What is Love? (Baby Don’t Hurt Me)

It was either that or: “Love: The Deadly Choice”. You’re welcome.

This isn’t actually that post. While writing and re-writing that post I realized my perspective was off. I was writing about unrequited love but my definitions were off.

I assumed that loving someone and getting nothing in return was a destructive force on one’s well-being. But as I was editing away, I realized that true love has no expectations on its object. When we love someone and expect something in return we aren’t actually loving them.

If we get hurt when they don’t return the favor, were we really loving them unconditionally? Or were we merely looking for a tit for a tat?

Loving someone means dispensing with most of our expectations and loving them simply for them, not what they do for us. Expectations lead to disappointment and disappointment leads to bitterness. When one falls prey to bitterness it is nearly impossible to love. It is best to leave most expectations out of the relationship. Take care of your own actions and don’t place such a premium on the actions of your beloved.

This doesn’t mean that all expectations are wrong. One should have reasonable expectations that the one she loves will fulfill things he gave his word on: vows, promises, agreements on daily living arrangements, and others. However, even when those promises are unfulfilled, she ought to fulfill her own. It was her vow and agreement also.

Perhaps this is when unrequited love does become deadly. One must kill pride and the desire to demand what is owed by covenant. One must choose to love because it is what he or she promised. One puts to death one’s own pride and desire for retaliation and instead chooses to love his or her beloved because that was the promise made: to love until death.

Loving someone like this requires us to forgive when we are wronged, either by omission or by commission. Forgiveness is not an easy thing. Allowing someone back in who betrayed trust or withheld promised benefits means opening ourselves up to the possibility of having our love hurt again. As Christians however, we must forgive because Christ has forgiven us. Christ forgave our debt to God, and unless we want to end up like the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18, we have to learn how to forgive debts from others.

And as Christ restored our standing with God we should strive as much as possible to restore the standing of one who has hurt us. We are in Christ, and Christ is in us, therefore we should emulate His love and forgiveness, even when our flesh tells us otherwise.

So, as the song asks, what is love?

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

If that is love, what is not love?

When we impatiently push our beloved to change, we fail to love.

When we are unkind in our words and deeds, we fail to love.

When we hold ourselves in too high an esteem, pushing down our beloved, we fail to love.

When we insist on our own way and put a prerequisite on our affection, we are failing to love.

When we resent our beloved or grow irritated at their failures towards us, we are failing to love.

When we allow evil into the relationship, we fail to love.

When we fail to bear with their weaknesses, think them liars, give up on them, or decide we just can’t handle their failures anymore, we fail to love.

When we quit loving, we have to ask whether we really ever loved at all.

Love is an action. It is a constant choice we make to put others above ourselves. Even though our motives for loving others should not be to gain something in return, it is helpful to understand that sometimes our love will not be returned. Sometimes we are spurned by those we elevate.

This is why promising to love someone is a risky choice. We risk the destruction of our happiness and comfort if that love is not returned.

None of us love perfectly. We all fail to love at one point or many. Knowing this, we should certainly sympathize with those closest to us. They will fail us and we will fail them.

But true love forgives a multitude of sins.

The Punk

“Gentlemen?”

Recently I was given a stack of writings which my great-grandfather wrote for my grandma. I love them so much I thought I would share.

This one is titled “The Punk”. I remember this being read to me as a young man of 13 or so, after I had been caught with some friends doing some non-gentlemanly things of which I will refrain from detailing. Needless to say I needed to hear this.

It’s definitely not politically correct, so if you are easily offended you might want to leave. Keep in mind that his was a different time, don’t project your modern sensitivities onto former times.

The Punk

Let us begin with a sort of syllogism:

The pig is an animal. The pig is without ideals. Man is an animal. Without ideals, man is a pig.

