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.

 

 

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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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You ARE home. Get Used to It

earth-lightSongs are important. The words we sing, the words we listen to, sink in and take hold of us. That’s why I get so annoyed when I hear Christian songs on the radio or choruses and hymns sung in church that relay bad theology.  I’m not just talking about esoteric theology, like debates about Trinity or what happens at the end of time. But when we’re talking about fundamental perspectives of life, it’s kind of important.

I’ve been hearing this one song over and over again on Christian radio, and it’s bugged me every time. And today, it just struck a deep enough nerve to make me want to say something.  It goes like this:

All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong

And I want to yell “bullshit” every time I hear it.

Guess what? You were born on this earth for a reason. You were put here by God intentionally. This is not just some temporary holding place until it’s your turn to catch a ride to the other side of eternity.  The earth is your home, and it’s about time you get used to it.

Such songs about being sojourners in a foreign land, yes, they do have some biblical basis.  This life is transitory. And it’s hard.  And let’s face it, when life is hard, when we endure loss, grief, hardship, suffering, we long for this life to be over and to move on a place of peace and eternal joy.  And these songs also remind us to not put too much stock in achieving earthly glory, wealth or power. Ultimately, it will all be dust.

But here’s the simple truth.  God created humanity.  And he placed us here.

He did not birth us as only spiritual creatures designed to live in ethereal realms.  When God decided to create human beings, he placed us on earth, in the Garden of Eden – not in some spooky spiritual dimension.  He gave us physical bodies, and gave us plants to eat.  He put us here to work, to tend the garden, to occupy ourselves here, and to enjoy the beauty and fruit of the place. And he called it “good!”  This is your home.

We have bodies. We have minds. We have emotions. And we have spirits.  We are an integrated being, not separate slices piled on top of each other. That old saying, “you are a spirit, you have a soul, you live in a body,” is partially true.  But the full truth is “you are a spirit, you are a soul, you are a body.”  So important are these components, so inextricably intertwined and interdependent, that the Bible tells us at the end of all things, at the Great Resurrection, we will be forever clothed in flesh.  Resurrected flesh, to be sure, a glorified body, but a body nonetheless (1 Cor 15:42-54).  And, if the book of Revelations is taken literally, God himself will move his Throne from Heaven to earth, and the dwelling place of God will be on earth with humanity for all time (Rev 21:2-3).  Even if this is taken figuratively, God comes to dwell with/within man — not that we should be eagerly seeking an otherworldly existence.

Early biblical interpreters universally shared this perspective of living in the here and now, in this world.  Rabbis from the first centuries talked about the earth as a gift to man, showing God’s favor on us. And the creation story of Genesis is explained in a parable of a great king who prepares a banquet.  First he makes all the preparations, and then he invites the guests of honor.  “Adam was created [last of all things] on the eve of Sabbath. And why?  …  That he might straightway go in to the banquet.  The matter may be compared to a king of flesh and blood who built palaces and furnished them, prepared a banquet, and thereafter brought in the guests” (b.San 38a).  And Philo, a contemporary of the Apostle Paul, echoes the universality of this as the accepted understanding when he relates a similar story:  “Just as givers of a banquet, then, do not send out the summonses to supper till they have put everything in readiness for the feast … exactly in the same way the Ruler of All Things … when about to invite man to the enjoyment of a feast and a great spectacle, made ready beforehand the material…” (On Creation 78).

The earth was made and prepared for us.
And we were made to live and enjoy life here.
This is your home; you do belong here.

Ya know, sometimes the earth is a mess. People are hurting, and you’ll hurt too. But you were placed here to be salt and to be light.  To do good things.  And to enjoy the beauty and fruit of the garden. So isn’t it about time you stop focusing on — and singing about — flying away to glory and escaping the bonds of this earthly life, and start getting about the business you were placed here to do?

You’ve got a mission. You’ve got a purpose. And you are not done yet. This is where you are meant to be. This is your home. Get used to it.

 

[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’ve got important work to do — and you’re gonna need some help!

helper2As 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.

It 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, 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 amorous 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.

The Sabbath is Your Day. Enjoy It!

shabbat
Shabbat Shalom, y’all

I grew up hating Sundays. (My poor mom is probably feeling all guilty about that now. Sorry, mom.)

