Mr Right

Stop Looking for Mr Right

Mr Right 

Today a friend took the gutsy step of publicly posting that he was back in the dating game, and thought that with his large pool of friends on Facebook, he might have better luck making connections by announcing to a wider audience. Sure, why not? What are friends for if not setting you up on your next blind date?

But here’s the kicker, the thing that got me to write this. He added, “for those seriously interested only.” And there it is. I see it a lot in my Christian guy friends. The desire to skip right over the dating process, and go straight into betrothal and marriage. Some of my friends have even taken to the old term “courting”. As in, “I don’t want to date. I want to court someone and then marry.” But it’s the same idea: that dating, spending some time with someone new, drinking coffee, going to movies, having dinner … getting to know someone … is a waste of their time and energy unless there is a specific guarantee that it will result in rings being exchanged.

Put more bluntly (though I’m sure most of my friends would never consciously think this), “people are not worth my time unless I get exactly what I want from them.”

Don’t be so picky…

As the older guy friend, I want to smack them up side their heads (kindly of course), and tell them, “you’re missing the whole point!” I know because I’ve been there. It’s like walking into an upscale restaurant and refusing to look at the menu because you already know you want meatloaf.

Meatloaf is great. But have you tried the lobster? Or maybe the shrimp scampi with angel hair pasta? Or that wonderful Teriyaki steak, marinated in a ginger, soy and pineapple sauce?

That’s what dating is. It’s sampling the menu. Trying out new flavors, discovering things you never knew existed — things you might absolutely love. And yeah, along the way you’ll sample a few things you don’t like. But it opens you up to a world of new possibilities — ones that may never have even occurred to you. How will you know you’re not a fan of oysters if you’ve never tried them? Or think of all the wonderful evening meals you would have missed out on because you didn’t know you absolutely loved pasta puttanesca. So many guys have such a restrictive list of what they’re looking for in a mate, that they refuse to date anyone who doesn’t match perfectly. “Why should I? I know I won’t marry him.”

Meatloaf is great. But have you tried the lobster? … That’s what dating is. It’s sampling the menu. Trying out new flavors, discovering things you never knew existed — things you might absolutely love.

Because dating isn’t just about finding Mr Right. It’s about discovering more about yourself. It’s about broadening your view of the world around you. It’s about meeting different kinds of people, trying new experiences with them, exchanging ideas, learning something new about the world, about life. It’s exposure to the wide variety of humanity out there — the richness of God’s creation. Kinda like that prayer the Apostle Paul wrote for the Ephesians, “so that you might know the glorious richness of his inheritance in the saints” — so that you can experience the beautiful richness of variety in the types of people God created. People even of different faiths. See? If you know in advance that you probably won’t end up marrying this particular guy, you’re free to spend time with him even if he’s not a Christian. You might gain a whole new appreciation for faith and God because he’s Buddhist and explained how he meditates. Or he’s Muslim, or Jewish, or even an atheist.

Let me say it again. There is so much freedom in dating when you know that you’re not gonna marry this guy anyway, so you’re free to enjoy him for who he is rather than what you want him to be.

The encounter is meant to enrich you. You expand your mind, your heart, your portfolio of experience because he introduces you to things not a regular part of your world. He might take you to a late night jazz session, or to an art exhibit. He may play selections from his vintage rock collection, and open new musical doors for you. He might take you to his church or mosque, to some place you’d never have gone to by yourself. New food, new wines or beers, new music, new parts of town you’ve never seen. New perspectives on God. If you’re lucky, he’ll share a part of his soul with you. You become a better person by dating.

Unless, of course, you’re completely self-absorbed, and not really interested in the men you date at all except to see if their initials will look good on your monogrammed towels.

That sounds a bit harsh, but honestly, that’s how some of you sound. “I only want to date someone whom I could settle down with” comes across very much like “you’re not good enough for me, and I shouldn’t waste my time on you.” Of course you don’t mean it. But you’re robbing yourself. Hell, you’re robbing them, all those guys you refuse to date, of seeing the kind of person you are, of the chance to learn something from you, to realize that there are people of your caliber out there in the sea for them to find, that maybe they don’t need to settle for the first “suitable” guy who comes their way. And you too. You’ll meet a variety of guys who might fit your definition of “marriable”, but you’ll discover that you don’t need to commit to him just because he fits what you thought you wanted. By dating a variety of men, your checklist may expand. You’ll add new desirable traits to your dream — and likely add to your list of characteristics to avoid. All because you learned something new by meeting a variety of people.

Open yourself up to guys outside your normal “marriage criteria,” just for the sake of greater exposure and personal experience. You’ll grow in ways you never imagined.