The few ideals I have come to me from my father. He was imperfect, as we all are, but not nearly as much so as he would have been without these ideals. They were “fixed” ideas, and gave stability to his character. I learned while yet very young–without quite knowing what it was that I was learning–that, right or wrong, I could depend on my father. Nothing else could have meant quite as much to a boy. He gave me many a light thrashing, but never one I didn’t deserve. Nor were the thrashings as severe as they might have been. These thrashings were given more for the “impression” than for punishment. “Mercy is greater than justice, ” he thought. Possibly he believed that the way to make an “impression” on a boy’s mind was by way of the seat of his pants. About that I wouldn’t know, but that idea has very often occurred to me. I believe he felt that too often and severe whipping of children was a dangerous practice. Young children are creatures of impulse and learn to reason as they go along. To raise a decent child is, at best, a full-time job and but very few people are properly fitted for it. And too, it is an individual task. Production-line methods will not do, for children are individuals and require individual training. In our modern world children are much influenced by people who never give them a serious thought. I have often been surprised at some of the silliness children bring home from school. And much of this silliness does not come from other children, but from supposedly mature people–their teachers.

My father, for some reason unknown to me, seemed to be prejudiced against the word “gentleman,” and rarely used it. Possibly he wished to avoid the narrow sense in which this word is so often used–particularly by the English. Gentlemanliness was a thing not of birth or wealth, but of behavior. The blackest and most ignorant negro was a gentleman, and worthy of all respect, if he behaved like one. For your amusement I will tell a tale he told us.

Henry Clay visited my grandfather once or twice. One day while taking Clay for a tour of the field, they came to a slave working alone. As they passed, the slave lifted his palmetto hat, and my grandfather lifted his (not palmetto) in return. As they rode on Clay expressed a little surprise at this. “I will never allow so humble a man to surpass me in courtesy,” said my grandfather. As I have run across this same tale, dressed differently, in a dozen altogether places, I haven’t the slightest doubt that it was the purest “malarkey.” Somehow how this courtesy mixed with the word “slave” does not go down well. If the tale was true, I fear that my grandfather was “showing off” before this Kentuckian.

My father’s ideals were–as it appears most worthwhile ideals must be–social. Aside from earning a living, and not entirely aside even from that, the most important things were our relations with the people around us. As I set some of these ideals down, I realize that to many people of today they will appear to have been impractical, or illusory, or Quixotic, or to many young men and women, downright Sir Galahadish. But times change and so do ideas; whether for the better or the worse, each of us must decide for ourselves. Gentlemen, as my father defined the word, are fast disappearing, and it looks as though in a few years they will be museum pieces, like mummies.

A Gentleman will not:

  1. Steal
  2. Lie
  3. Cheat
  4. Boast
  5. Bully, insult, or in any way impose on those unable to defend themselves
  6. Make a clothes-horse of himself and attract attention by strangely cut and flashily colored clothes, lest he be called a fop or a peacock. Personal adornment should be left to the ladies, with whom it is proper. Man and their clothes are like books–wise words are seldom found in rose colored bindings.

Men are physically stronger than women. This strength carries with it an obligation. The obligation is that this strength be used to aid and defend the weaker. By the weaker is meant men as well as women and children; and by strength is meant mental as well as physical strength. Women, although weaker than men, are the mothers of men. Generally, they suffer more than men, and those who raise families work harder than men. It is the duty of man to make woman’s life as easy and as pleasant as possible. It will be hard enough at best. All women should be treated with respect at all times, in all places, and under all circumstances. There are proper times and places for all things. Men must be very careful of their behavior toward women, especially in public. Anything that bears even the slightest resemblance to familiarity must be avoided. When in public with ladies, men must never speak in a loud voice or indulge in loud laughter. To do so will attract unfavorable attention to the lady. Ladies must never by spoken to across the width of a street. Unless absolutely necessary they must never be spoken to at any distance that exceeds fifteen feet. Only three things are expected of a gentleman meeting a lady on the street–to lift his hat, bow, and keep moving. The first two are not nearly as important as the last. It is the duty of a gentleman, in the absence of a lady’s own friends or relatives, to defend her against insult and injury. This rule applies to children and other weaklings as well.

When a caller comes, welcome him and see that he has a good chair. Then look around for something to offer him. The best you have will not be too good, or the least you have, too little. On a hot day, if there is nothing else, a glass of cool water will be pleasant. This small offering will add to the caller’s feelings of welcome and will help put him at ease. This is an ancient custom and, when done and received with the proper spirit, one of the finest.

