The Grove: What Men Wish We Knew

Each day this week we’ve had our first ever male writers speaking into our lives on “What Men Wish We Knew.”   This week would not be complete without a word from the man who has made this community possible.  He has been the greatest believer in this place since the idea of it ever came about.  Without his support and encouragement, Velvet Ashes would not be.  So join me in welcoming my husband, Aaron, to The Grove today…

I’m not wearing shoes right now. But if I were, I would take them off, because this is as sacred of a ground as I’ve ever walked.

As the husband of the founder and editor of this site, I have had the unique joy of traveling with my wife through these last two years as the dream of this place and this community has unfolded. I marvel at all that has happened here.

(And by the way, how awesome is my wife, right? I’ve always known that, I mean I married her and all, but it’s an utter delight to see that awesomeness being shared with women around the world. She’s got plenty of greatness to go around, and I’m one proud husband. Love you, babe.)

And so it is with that strange mix of eagerness and trepidation that I step on this stage today, as I walk along the path worn by her feet and try to say something to speak into the feminine heart.

For months I’ve rolled around a few ideas in my head. Some of them bordered on self-righteous, other were a bit silly, but as I kept going back to that well of inspiration, the drink that rose to my lips time and time again was a cup of sorrow.

When I look at women, I can’t help but be broken by the pain that has come from the hands of men. I see the subtle messages that cause you to doubt yourself when you look in the mirror every day.  I see the talents and giftedness that you have boxed up because we men haven’t made a place for them.

And so, on behalf of my brotherhood, I say to you all: We’re sorry. We’re so terribly, deeply, completely sorry.

We are sorry for treating your physical appearance as a measurement of worth. I don’t know how we got here. I’m sure, like all sin, that there’s a trail that runs back to that place of shame, that garden where all good things became twisted and broken. But practically, I don’t know how we got to this place where a woman’s outward appearance became the measure of how so many men think and act and treat all of you.

There’s no conscious decision. At some point, at a very young age, a little boy notices how other little boys talk about other little girls, and the deception begins to creep in.  It tells us certain girls merit more attention than others. Then we pass through hormones and homecomings and before we know it, we’ve already bought into the big lie.

Because of this, you’ve endured greedy stares that make you hunger for safety. You’ve felt invisible when you don’t reach unreachable standards. You’ve seen sideways glances that cause you to question our commitment. You’ve heard jokes and comments that destroy your trust in us.

Of course, not all men are guilty of all of these things, though many of you have reasons to believe we are. And we don’t blame you. We men know the wounds that have come from these sins and the pain that burrows into your souls. And so together, as a collective, we ask for your forgiveness.

And we are sorry for treating you as second-class citizens in the Kingdom. Since Adam we men have pretty much run the world. We’ve used the dominance of our physical strength as an excuse to put women in their place. I wish I could say that the Church has been exempt from this, but I cannot.  This has led some of you to feel stifled, not knowing where your giftedness should be placed because of your gender.

I would venture to guess that this domination comes from fear. All forms of oppression, whether intentional or innocent, are birthed from a place that is afraid of not being good enough. So generalizations and stereotypes are placed upon leaps of logic, which in turn lead to damaging conclusions. And all of this somehow makes us feel better about our choices. Superiority is as addictive a drug as any ever created.

Of course, not all men do these things. But many have lived in isolation to one experience, one understanding, one way of seeing women and what they can do, and simply can’t fathom what would happen if the doors of convention were blown open. They’ve never seen the power of womanhood unleashed.

I have. And it has changed me.

And so as we take this path forward into learning to navigate and negotiate our spaces, can I humbly offer a couple of suggestions?

On this journey, show us grace. So many times, when we find the fault in others convictions, we forget that their heart is in the same place as ours: we love Jesus and we love his Word. Be slow to fault people for not knowing what they’ve never known. Remember that we’re all ignorant, just about different things.

On this journey, don’t be like us. We don’t need the faults of masculinity doubled. We don’t need more blunders wrought from power hungry decisions. We don’t need more bodies strewn along the rode of progress in the name of the greater good. Instead, bring your uniquely feminine quality to the table and let that immeasurable strength help to lead us through.