Let your heart get broken once or twice

“But I don’t want my heart to get broken,” you may be saying.

And yes, that is a very real possibility. But here’s the thing. You should get your heart broken. Because that means you had a genuine connection with a real human being. It is part of the authentic human experience, and you cannot isolate yourself from that and expect to be a healthy person. Real people have hearts. Their hearts become engaged with people they spend time with, who they grow to care about. You will not go untouched. But you will be a better person because you were touched. Dating changes you. Dating deepens you.

Dating has gotten such a bad rap in some Christian circles, especially among faithful guys who are “waiting for marriage.” But cutting yourself off from the people around you, just because they don’t match your checklist, actually cheats you.

So stop looking for Mr Right. Stop being so picky, so restrictive. Be open to dating a variety of guys. You’ll have a lot of first (and only) dates. That’s fine. That’s part of the discovery process too. And when you do encounter that guy who really makes your head and heart sing, you’ll have a much broader basis of comparison to judge your suitability by. They say “you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.” But it’s because you kissed those frogs that you recognize who your prince is. And, realistically, you’ll get to kiss a lot of princes in the process too. You’ll just be better prepared to pick which one you finally settle down with.


photo credit: Fantasyland Station, cc.

Breaking Up Was One of the Best Things to Ever Happen to Me

BreakingUp

A couple of friends on social media have posted recently about the difficulties they’re having after breaking up with their boyfriends. I can empathize. That emotional vortex can tear you apart for a few weeks and make you feel like your whole life is destroyed. But, for me, it turned out to be one of the best things to ever happen to me.

Relationships are wonderful things. We humans seem to crave them. We can feel isolated, lonely, and incomplete without them, as if our lives have little or no meaning unless someone else is there sharing it with us.  And there’s good reason for that. We are by nature social beings. (Most of us, that is. There are always those rare birds who thrive on being unattached.) I think it’s built into our DNA — the only thing recorded in the Genesis creation story that God said was not good was that man should be alone.

But what happens when those relationships end? For whatever reason — irreconcilable differences, death, infidelity, or simply growing in different directions — the sudden absence of someone who up till that moment played a significant role in your life, in your identity, can leave you reeling. You have to begin to pick up the pieces and rebuild yourself, rebuild your life.  And that can be a wonderful thing. A gift. An awe-inspiring blessing. It was for me.

We’d been together for 15 years. It was a rocky relationship, full of its ups and downs. Emotional highs, heights of passion, random warm moments, holidays, birthdays. Arguments, shouting matches, feeling completely misunderstood or neglected, … holidays, birthdays. Yeah, all of it. But in the final analysis, we weren’t happy. Not that we expected each other to make us happy — we both knew happiness was our own responsibility. But when the chemistry of two radically different personalities creates more negative reaction than positive, it’s time to reconsider the relationship. And we did. And we mutually agreed to end it.

The separation didn’t happen overnight. We discussed who’d get what, who’d move out, who’d stay, which dogs would go with whom. And we allowed time for that to happen. I kept the house (since I was the main bread-winner and he couldn’t have afforded to keep it), and he made plans to move across state to be closer to his family. And I itched almost every day, waiting for everything to fall into place so he could be gone.

When the day finally came, we packed up a U-Haul truck and moved him out. And I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Literally. It felt like I could breathe again.

BreakingUp2The first thing I did was rearrange the furniture. I was going to make the house “mine.” Then came all the other little changes. The decisions. I decided to eat better, to cook more, with more organics and meat that was humanely raised — and even for my dogs to eat better.  I decided to drink better quality coffee. To live more earth-friendly. To improve my social life. Dating — sure. (The whole world had evolved since the last time I’d dated. AOL was the thing back then. My friends had to clue me in about Adam4Adam, OkCupid, Match, and the host of phone apps available to help meet new people.) But also simply spending more time with my friends, going out to dinner, theater, movies … just rebuilding my life without him in it.  (I wrote about some of this back in the early days of my new-found singleness in “BYOB – Gay and Single (Again) After 40.”)

And this one word kept going through my head. “Rediscovery.” I wasn’t just “re-inventing” my life. I was rediscovering myself, who I was, digging back up those aspects and activities I used to love that had somehow become buried over the years together. Things he didn’t like to do. Parts of my personality that got overshadowed by the “us” of being with him. I rediscovered what it was like to be “Steve.”

I even stuck an index card on my refrigerator to remind me every morning —

“Create a life for yourself
that reflects your values,
builds on your gifts,
fulfills your purpose,
and satisfies your soul.”

