, and Scriptures we love.  These cards mean so much to me, and help me bridge the loneliness gap of him being so far away.  To know, too, that he does this just for me, even though in his nature he has no inclination to do so, means so much.

The opportunity to go in a crowded mall in New York on the Saturday after Thanksgiving when you’re feeling sick and really don’t like crowds anyway . . Yes, Ben did this for me.  We found Christmas gifts for my aunt and mom and we had Haagen-Dazs ice cream.  He had a bad sore throat and I loved that he came with me.

The opportunity to fight for purity . . I am so grateful for this one.  If I was the only one trying to keep us pure for marriage, it would be like one person trying to ride a two person bike while the other person dragged their feet on the sidewalk.  Disaster.  That Ben has respected my boundaries–and helped me keep them when I was slipping–speaks volumes to me about his valor.  He has loved me well by not loving me (yet) in all the ways that he could.  Since I told him my boundary of saving my first kiss for marriage, he has honored it like a true knight.  He doesn’t complain to me about it, he doesn’t push me for it, and he doesn’t even want it himself.  He knows that if he violates a limit I have, he will hurt me, and even if we both ‘give in’ in a moment, I’ll regret it later.  He honors me by fighting for my purity.

The opportunity to be there on the really tough days . . When I have been down because I miss him, or when something has been going on in my life that is hurting me, Ben wants to be there for me.  He isn’t always successful or perfect, but he tries, and that means so much to me.  He remembered my father’s birthday with me.  He remembered my father’s death day with me.  When I lost a close friend this year, he listened to me sob over the phone and he loved on me.  His eyes have such soft, tender love in them when I tell him something that hurts me.  He is so gentle with me, so patient with me, so merciful towards me.  He prays with me, prays for me, holds me close when he is near, and even cries for me.  It means so much to me that he prays and prays and prays for me, and he keeps on praying for me.

The opportunity to be stronger, but not be forceful . . Even though Ben is stronger than me, he tries to use his strength to protect me and build me up, not to intimidate me or blaze over my feelings.  This is something that I think often eludes the concept of ‘masculine’ . . Jesus, when He was on the cross, had every power in Heaven and every right to summon thousands upon thousands of angels to come pouring down and raze Jerusalem to the ground.  But . . He didn’t.  He chose instead to die for our sins.  Sometimes we think a man has to be violent or at least aggressive to be a man.  But I very much disagree.  I look at the example of Christ, and I see that strength at times chooses weakness for the sake of the weak.  Romans 5:6 is a key verse for this.

Finally, the opportunity to really love . . 1 Corinthians 13 is really what this blog has been about.  If we are in the American mindset that love is something that comes and goes, or that love is something we give only if it’s earned, or that love is something we take away to coerce and hurt . . we aren’t really pursuing becoming a knight or lady like Christ calls us to be.

Love is more than flowers and chocolates at Valentine’s Day.  It’s more than a ride on a swan boat in Venice as a maestro plays a violin.  It’s more than the day when you walk down the aisle to meet your husband or wait at the end of the aisle for your bride.  Love is truly giving of yourself for someone.  It’s all the things 1 Corinthians 13 says it is.

The image of a knight in shining armor riding on a horse is marvelous.  But to meet a real knight who waits outside the bathroom for you in a Guatemalan airport even if it means missing the flight back home . . that’s even more marvelous.

(I love you, Ben.)

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13, NIV)


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