A marriage proposal is always a story worth hearing. A married couple is happy to tell how ‘it’ happened, and we willingly share their joy in remembering. We want to hear the whole story though we already know how it ends.

Even as marriage between a man and a woman is undermined, ridiculed, or simply set aside, we naturally feel the power and poignancy of a man proposing to a woman. Indeed, it holds an almost limitless fascination for us.

Surely this is because in the proposal so much of that astounding reality called marriage is implied, foreshadowed and already embodied.

A man proposes to a woman. He is in love, and through the eyes of his love he starts to envision an utterly unique reality: life together in marriage. He senses that it is his to step up and initiate it.

But it is quite remarkable just how little he knows about what he is proposing. How can it be that such a rich and solemn binding can be initiated by one (and confirmed by another!) with so much to learn? Can this proposal be worthy of a yes?

This man must demonstrate an appropriate maturity and other-centeredness, not to mention a certain material readiness. He should also be a man who is ready to learn what he doesn’t even know he needs to learn. We might call these prerequisites. Nevertheless, the truth remains that in a sense this proposal must be considered in light of something bigger—something beyond the proposer and the proposee and their immediate knowledge.

The reality of marriage itself stands and beckons even at a distance from which it is blurry in our eyes. “…for a common life is above all things natural to the female and to the male,” says a text attributed to Aristotle. That it is natural—this means much! At root it means it is an invitation from the Designer of nature. It also means the goalpost will never be moved.

Nevertheless, the reality of what a man proposes and a woman might accept will long and to some extent always exceed the couple’s comprehension. What they agree to do together has an objective structure outside of their choosing—again, it’s natural. It is a structure that will, if they let it, challenge them and stretch them to the point of breaking. Yet it also has the amazing power to reward them, and many of their loved ones too(!), by being the vehicle for their good intentions and their yet untested generosity to come to fruition.

Their fidelity to one another and to a rich natural plan that continues to unfold before their eyes yields fruits that never could have been imagined, much less planned by these two lovers, even in their wildest hopes and dreams. Here is the catalyst and context to find and become their truest selves.

Marriage, and the consequent household, is as much something we continue to discover as it is something we make happen. By the grace of God.

“Will you marry me?” What an incomparable invitation! -–an invitation to a road at once well-worn and likewise full of what must be surprises until we get there. So while the reality itself remains surprising, we should not be surprised at this: once again, and here especially, the natural plan is astoundingly good…if we are but willing to discover, what a man proposes. ~ ~ ~

TODAY’S NEW PODCAST goes to the heart of this issue, HOUSEHOLD: WHAT ARE WE MAKING TOGETHER ANYWAY? Join Sofia and me as we seek the root principles of what a man proposes.

This post is a reworking of an earlier post, ‘When a Man Proposes.’

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