The visitor under your roof is sacred, as you will be under his. We are not permitted to insult a man in our house, nor his own.

But, “Alas, how are the mighty fallen.” We go from one extreme to another. My father did not live to see what I have seen–a respectable young lady walking down the street being whistled at, barked at, howled at, and hooted at by every punk within half a mile. My father, had he lived to see this, would have done one of two things; either dropped dead with rage, or hurried after his shotgun. He would have been very certain that the young lady resented all this public sex-inspired hullabaloo, and would have regarded each whistle and cat-call as a separate insult, to be separately taken care of. But I am not nearly as certain of things as he was, for I have once or twice seen young ladies, in the midst of such din, smile, as if pleased or complimented by such a demonstration. I consider: Either this young lady is not as fine a creature as we have believed her, or she does not realize the true meaning of the bedlam created by this pack of more or less sexual degenerates. This demonstration reminds me of another I have seen. It was that of a pack of ten or a dozen male dogs following after and fighting over a female. The male dogs were certain the female was in heat. Apparently this pack of punks assume that the young lady is in the same condition.

Surely these men are not normal. Certainly no group of sane, civilized men would be thrown into such a convulsion by the mere sight of a young lady passing along the street. But–such is the punk.

We have compared the man without ideals to the pig. But we will not compare the pig with the punk. After all, the behavior of the pig is not too bad if we keep him penned up and away from the garden. We are not allowed to pen up the punk–unfortunately. For to be a punk is not a crime–only a tragedy.

I have exaggerated purpsely. I am not through with the punk, nor am I serious. Let us close on a pleasant note:

“The emblem of man should be the axe. For each man always carries one concealed somewhere about his person, and is ever seeking a chance to grind it.”

-Mark Twain

What’s Up With Marie Kondo?


There’s a new craze going on. People are going “KonMari” on their homes and tidying them up. Lives are changing, with every cymbal flourish and Marie Kondo Coo, rooms are being magically transformed from dumps to habitable spaces.

I knew nothing of this show until it started appearing in my newsfeed. Then my wife watched it…

My wife has spent literally the last ten years trying to KonMari our house without knowing she was doing it. She has emptied her closet onto the bed several times and whittled down the clothes to a manageable number. She has sought to create spaces for the objects that she loves to be on display to bring joy to her house. She emptied and rearranged kitchen cabinets, she disposed of piles of things that no longer meant anything to anyone (and a lot that she still loved).

But because of me, this labor was in vain. I am a hoarder, or at least a recovering one. I have held onto papers and books and random objects from my youth for odd and unhealthy reasons. It’s been a process, slow and painful (yet cathartic), to get rid of my stuff and only keep what really makes me happy.

So seeing the craze, and hearing my wife’s reviews, I decided I should watch a few episodes myself and see what it was all about.

First off, skip the first episode unless you want to know why the rest of the world dislikes Americans. Stereotypes exist for a reason, sadly. The one upside to the episode is that it normalizes breastfeeding.

But episode three was great (we accidentally skipped episode two), especially for us, because we live in a smallish house with seven people in it. Seeing another family downsize from a huge space to a tiny space was uplifting and gave me some hope for this household. Plus they were just so dern wholesome. The kids were polite and the parents well spoken. They seemed like normal people trying to get by, just like most of us.

There was another episode with a couple just like us, the wife (in our case, me) just couldn’t bear to get rid of her clothes, books, and miscellaneous items. We had to laugh because if we didn’t laugh we would cry. This woman said many of the things I do. It was humbling to see someone else do it. She kept things for  various reasons, usually utilitarian in her mind. I completely understood what she was saying. And her husband? The words he spoke could have been stolen from my wife’s mouth.

So what do I think of Marie Kondo?

Well, first off, she seems like an absolute sweetheart. She doesn’t come into her client’s home like a wrecking ball, deriding them for having stuff. Instead, she sweetly reminds them of some pretty common sense stuff like you’re all in this household together, so you have to work as a team to keep it tidy and only keep what brings you joy. Common sense frequently escapes me, so her reminders were well needed.