The power of those words burrowed deep into my soul. “Create a life for yourself…”  It was an active process, not something I just sat back and let unfold. I spent time re-evaluating just what were my values, my gifts, my purpose? What satisfies my soul? I had the chance to re-create my life. I had that power. It was like a rebirth.

Oh, and yes, I did jump into the dating game. I was online every day, checking my apps multiple times during the day. Going on coffee dates (the safest thing for first dates, I discovered), getting to know different guys. There were months of feeling almost desperate: “I gotta find somebody. I wanna be married again.” I got emotionally attached to a couple of guys, even knowing there was no real long-term possibilities there. Got my heart broken once or twice. But gradually, as the clouds of desperation slowly faded from my mind, I woke up one morning realizing that I actually liked being single. I enjoyed my freedom. I loved the fact that I could meet someone, spend time with them, but go home afterwards to my own place, my home, my refuge, my dogs. And be okay unwinding on the couch, grabbing some movie off Netflix. By myself. Without having to worry about what someone else wanted to do.

I began to love myself again — and to like myself.  Whoever the guy was who’d eventually play a significant role in my life again, he’d have a pretty tough act to follow. He’d have to treat me and love me better than I loved myself. I wasn’t gonna lower my standards.

It’s been 4 years now. I’ve found someone who doesn’t trigger my red flags, who doesn’t irritate me (most of the time), who treats me with great respect, who has a depth of character and integrity that is a “must have” for me, and who has a life already established for himself. He’s good for my soul.

But more important than that. I’m happy. I wake up in the morning, grab my first cup of coffee of the day, and gather my thoughts. I pray. And I thank God for this good life. I think about the things I’m grateful for, the things I’m relieved about, excited and expectant about. The future. The present. The simplicity of things. A deeper spirituality. And the second chance at building my life.

The breakup gave me that chance. I got to re-think, re-define, re-discover who I was, and re-introduce elements of life that bring me joy and peace. Even my friends have commented on the change. I’m a better person now than I was before, and my life is richer. That break up with my ex was one of the best things that ever happened to me.


A version of Stephen’s post originally appeared on The Good Men Project.
Photo credits: Jonathan Emmanuel Flores Tarello, cc; “Bachelor Pad,” crystalsquare apts, cc.

When was the last time you told yourself “I love you”?

love yourselfWhen was the last time you told yourself “I love you”?

Weird idea? Maybe it sounds like it at first, but we as a community are desperately in need of hearing those words — especially from ourselves. And by “we,” I mean LGBTQ people and Christian people, and especially those of us who fit in both categories.

Many of us LGBTQ people have wrestled with our identities, trying to come to terms accepting ourselves, defining ourselves, discovering ourselves, exploring our own psyches, often even seeking professional therapy. We’ve had to struggle with issues with an intensity and prolonged duration that many of our straight friends never had to deal with. And that often has left scars of self-doubt, of fear, of insecurities and a need for acceptance, sometimes even of self-hatred. Thank God, now with greater social acceptance of non-hetero identities, the younger generation doesn’t have to go through this as much. But for many of us born before 1990, the mental and emotional bruises linger for years. Looking in the mirror can be an awkward moment. So getting to a point where we can honesty, truthfully say to ourselves “I love you” can be a milestone in personal growth.

The same goes for many Christians, straight or otherwise. If you were raised in a conservative environment, you probably had years of “humility” drummed into your head. Concerns over pride and ego, or selfishness or even self-indulgence took on eternal significance. It was unChrist-like. God despises the proud but exalts the humble. So again, uttering those three simple words could be a shocking, even rebellious act.

Now throw in some sex …

Throw in the sexual dynamic, and we’ve got a whole ‘nother ball game. How many of us, especially in religious circles, were taught (or at least led to believe) that any kind of sexual expression outside the holy bonds of matrimony were sinful, shameful, and deserving of God’s wrath? So if you were attracted to someone and began dating them, if things went beyond second base, the guilt could become paralyzing. Heck, even getting to second base could trigger hours of penitent prayer, trying to persuade God to forget it ever happened and to restore your state of divine favor.

Maybe you could soften the assault of guilt by rationalizing: we love each other, we may not be “married” but we care about each other… But what about those experiences outside even that degree of relationship? What about the occasional hook-ups, when you meet someone, and the chemistry between the two of you resembles a nuclear reaction. Your heart races, your eyes dilate, your palms begin to sweat. You smile nervously, and your brain nearly explodes when the look is returned. And later that night, you find yourself in someone else’s bedroom, or even in the backseat of your car, when the hormonal tide has cleared from your mind and you face that moment of reality. This wasn’t love. This was … just physical.

