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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From the Dust Bowl to Your Destiny

camals“Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran” (Gen 28:10).

What could be possibly one of the most boring verses in the entire Bible suddenly jumped out at me with such intensity and meaning, I just had to stop and stare at it for a while.

Jacob was a weasel. He was a trickster, somebody well-skilled in passive-aggressive behavior. He was a mama’s boy and a manipulator. He let people walk all over him. He was weak and wimpy. And I’m sure he was full of insecurities and self-doubts, and maybe even a little self-hatred. (Hey, kinda like a lot of us!) But he was also a man with a destiny. He had a role to fill in divine history, and God wasn’t gonna let a few personality flaws interfere with his ultimate plans.

So there he was, hanging out in Beersheba, a dusty little spot on the map, barren of life and luxury except for some scrub grass suitable only for livestock and a few wells his grandfather had dug. Not the kind of place to build a name for yourself. Not even the kind of place to build much of a life. But he wasn’t stopping there. He was on his way to Haran, a rich, exotic city sitting on the trade routes of civilization, looking for a wife and his future. Caravans carrying goods from Mesopotamia to Egypt, from Persia to what is now Turkey passed through that city, and it was known for it’s gold, spices, and precious stones. He was going from the southern most outpost of fertile land to the excitement of the big city in the north. But it wasn’t the city that held the key to his destiny. It was the journey itself.

“When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night …”
For many of us on the journey to new life and purpose, we overlook this important aspect: sometimes you just gotta stop moving, and camp out for a while. Something was about to happen to Jacob — he was hours away from that famous vision of angels ascending and descending the ladder between earth and God, a new revelation of God and about himself — and if he’d forced himself beyond that resting spot, if he’d continued his journey through the night in a hurry to get where he was going, he would have missed it. Like him, most of us tend to be restless. We’re running ahead at full steam, trying to escape (or at least change) our current situation, and reach the next stage of life, something better and more meaningful. But if we don’t slow down, if we don’t take advantage of our current situation, if we don’t learn whatever it is we’re supposed to glean from the present experience, we won’t be ready for that next step. Sometimes we have to slow down enough to listen.  And for once, perhaps for the first time in his life, Jacob doesn’t blow the opportunity. He rests. And then God speaks.

“I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.”
What’s missing here? Those of us who grew up in Sunday School can fill in the blanks. The title always goes “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” But that hasn’t happened yet. Jacob already had some years and experience under his belt, but he hadn’t come fully into himself yet. He hadn’t realized his full identity, nor had he developed a satisfactory relationship with God. His faith was still with the God of his fathers — or to put in another way, it was his parents’ religion. He had yet to really make it his own. But it’s during this journey that all that changes. It’s in the desert, in the sand, in the middle of nowhere on his way to somewhere, that God becomes real to him. And his life is changed from that moment on. After this trip, the God of Abraham and Isaac becomes the God of Jacob.   A new relationship, a divine partnership, is born.  And when that happens, nothing remains the same.

“I will give you and your descendants the land … You will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. And all peoples on earth will be blessed through you …”
It’s here, at this place of camping out, this place of quiet resting, at a break in the running, that Jacob gets the promise of the destiny he’s been looking for. God assures him that he will ultimately come into his own: he’ll inherit the land. But more than that, the purpose of his life is suddenly made clear: through him the whole earth will be blessed. It’s at this moment, at that rest-stop on the journey, that his life suddenly comes into focus. He is somebody. He has hope and a future. He is worth something.  All that scheming and manipulation, that striving for recognition and favor, the tricks and deceit, even his passive weakness, have not disqualified him from a purpose-filled and fulfilling life.  His mess-ups couldn’t shake the love and favor of God for him.

And on top of that, God promises to watch over him: “I am with you, and will watch over you wherever you go … I will never leave you …”  A new depth and quality to his life appeared out of nowhere in that moment.  It’s the breakthrough he needed in his quiet desperation, proof that his life had significance, that the world would be a better, more blessed place because of him.

His story continues, and a few chapters past this passage is another well-known event in his journey. It’s years later. He’s arrived in Haran, married the woman of his dreams (actually, got four women in the process), had eleven sons, and with God’s favor had become prosperous, despite his flawed character. And on one lonely night, still seeking to fill the void in his soul, he wrestles with a divine stranger till daybreak (Gen 32:24). Even though he’d achieved many of his goals — the love of a life-partner, a family of his own, the successful business — he’s still longing for deeper fulfillment. And he refuses to let the stranger go until he gets something from him: “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” But that’s exactly what the divine visitor came to do, and he gives Jacob a new name: “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men.” That life of constant struggle — deep within himself, with others around him, his family, and with God — God uses as material to forge his new identity. Though his journey in life would continue on for many more years, that part of the search for identity was finally complete. He now knew who he was, and what he was all about.

And none of this would have happened if he’d stayed in the dust bowl of Beersheba, if he hadn’t left his father’s house in search of his destiny.

For many of us, this is the story of our lives.
We’re restless and wanting more. We feel dissatisfied and unfulfilled where we are right now, and we have this nagging feeling in our guts that “there has to be more than just this.” There is.  A lot more. Your job is not done; your life is not stalled out. You are not stuck in the mud, or in the rut of your day to day grind. For those wanting more, there is new purpose and greater significance; there is a coming into your true identity, becoming all you were meant to be; there’s a deeper relationship with God, and a more fulfilling destiny — something bigger than yourself, something that will impact the world around you.   But it all happens along the way. It happens in the journey.

So don’t stop pressing. Don’t stop seeking God for more. Take advantage of where you are now, learn what you can, grow in the place where you’re planted — you’re more likely to hear the revelation you need to get you to the next step when you’re still enough to listen.  But don’t think that’s where your journey ends. You may be in a dusty spot, hanging out by a few wells of water, surrounded by little more than herds of sheep and goats, but Haran is calling. The fullness of your God-designed identity and destiny still await you. And this is God’s promise to you, as well as to Jacob. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. You’re gonna make it. You’re on the road from the dust bowl to your destiny.