Other shows of this genre show you “horrible” people and build up drama around their horrible addiction to materials. They literally guilt you into cleaning up your house, because only “horrible” people live in messy houses. Not “Tidying Up”, this show shows you average people who are just trying to get themselves out from a completely relate-able situation. It’s feel good TV.

People will mock Marie because of her Shinto beliefs, saying she does odd things like “waking up books” and greeting the house. Sure, there is a bit of superstition involved, but that doesn’t make everything she does incorrect. Watching her talk about her beliefs got me to thinking, what is the correct way for Christians to think about the objects in their house?

So many Christians in America just go along with the materialism of our culture. We buy stuff we don’t need, we collect things with no intrinsic value, we hoard and take pride in our displays of wealth and blessings. Most of us are able to keep our material possessions manageable, but there are more than just a few of us that are drowning in them.

Wealth is not bad. Having material possessions isn’t sinful. Buying stuff you don’t need or having collections are not intrinsically bad behaviors. But, like all things we do, we should examine our motives and the effects the behaviors have on our lives and the lives of those around us.

Watching the show encouraged me to ask myself a few questions:

Does my home or the objects in it hinder my ability to share the Gospel?

I can’t share the Gospel when I can’t invite anyone in to my home. My home is an extension of my life, and the best way to spread the Gospel is to let others into it. But I am too embarrassed by my chaos to let others in.

Does my home reveal a lack of self-control, a Fruit of the Spirit?

My home definitely reveals some lack of self-control. There are places for things, but things are not put away. Clothes are not put in hampers, dishes are lost in far corners, the tables are used as catch-alls. Habits are not maintained.

Is there peace in my home, or is it chaos?

There is no peace. While training to be a bus driver I was told that having a clean bus actually encourages good student behavior. This is obvious even in my home. My kids aren’t bad, but clutter stresses them out and can lead to grumpiness, sloppiness, and laziness. How much more relaxed would they be if they knew where their stuff was? How much more willing would they be to keep up with their chores if they didn’t have to shift around mounds of stuff?

What does my mountain of stuff and my inability to get rid of it say about what me and what’s important to me?

What’s more important to me: this stuff that I’ve been dragging around for years, or the health and well being of my family? Stuff, or my ability to have friends over to share my life? Stuff, or my ability to do the things I love instead of wasting my time moving sand dunes of clothes and papers around?

Do these objects rob me or members of my family of joy, also one of the Fruits of the Spirit?

Joy is the one thing that Marie brings up more often than her love of tidying. Objects can rob us of our joy. Mountains of material possessions can drag us into depressing and awful places.


We should only keep what brings us joy. We should not hold on to the stuff that robs us of joy or inhibits our ability to share the Gospel. We should use our home to bring joy to others. Keeping a house full of clutter often means keeping a home empty of friends.

Go check out the show, then go KonMari on your house, you won’t be disappointed.

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Dailyish Thoughts #88

They say when it rains it pours. For once I would like both of my cars to be operating correctly at the same time. They have gotten to the point where maintenance is more than just changing the oil. Now it’s brake pads and rotors and calipers and sensors and filters and pumps and belts and radiators and alternators… All while the rest of the bills are still begging to be paid.

Life hasn’t gone as smoothly as I hoped it would. As a natural pessimist who has been working on his positivity recent predicaments haven’t exactly helped boost confidence. It’s practically impossible to be an optimist when nothing you work on seems to turn out right.

I know this isn’t a happy post. Blog posts are supposed to be uplifting and make the reader feel better about life. Well. I’m a realist. Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes I have horrible days. I don’t want my site to be nothing but sunshine and roses because that’s fake. I don’t like lying to people, when things are good they are good, when they are bad they are bad.

Today wasn’t all bad. The kids had a ton of fun harvesting candy from the local neighborhood. For the first in a long time I was able to smile genuinely at their happiness. Seeing them happy and excited makes me genuinely happy.

Hansel (he’s so hot right now), the youngest Gryffindor student, and a punk faerie.

Perhaps tomorrow will go better, Lord willing.

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Monday Monday

An interesting thing happens when spouses reunite. Everything else kinda goes by the wayside. Emotions are stirred. Physical desires flare up. Stories are exchanged. Jokes are made. The outside world disappears for a bit.