Do you love yourself enough to say, “That’s okay. God doesn’t hate me, and neither do I”? Or even more boldly, “That was good. I needed that. I connected with someone, even just for that short time, and I still feel the after-glow of that connection”? No guilt. Just acceptance of your own humanity, of your human need for touch, for connection with another. And confidence that God isn’t brooding with anger over it.

This “extra-marital” guilt thing even applied to physical self-gratification: masturbation. They used to call it “self-abuse”. Abuse! Really? How is that not supposed to make you fill sinful and dirty? They’d tie religious language to it: “if you lust after a woman in your heart, you’ve already committed adultery with her…” The mere thought of sex was equivalent to breaking one of the top 10 commandments! If you were raised in a religious family, your early teen years were most likely fraught with guilt and shame.

We can debate the morality of sex outside of marriage — whether in a relationship, just a hook-up, or just jacking off — another time. But the fact that sexuality is such a powerful part of our humanity, such a big part of defining “self”, of who we are as human beings, it can’t NOT take a toll on our self-esteem.

Let me throw in a Jesus-moment. The second great commandment he gave us was to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. That’s pretty much impossible to do if we don’t, in fact, love ourselves. That is, treasure ourselves, treat ourselves well, bring happiness (including sexual pleasure) to ourselves. Are we not worth it? And the Apostle Paul, when talking about married life, says that “husbands should love their wives as their own bodies…. No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, …” Huh. Not so sure about that “no one ever hated himself” part. But even Paul says that loving our own bodies is obviously important to a strong relationship.

Here’s the thing. The sex part is integral, but it’s secondary. The main point here is that too many of us, whether from struggling with our LGBTQ identity or just our Christian ego, do not even like ourselves, much less love ourselves. And this is crucial. How can you love someone else, how can you love your neighbor, and how can you love your lover, your spouse, your significant other, if you don’t have a healthy love for yourself? What are you bringing to the table? And can you even know how to love properly if it doesn’t begin with you?

Here’s the truth: without healthy self-esteem and self-love, the thing you’ll feel for someone else is dependence, not love.

selflove_memeYou FEEL like you love that person, you may feel the passion, the desire, the motivation to do good for them, to give them things, to express your heart — your feelings — to them, to show them how important they are. But what are you really feeling? You can become LOST in them, in those feelings. You are preoccupied, even obsessed, with the very thought of that person. And your world would come crashing down around your head if they ever left you. Is that a healthy view of self? Is that even really love?

Because you’re worth it!

You are significant. You have gifts and talents of your own. You’ve got a style, a way of thinking that no one else does. Without your unique expression of life on this planet, we are all a little bit poorer. All those “feel good” memes on social media have that kernel of truth to them. You have value — all by yourself. And the trick is to tap into that, to actually believe it.

it is NOT a healthy thing to try to spiritualize it: “yes, in Christ I have value.” That’s just more religious brainwashing. God did not send Jesus into this world so that you would have value. He sent Jesus into this world BECAUSE you have value.

And no, it is NOT a healthy thing to try to spiritualize it: “yes, in Christ I have value.” That’s just more religious brainwashing. God did not send Jesus into this world so that you would have value. He sent Jesus into this world BECAUSE you have value. You are loved and you have value in God’s eyes just as you are. (Being “in Christ” definitely changes your life, but it is not the sole grounds for your worth.)

Get out a pad of paper and a pen, if you must. Write down only the good things about yourself. The things you want a potential lover to see in you, to appreciate about you. Now, YOU be that lover. Appreciate yourself, love yourself for those reasons. Oh, and incidentally, all those negative things you’re probably mentally lining up in the opposite column on that page … yeah, there may be some truth in them, but most likely they are exaggerated way beyond reality by your own insecurities. You can love yourself, faults and all (cuz who doesn’t have faults?). So say it. Look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I love you. You are awesome.”

You’ll need to have this perspective if you’re to ever hold on to a healthy relationship with someone else. And it’s especially important if you’re single, when you spend those long hours at night longing for your One True Love. When you tell all your friends, “pray for me; pray that God sends me a husband or wife.” When day after day, you’re home alone, making dinner for yourself, spending the evening in watching Netflix. No, it’s NOT depressing. When you begin to love yourself, those moments can be remarkably peaceful and comforting. You can settle in on your couch or go out to your favorite restaurant alone — and enjoy it. Because you enjoy your own company. Because your love makes you complete by yourself.