Sunday was church day. It was “the Lord’s Day”, and we were supposed to honor God by getting dressed up, sitting through tedious (to me) sermons, singing some dreary songs, spending the afternoon quietly resting (impossible for us kids), and then enduring another church service in the evening. And, seemingly all too often, the day ended with an after-service scolding for bad behavior during church. I couldn’t wait for Monday to roll around again.

Somehow we got the impression that Sunday was reserved for somber activity. It was not to be profaned. It even had one of the big 10 Commandments protecting it. It wasn’t until I got to spend a lot of time with Jewish friends that I discovered the heart of the Sabbath.

Okay, first, let’s dispense with the academics. Yeah, Sunday is not technically the Sabbath. Saturday is. So, can we Christians get off our high horse about protecting the “holy day” considering we’ve even got the wrong day? And “the Lord’s Day” does not mean the day belongs to the Lord — everyday belongs to the Lord. That term came into use during the earliest days of the Church to commemorate the day Jesus was resurrected, and mostly among Gentile believers. Jesus’ first disciples were all Jewish, and they continued celebrating the Sabbath on Saturday like Jesus had done.

Honestly, though, I don’t think God is terribly concerned about the correctness of the day. He is more concerned that we honor its purpose and intent. That we take a much-needed break from doing our normally scheduled routine, that “sweat of the brow” stuff, and use the day to re-energize, relax, enjoy some peace, get back in touch with real priorities in life, and even renew our connection with him. It’s a day when we’re not preoccupied with everyday chores and concerns. So, with that in mind, here’s a little gift of liberty to my hard-working friends: if you can’t take off work every Sunday (or Saturday), use whatever day you do have off as your Sabbath. Going to church or temple is not a requirement of the day; it’s just a perk.

And here’s another key distinction: the Sabbath is for “celebrating”, not sitting around, “quietly resting” as though we were in mourning. My Jewish friends would gather for a huge Friday night dinner (Shabbat begins sundown Friday and ends sundown Saturday). Fresh flowers would be on the table. Candles would be lit. There’d be prayer, thanking God for the food and for the gift of the Sabbath, recognizing how he sanctified it, setting it apart, for special use. And then there’d be wine, and good food, laughter, talking, enjoying each other’s company, and maybe even dancing. We “honored” the Sabbath by celebrating it as a holiday. So much so, in fact, that it’s tradition to eat three festive meals during the day. It is a gift from God for our enjoyment. As Jesus himself reminded us, “Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27).

Sure, there are some restrictions on the day. That’s part of its purpose. My religiously observant friends wouldn’t drive on the Sabbath. They wouldn’t cook — that’s work, so all meal preparations were done the day before so we could just enjoy the day. Some of them wouldn’t watch TV or carry things. As a Christian embracing liberty as my spiritual right, I sometimes found some of their personal choices a bit over the top, but that was their way of ensuring they reaped the full benefit of the peace of the day. “Shabbat Shalom”, the blessing spoken to each other, is a hope and a prayer that we would find sufficient grace and peace to restore us and equip us for the coming week. And that, I firmly believe, is what is in the heart of God when he instructed us to “keep the Sabbath”.

It’s not about being quiet. It’s not about whether you watch football on TV or go to the movies on this holy day. And (sorry, Pastor), it’s not even about whether you make it to church or synagogue. It’s about taking time off to gather together, enjoy each other, and enjoy God in our company (that’s where church fellowship can be a special blessing). It’s about recognizing this amazing gift of grace given to us — a day every week when we can shift gears, slow down, reconnect, and celebrate life. God planned it that way from the beginning. And not just for my Jewish friends. For all of us — it was given to Adam and Eve before there was any such thing as Jew or non-Jew. It’s our birthright as humans, for anyone who will receive it as part of God’s design for us.

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath, … if you call the Sabbath a delight, and the LORD’s holy day honorable, … then you will find your joy in the LORD …”, the prophet Isaiah tells us (Isa 58:13-14).

It’s about joy. It’s about rest and reconnecting. It’s a celebration of life. The Sabbath is a “delight”! And we should treat as such.

So … Shabbat Shalom, everybody. May whatever day you choose as your Sabbath be one of joy and refreshment, family and friends, good food and fellowship. It’s your inheritance from God. Enjoy it.