It’s like a honeymoon every time. Except our honeymoon was awful. But that’s a story for another day.

I had plans. I was going to take a bunch of pictures of Albuquerque. I was going to make posts. Life was going to keep going as usual. Ha! Yeah right. Once that woman comes into view nothing else exists.

I’ve mentioned before that if you ever stop seeing posts to suspect that I died two weeks ago. I used to be two weeks ahead on this thing. Lately it’s been seat of my pants! So don’t worry, I’m not dead. I’ve just been distracted.

Maybe the rest of this week will be normal.

What’s this “normal” anyway?

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Daily Thoughts #66

I feel poor sometimes, and perhaps by definition I am. But then I actually spend time with someone who has been poor for awhile and I realize not just what I have, but how ungenerous I am. You want to meet a generous person? Go find someone who is barely getting by.

Apple harvests can be a painful endeavor. I’m grateful for ibuprofen and Arnicare.

As crazy as they can be, I personally think I have some good kids. It makes me feel ashamed sometimes how non-judgmental they are when I am positive my face can’t hide anything. It doesn’t even matter if I am not thinking judgey thoughts, I can feel my face responding to my surroundings. Them? Anywhere they go they are at home, not a word or a look to make one think they are out of their element.

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Fatherhood Is Not Babysitting

This was in a Facebook group I’m in. Most people got the joke. One guy commented:

“What exactly is this meme saying?

Why is the woman abandoning her God given role as mother “for the next few days”?

Why is the father being regarded by both women almost as a boyfriend?”

My response was “you gotta be trolling.”

But looking at his timeline I really don’t think he was. His posts show that his worldview assumes men and women were created exclusively for distinct “roles”, women to pump out babies and stay with them constantly until they are capable of pumping out their own, and men to go out of the house most of the time to till the fields and provide the means to buy food (which definitely falls into the woman’s role). These roles are rigid and unbending.

I’m not completely opposed to the idea of roles. In any organization, such as a family, division of labor is helpful to ensure that all jobs are taken care of.

But implicit in this guy’s worldview is the idea that men are incapable of raising children. The fact that a woman would “abandon her God given role” and leave her children in the incompetent hands of their father is appalling. We all know men don’t have the capacity to nurture. We know their attention spans are way too limited to ensure the kids get all that they need to survive.

Implicit in this worldview is the concept that fathers are nothing more than babysitters when they take responsibility for the care of their children. If this guy had his way, the mother would never be out of the child’s presence. The father would will never be left out of his league watching the kids for a few days, let alone a few hours.

Maybe I am being uncharitable. Maybe this guy is a great father. Maybe he lets his wife “abandon her role” and go out occasionally. I don’t know.

All I know is I take exception to the idea that men are useless for raising children. I reject the notion that fathers are babysitters and the jokes about them needing “rescue” and being incompetent.

This guy may not have understood the meme, but I think most of us got the point loud and clear.

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A Successful Marriage, Just Out Of High School

Circa 2001 B.B. (Before Beard)

“You literally just dated and married someone from middle/ high school and stayed together?”

Yep. That’s exactly what happened.

Having that pointed out made me realize just how complicated life really is. Especially the finding and keeping a mate part.

I was blessed to meet a girl at the beginning of high school who simply latched on and never let go. One of my fondest memories of our early relationship was when I took her hand to lead her through a crowd and she stayed attached for hours afterwards. She literally would not let go of me. I asked her to go out with me fully expecting her to get over me within a month or so. Nope. She was mine and there was no changing it.

That certainly makes it sound easy doesn’t it? I mean, compared to the majority of people our experience was pretty simple. One girlfriend (unless you count that one for two weeks in 8th grade) and one boyfriend (unless you count that one in kindergarten). No breakups or heartaches, no chasing and wondering, no getting attached to someone who wasn’t interested. Compared to the norm we are freaks of nature.

But it wasn’t easy.

Starting out together that young created all sorts of headaches others avoid. It didn’t take very long to realize that we wanted to be together forever. But since “everyone thinks that about their high school sweetheart” no one believed us. We got engaged in secret and wracked our brains about ways to make it happen. Elopement was not completely off the table, folks.