Okay, I know it’s not as simple as that. If you’re like me, you’ve probably got years of history telling you the opposite. But once you tap into that realization that you are love-worthy, and begin to feel that way about yourself, your life begins to change. Things around you look differently. Even your sex life (yeah, I keep harping on that — cuz it’s a big part of who we are) … even your sex life, whether alone or with someone else, can be fulfilling — as an act of love for yourself. Of simply making yourself feel good, just as you would your future lover. Guilt-free.

It’s important. We need it. We need to love ourselves. How else can we fully love another person? And how else can we turn that love around to touch the world?

photo credit: “Hug of an angel,” Christopher via Flickr, cc

 

My 2 Cents About Dating …

dating_rules_113091165_bef6cdf729_o

My 2 cents worth about dating. To all you single Christians out there, gay and straight:

Before you put rules and constraints on yourself of who you can and cannot date, first figure out what your goal in dating is. If it is specifically/exclusively to get married, then yeah, you want a tight filter. Only date those who are likely spouse-material — all that “unequally yoked” stuff applies (tho Paul wasn’t talking about marriage there; j/s).

But dating isn’t just about marriage. It’s also about meeting a wide range of people, to learn more about yourself, to broaden your worldview and experience. It’s also about your personal growth. Not everybody you date has to be a spouse-candidate. When you date just for the sheer enjoyment of getting to know people — for who they are, not for who you want them to be — you can have a much richer experience. And those tight filters don’t apply. Date people who are really different from you, even those who believe differently. You’ll be amazed at how God uses them to grow you.
‪#‎CrazyChristianDatingRules‬ ‪#‎JustLovePeopleAndYouWillGrow‬


photo credit: Jhayne on Flickr, cc

[box type=”bio”]
STEVE SCHMIDT is a Bible teacher at Expressions.Today in Oklahoma City. He is a graduate of the seminary at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK, and holds two masters degrees in Biblical Literature and Divinity. He did his doctoral research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York.

He is editor of IMPACT Magazine, and blogs here on the Cafe Inspirado column. Plus you can find him making random comments about life on Facebook.

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Waiting on God for “The One”? Not so Much.

 waiting-for-god

Sigh.  Another coffee-date finished. Nice enough guy, good conversation, but no sparks. Not gonna happen. Cross that one off the prospective husband list. Next!

Sometimes this whole dating thing is exhausting. It’s draining, breaking the ice initially, generating  conversation, then the meet-up. Emotions jump into play at some point along the way. Excitement builds, anticipation. Even expectation. Dreams of what the future might look like.  A few dates later as the masks come off and the buzz dies down: reality.  Cold, hard, disappointing reality.

Okay. Not always. Sometimes it does work out. Sometimes you do meet the man of your dreams, and — amazingly enough — you’re also the man of his dreams.

But not today. And I’m thinking about throwing in the towel. At least for a while. Seems like everyone I know keeps telling me “it’ll happen when you stop looking for it.”  Boy, if I had a nickel for every time …

But is that really true? Does divine, mystical power suddenly explode when we step out of the way? I can see that could be the case in some situations, but is that really a good way to live your life? Just waiting for God to do something?

I sat there chewing on this thought while my coffee date was expounding at length about his ex-boyfriend. Yeah: I’m a great date.

Is that how life really works: things happen when you stop trying?

When I got laid off from my last job (excuse me, “down-sized”), I didn’t just sit around waiting for another job to land in my lap. I did what you gotta do. I networked. I talked to colleagues, friends, friends of friends. I got online, looked at job sites, looked at company HR pages. Of course I also prayed. Like crazy.  But I hit the pavement (well, if you consider the internet “pavement”).  And it paid off. It took a while, to be sure, but after several interviews, some good, some bad, some dead ends, some tantalizingly promising, I crossed the finish line at a nice little company who actually wanted my talent.

When a farmer wants crops in his field, does he “get out of the way” and let them just grow naturally? Does God do the work for him, while he sits back in his rocking chair on his porch, leisurely smoking his pipe?   Hmm.  I imagine he’s out there plowing up the ground, sowing seed, watering, fertilizing. And since he’s not organic, he’s pumping pesticides on them. Day after day, checking, tending, coaxing life from the ground. And then finally, harvest!  Even then it’s back-breaking work.  “By the sweat of your brow, you will eat your food until you return to the ground …” says God in the creation story.

And speaking of eating, when you’re hungry, do you just sit down at the table and expect food to appear? Maybe if you’re at P.F. Chang’s.  But God doesn’t just serve it up on an oversized plate while you sit with hands folded.

camalsSo why would dating and spouse-finding be any different?