Please forgive us. We need you in so many ways. We need you to help us balance our faults and smooth our edges. We need you to help us see the humanity inside the program. We need you to help us know Jesus, and to become like him in the fullness of his character.

We wish all of you knew the truth, that you are worthy simply because you are a child of God. That you don’t have to run this hamster wheel of busyness and anxiety, trying to prove that you’ve earned your place. That you don’t have to look a certain way to gain our respect.

Of course, many of you already do know this truth. And just like us men, many of you struggle with living it out in flesh-and-bones life. So let us walk together, as brothers and sisters, in the truth. The truth of knowing that sin, both done to us and by us, does not define us.


We’ve had the men pouring into us this week on what they wish we knew.  Now it’s our turn.  What do we wish men knew?

This here is what we call The Grove.  It’s where we all gather to share our thoughts, our words, and our art on our weekly prompt.  So join us in the comments.  Show us your art work by adding an image. And  link up your own blog posts on this week’s prompt.  Click here for details and instructions.

Photo Credit


  1. Elizabeth October 16, 2014

    I’m sharing my husband’s thoughts on women here. It was born out of MANY conversations he and I have had together, how we’ve seen life be painful and unfair for many women overseas, and how we wish we could lift those burdens and encourage everyone to do what she feels called to do. And that’s going to look very different from woman to woman! We shouldn’t all look the same. His message touched a lot of people. . .

    1. Elizabeth October 16, 2014

      P.S. I’m so glad we ended this week with you, Aaron. I’m so thankful — we are all so thankful — that you support your wife’s dreams here!

      1. Aaron Wheeler October 17, 2014

        Hi Elizabeth,

        I remember reading your husband’s article back in August when he posted it. So powerful. Danielle shared it with me because it reflected so much of what she has seen and experienced. I wish that could be required reading for all people, men and women, single and married, children or not, who serve overseas. He speaks to a much larger reality that all of us face in our sin and brokenness.

        Thank you for the encouragement and I wish you and your family the best as you serve.

    2. Cecily Willard October 17, 2014

      Elizabeth, I tried to go to this site to read the post you mentioned, but I got a message that said the site was unsafe.  Is it a secure website?

      1. Elizabeth October 17, 2014

        I’m sorry there was trouble with the site, Cecily. 🙁 It should be fine — it’s public, and I access it all the time. However I don’t know where you are in the world, and what kinds of firewalls or blocks (or whatever you call them) you have. That could possibly cause the popup you received?

  2. Cecily Willard October 17, 2014

    Thanks, Aaron.  Thanks for daring to speak about the sorrow, which meant that you first had to look at it and to consider it.  It has often been my experience that men avoid the issue of sorrow, as if doing so would make sorrow cease to exist.  I want to be a carrier of joy, but that doesn’t happen by denying sorrow.

    Thank you for sharing your suggestions.

    You make a true assessment of my own heart.  I would like to be known and appreciated.  I am not a beauty from outward  appearances, and I try not to draw attention to my physical body.  But oh, how I long to be heard and understood and valued for what God has placed inside of me!  I believe the Lord has a place for me, but it is difficult to find it since I grew up thinking that, as a woman, I can only be a wife and a mother.  And, since I am neither one, I am longing to know where my place is in the Body of Christ.

    1. Aaron Wheeler October 17, 2014

      Cecily, it was women like you who I had in my mind when I began to write this. I’ve served in various forms of leadership for a while now in our time overseas, and one of my biggest regrets is how often I look back and see ways that I didn’t help the women in my care to be encouraged both personally and in their service opportunities.

      Know that you do have a place. And the Father has made one specifically for the way he has made you. I hope that in the coming time you will experience the encouragement of your unique gifting.

      1. Cecily Willard October 17, 2014

        Thanks, Aaron.  This week’s conversation gives me hope that there is a lot of good in the men I know.  I feel pretty cut off from them, but it is possible that we can learn to encourage and strengthen each other. We all have an enemy, one and the same, who seeks to exaggerate the bad, hide the good, and cultivate hopelessness.  But now as we have all seen a glimpse of good, a glimpse of care, a glimpse of goodwill in the hearts of you men, we can take a deep breath and try again to bridge the gap that separates us.

        We all need each other!

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