And temptation… There is a reason the Bible says to get married if you burn with passion. When you are young and truly in love there is a strong passion for physical connection. “True love waits” is a silly slogan. True love commits and becomes one flesh as soon as possible.

It wasn’t easy after marriage either. Being young and immature (though you think yourselves quite wise) makes living with another sinner difficult.

We didn’t have the typical surprises many people experience after marriage. With nearly six years literally growing up together there really weren’t any secrets or skeletons or odd habits we didn’t know about.

No, our difficulties came because we read the wrong books and listened to the wrong advice and took the wrong pills. The first months of our marriage were hell. We had a foundation in the many years together, but the walls built in those first months was full of cracks and holes.

It took a while to get our footing. It took longer to gain any sense of success in our marriage.

How’d we make it work?

Well, first off, divorce is not an option. It has never been a part of our vocabulary. Even during the times when one of us (or both) wants to leave “divorce” is not a word we ever use.

Loads of patience is the second. Love is not love without patience. That may mean waiting a loooong time for a change in your spouse. It may mean years of gentle nudging in the right direction (not nagging, nagging is impatient) before you see a result. It may mean bearing infirmities much longer than you would like. Patience does pay off though. In the long run you find that you can bear more and you love each other more.

Third, a big helping of stubbornness. I won’t let her go. And she won’t let me go. By golly we made this commitment, we are going to keep it! There is no one else that I want, so I am going to selfishly cling to her with all my might. If something I do is hurting her I’m going to work on myself to change it. Because I want her. And she is one thing in my life that I actually have. Nothing else that I want ever seems to happen, so I will hold tightly to the one that has happened.

We were blessed to meet so young (and cursed) but there is no reason why you can’t be blessed to meet someone later in life.

You just have to grab them and not let go.

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Daily Thoughts #37

Took the kids to a gun safety event. They loved it. I know it’s odd for some people in the rest of the world to see this kind of thing but I want my kids to appreciate weapons and treat them as tools and not toys or something scary. Especially considering the part of the world we live in.

Learned some bad news today about a friend back home. For a minute I wanted to diminish my worries in light of hers but I realized that my worries are legitimate too. We each have burdens and cares that God allows us to bear. He wants us to bring them to Him no matter how “insignificant” they may be.

And just like those burdens He also blesses us in ways that bring Him the most glory. While I may not understand why He has not blessed me with a comfortable level of wealth or nice cars or fancy toys, I am grateful that He has blessed me with health, an amazing wife, and beautiful children. Gratitude is a great feeling that lifts up even the most anxious of hearts.

Why Get Married?

As much as I would like to stay away from outrage, sometimes I have nothing else to write about. So here is something I found a bit outrageous:

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1534576779919294&id=254517854591866&_rdr

Why should you get married?

According to this woman we should get married not for love but for what the other person brings to the table. We should marry for the network, for the community that we can build, and for the wealth that we can acquire from the marriage.

Basically she says the most important question to ask when considering marriage is “What can he/she do for me?”

While I do agree we should not be jumping into marriage just because our feelings tell us to, I doubt she has thought through the rest of her argument.

Just as feelings fade, so do networks, so does wealth, so does the ability to build. What is she going to do if her man gets hurt and can’t provide what she’s expecting from him? What happens if his business ventures fail or his friends leave him? What happens when they are old and just can’t build anymore?

What is she bringing to the table?

True love is not just feelings and fluff. True love is desiring to serve the other person no matter what. True love doesn’t ask “what is he bringing me?” but instead asks “what am I bringing to him?”

We should get married for true love.

In the long run it is true love that builds a family and a community. True love builds wealth in more than just materials. While it is true that sometimes you don’t like each other, true love endures even the most dull periods of feelings.

I get what she’s trying to say. Don’t marry a loser. If the person you have fluttery feelings for can’t hold onto a job or friends or even family, they may not be ready for the responsibility of marriage. Maybe you should move on if you are ready for marriage.

But should you only consider what the other person can do for you? No. Life is too short and volitile to get married for security and stability. What people bring into a relationship will change over time. What you should be asking is “What am I bringing right now that we can use to build a life together?”

If that answer is “not much” or “I don’t know” you might want to reconsider.