Well, yeah, God did bring Eve to Adam. He didn’t even know it was happening.  So it is within the realm of possibility that it could happen. But even the famous guys in the bible had to go out looking for wives.  Abraham sent his servant back to the homeland to get a wife for Isaac. Jacob jumped on a camel and drove to the old country to pick up Rachel.  Sometimes you gotta hoof it a bit to find The One.  (Oh, word to my lazy brothers who think dating out of town is too much work.  When’s the last time you spent two weeks on a camel in the desert?  The 3-hour road trip to Dallas isn’t gonna kill you. Maybe you don’t want it bad enough.)

Sorry. I just don’t see it.  It’s perfectly fine to see God as your wingman when you’re cruising for love. (Cue theme music from Top Gun.)  In fact, we should. If you’re a person of faith and you expect God’s blessing on the relationship, it’s probably a good idea to bring him in on it from the get-go. But we probably shouldn’t expect him to do all the work.

I had to jump on the internet to find a job. I had to network with friends. Finding a quality date works the same way. And yes, you can find love on Grindr.  It’s rare, true, but I have a friend who met his boyfriend on Grindr. They’ve been together for over a year, and are talking about marriage. Better than that, they are actually happy. They enjoy each other’s company, they laugh a lot, they make me smile just seeing them together — and they’re both over 50 years old.  (“Grindr: not just for the youngins”.)  They give me hope.

So yeah, jump on Grindr. Use match.com, pof, phone apps, whatever. Talk to your friends: they know you, and they know other singles. Maybe they can play matchmaker. Try someplace new. Get out there.  Do what it takes. Don’t give up, and don’t get all religious and spiritual-sounding about “leaving it in God’s hands.”  God gave you hands and feet; I think he expects you to use them.

So maybe this nice guy, sipping his mocha latte with the interesting story about his former boyfriend, isn’t going to be my Mr Right. But I’ve still got plenty of apps on my phone.

 

 

[box type=”bio”]
STEVE SCHMIDT serves on the pastoral staff of Expressions Church in Oklahoma City. He is a graduate of the seminary at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK, and holds two masters degrees in Biblical Literature and Divinity. He did his doctoral research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York. He blogs at CafeInspirado.com, and you can always find him skulking on Facebook.
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You Need Some Help!

"Adam and Steve" by Rahul Gabrielle
“Adam and Steve” by Rahul Gabrielle

 

As a single guy, feeling the full weight of taking care of the house, the yard, the laundry, the cooking, the dogs, a full time job …, I think I now know exactly why God gave Adam a “suitable helper”.

Funny, how every single person I know is focused on finding Mr. Right or Miss Right. The desire for companionship is strong in us humans. And with rare exceptions, that’s how it’s supposed to be. Unless you happen to be graced with the spiritual gift of celibacy, you’ve probably more than once quoted that famous passage from the creation account in Genesis: “It is not good for man to be alone …” (Gen 2:18). And your sights are usually zeroed in on finding a romantic partner, someone to love, to be loved by, to “have and to hold,” and to experience that physical/mystical bond of “the two shall become one flesh”. (Thank you, Genesis, for providing us with all those great images.)

But I recently became acutely aware of what was perhaps the original intent of that spousal description. The King James version of the Bible reads, “an help meet for him”, and thus was introduced into English idiom the term “helpmeet” (and not as some of my more amorously focused brothers think, “helpmeat“). God gave Adam the herculean task of tending a huge garden and all the wildlife in it. And practically speaking, there just weren’t enough hours in the day or strength in the body to do it all alone. Adam needed help — and a help specifically suited to him, to his personality and to his specific needs. A helper was needed to help him accomplish his task. Not just to be a romantic partner. That “becoming one flesh” stuff is all just a wonderful fringe benefit.

Without that help, it is likely that Adam would not have been able to successfully do the thing he was charged with doing.

And that’s the point.

You were put on this planet to do something significant,

something important,

something no one else but you can do.

You were designed to be that unique piece in the cosmic jigsaw puzzle needed to complete the picture. And without you, without you fulfilling your assignment, that puzzle will always remain incomplete. And guess what? You can’t do it alone. None of us can.

Two by two

Two-by-two2It is interesting and informative that when Jesus sent out his disciples to do the work of the Kingdom — to proclaim the message of Freedom, to heal the sick, and to break the power of the enemy — he sent them out two by two (Mk 6:7).

Like Adam, like those disciples, we weren’t meant to try to accomplish the work by ourselves. It’s too big for any one person. We need help. And based on these two important passages, it seems clear that that’s how God intended it. And if that’s the case, then we can also assume that it is God’s will that we have that help. He WANTS us to have our “suitable helper”.

And that’s good news for most of us:
God is right there in the mate-finding game with us.

But here is the kicker. You gotta look beyond the surface. You gotta get past your own romantic and sexual needs, and look at the bigger picture.

God wants you to have the love of your life, that partner who will be faithful in good times and in bad, in blessing and in trouble. Just make sure you find someone who will actually “help”.

Find someone whose heart will align with yours, who will cooperate with your purpose on this planet, who will come into agreement with the important things in your life, and come alongside to help. Make sure your prospective mate can actually contribute. You don’t need another burden, another weight to carry. You don’t need the distraction or the drain on your energy and time. You need someone who will share the burden and help you carry the weight, who will help you stay focused and will re-energize you. Make sure the person you’re considering will be an asset to you, and is of some earthly good — other than providing you some sugar.

Your pursuit of a life companion is a wonderful thing. And if you stay purpose-driven and mission-focused, you’ll have God as a recruiting partner. Because He wants you to succeed even more than you do.

You’ve got important work to do. And you’re gonna need some help! So choose your helper wisely.

 

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STEVE SCHMIDT serves on the pastoral staff of Expressions Church in Oklahoma City. He is a graduate of the seminary at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK, and holds two masters degrees in Biblical Literature and Divinity. He did his doctoral research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York. He blogs at CafeInspirado.com, and you can always find him skulking on Facebook.
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BYOB – Gay and Single (Again) After 40

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #e10069;”]I'[/dropcap]ll just call him X.  Since he is no longer part of my daily life, and this really isn’t about him anyway,  there’s no need to drag his name into this.

We split last year. Now I’m a gay man, well-past the 40-year mark, adjusting to living alone, taking care of myself, and being a single-dad to two wonderful dogs. I’ve still got the house — and I guess that’s something. No, that’s not fair. It’s huge.  At least I don’t have to start all over again in that area.  Of course the mortgage is all mine too. And the utilities. And the maintenance.  Things like mowing the lawn, trimming the hedges, dusting, vacuuming, and remembering to take the trash out on collection day, all the simple things you probably spent most of your adolescent years dreaming of sharing with Mr Right, and now I’ve got to do them all myself.

I’ll leave the emotional venting to some other time. Break-ups are hard. And that’s how it should be. You don’t spend years intertwining your lives, then bring the giant meat cleaver down on that, and not have it mess up your head and your heart for a while. I’ve had it relatively easy in this department. Our break-up was a long time in the making, so there was plenty of time for emotional preparedness. Sure, I started leaving the radio on at night just so the house wouldn’t seem so empty when I went to bed. But hey, I’m a Christian guy, and I played Christian music, so I thought it had some added spiritual benefit to the house atmosphere anyway.

And I did what you gotta do when staying in a familiar environment without your familiar companion: I recreated it in my own image. I painted the bedroom, I rearranged the furniture, I threw out things he liked and had left behind, things I never really liked anyway. I cleaned out closets and cupboards. I emptied the fridge and freezer of foods that he mostly preferred. And I bought some new clothes. Okay, not too many. I’ve never been what you’d call a “stylish gay.” I tend more toward Levi jeans, simple long-sleeved shirts, and shoes all my friends say should belong to a lesbian.  But I discovered the wonders of discount clothing stores (Ross, Marshall’s, etc). Who knew?  The things you learn when you’re rebuilding your life, remaking your world. Alone. And after 40.

And what I discovered in the process is that none of these was a bad thing. They were unexpected opportunities for personal growth, for expanding my life-skill sets, for learning new things, trying new things.  It was even exciting. Few people get the chance to reinvent themselves, and I decided I was going to take advantage of it.

BYOB – Be Your Own Boyfriend

Romance yourself
One of my first decisions was that I was going to treat myself right. “BYOB.” Be Your Own Boyfriend.  The way I wanted to be treated by that special someone, is how I was determined to treat myself.  And hey, isn’t that a Christian attitude too? Just a spin on “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

I decided I would take care of myself — that I needed to take care of myself — in a few focused areas.

I would eat better.  With a grocery budget now available for just one, I had more freedom to buy better quality food.  Good-bye prepackaged stovetop side-kicks. Hello, organic produce, whole-grain breads, free-range, hormone-free chicken, and even higher quality junk food (I love me some Pepperidge Farms Brussels cookies).  And ya know? I can probably justify some decent coffee, too.  Although cooking was usually X’s department, I used to be pretty handy in the kitchen, and  I still find chopping vegetables and stirring a pot of something fresh on the stove to be almost therapeutic on lazy Saturday afternoons.  Like the pot of beef stew with sweet potatoes I’ve got simmering right now.  All those hours in front of the Food Network gotta be good for something.  Even my dogs are eating better — I dumped their Pedigree for a better quality, grain-free food.

I would maintain my body better. I’ve never been a gym-addict, and even regular exercise was always a struggle (as my neglected treadmill will testify), so I have no illusions about joining a fitness club. But I did buy a subscription to Men’s Health, and that counts for something, right?  And I am slowly learning the benefit of just doing something physical every day, a little at a time.  I read that you’d be surprised at the changes in your body by just doing 100 pushups a day (spread out throughout the day), and since I figured my butt could stand a little improvement, I added in 100 squats a day for good measure.  A set or two in the morning, some squeezed in during lunch, a few when I get home from work or on commercials during my tv time, and maybe even a few before bed.   Easy.  (Well, in theory, anyway ….)

That covers food and fitness. A good friend, my pastor, also warned me not to withdraw into my shell, not to become a recluse.  That way leads to a certain downward spiral into depression.  So I committed to maintaining — hell, if I’m gonna be honest, to starta healthy social life. X was never big on having friends around too much, and we had few friends in common. So this was gonna be breaking fallow ground for me.  I made up my mind to spend time with friends on a regular basis.  Just hanging out. Or going to lunch or dinner.  Or spending a little more time just chatting with people after church (still working on this one).  The key is this: a person’s sense of happiness is often directly tied to the quality of their social interactions. Friendships.  “Life is with people,” as the Jewish perspective goes. So if I am going to stay sane and healthy, this area is gonna require special effort.

And hey, maybe in the process, too, I can rediscover myself. I can rediscover some of my early passions that got squeezed out by the daily demands of a long-term relationship.  I’d always loved music — and by “music” I mean quality stuff, classical, orchestrated, even modern, anything good as long as it had “layers,” a depth of sound, and was fully emotive. Not some insipid Top 40 drivel that gets the most commercial air time (including some of that aforementioned Christian music crap). But X wasn’t a music-lover. And it wasn’t by any deliberate decision, but over time, I’d stopped listening. The multi-component stereo system I had when we met had devolved into a simple boom-box. That was gonna change — is changing.  I bought some new Sony equipment, excavated some of my old CD favorites, and my life already feels just a bit richer.  Music is gonna be welcomed back into my life.

Art, music, literature, theater, travel.  The staples of a gay man’s life (supposedly).  I hadn’t been to an art opening, a museum, or a concert in over a decade.  The pages of my latest passport are glaringly blank. The things I used to refer to in college as “quality of life” had gradually fallen to the wayside. I can’t blame X for this. Some of this is the natural consequence of growing up — of changing focus from a life of self-gratification and enjoyment to one where paying the mortgage, the medical insurance, and joint living expenses takes precedence.  Fine. I can’t be a carefree, irresponsible youth anymore. I don’t even want to.  But I do miss a good musical.

And that dating thing. Phew!  The world has changed radically since my former dating days.  The internet hadn’t progressed much beyond AOL chat rooms over a 24K modem when I was last actively in the market. Now the internet is buzzing with social networking sites, from match.com, CompatiblePartners (eHarmony doesn’t do gay, so they invented this sister site) and okCupid, to wild phone apps like Grindr and Growlr where you can connect for random hook-ups. (So I hear … eh hem.)   I’m checking the safe ones out, to be sure – ya never know where you might find true love.

Do I even want get back into a life-time, monogamous relationship?  Doesn’t everyone?  Lord knows, it’s not about the sex — well, not just about sex, especially when you’re closer to mid-life than puberty.  “It is not good for man to be alone” — God said that, so who am I to argue?  X may be gone, but I’m still here.  Life doesn’t end when a relationship does, and I still have a good 30 or 40 years ahead of me.   I’m not the only “divorced” guy out there trying to rebuild his life after-40.  Maybe I’ll run into one of them on this new leg of my journey. (“Call me.”)

I’m confident, with God’s help, I’ll someday be married again — even if it’s not recognized by my state.  But it’s gonna be a lot tougher on the new guy.  Once I get used to treating myself really well, to being my own boyfriend, he’s got a hard act to follow. The bar will be set a lot higher than it was when I was in my 20s and 30s.

 

 

 

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STEVE SCHMIDT serves on the pastoral staff of Expressions Church in Oklahoma City. He is a graduate of the seminary at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK, and holds two masters degrees in Biblical Literature and Divinity. He did his doctoral research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York. He blogs at CafeInspirado.com, and you can always find him skulking on Facebook.
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