Monday, March 02, 2020

Anonymous Asks (82)

“Should I wait for God to bring me a boyfriend?”

Let’s apply this “wait for God” principle to a few of life’s other important questions and consider how much sense it makes, as well as the mostly likely outcome of waiting:

“Should I wait for God to deliver  dinner?” (Starvation)
“Should I wait for God to provide me with a job?” (Chronic unemployment)
“Should I wait for God to wash my car?” (An unspeakably filthy vehicle)

Of course, by the sheerest of coincidences you may get a call from a friend who wants to take you out for a bite, a relative may mention his firm needs a new customer service rep with nothing in his résumé and no discernible skill set, and it may rain buckets and conveniently scour the inch or two of accumulated grunge from your old Toyota. But there is no guarantee any of these things will occur, let alone all three, and certainly no way of confirming that God was involved even if they do.

Weird Ideas and Where They Come From

The ancients waited on the Lord because all other options were exhausted, not because they were too indecisive, incompetent or lazy to act. They were generally in deep distress, not looking to pair up. And where do we get the idea that God is the one who personally selects our prospective life partners ... let alone somebody to date in our teens, when we are often not financially ready to set up a home or life partnership anyway?

Possibly from the Genesis account of Adam, for whom no fit helper was found from among the beasts. Therefore God made him a woman and brought her to him. (See, biblical authority!) Maybe. Or maybe not. Adam was the proto-man. Many things true of Adam and Eve are not true of the rest of us. And would you really like to have Adam’s set of options? Or Eve’s, for that matter?

Then again, maybe the idea of God bringing you a partner comes from the story of Isaac and Rebekah. But no, while God was certainly involved in making it all work out happily, all the energy behind the Isaac/Rebekah pairing came from Isaac’s father Abraham, who sent his servant to his relatives in Mesopotamia to find a wife for his son. Would you like to see what sort of boyfriend your parents would choose for you?

Or maybe it’s the story of Boaz and Ruth that stands as a favorite example of Divine providence. And yet that really doesn’t work either. The Bible narrative clearly indicates Ruth made the initial approach to Boaz (with a fair bit of guidance from her mother-in-law), and not the other way around.

Or maybe it’s the story of the prophet Hosea, to whom God said, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom ...” But even in this extreme case, it was Hosea who, out of all the prostitutes in Israel, specifically selected Gomer to be his wife. Hopefully she was at least a little bit attractive.

On second thought, maybe we’d best just leave that one alone.

The Miraculous Boyfriend Delivery

The very few “romantic” stories we find in scripture do not make much of a case for passively waiting around for a miraculous boyfriend delivery. In a few biblical cases, God may well have been involved in working out the more congenial details, but there is generally a great deal of human agency at work as well. The initiation of most relationships in scripture is very much on the human side. Moreover, for every Adam, who had his wife hand-delivered, there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of examples to be found in scripture of people who had their partners chosen for them by parents, or who chose a partner according to their own set of criteria.

Now, this is not to say that God should not be a vitally important consideration in any serious choice one makes in life, including the choice of a life partner. It is also not to say that nobody can ever point to difficulties along the road to marriage that seem to have been overcome almost miraculously. God certainly answers the right sort of prayers for the right sort of people.

Getting God Involved

If there is any legitimate biblical sense in which God brings other people into our lives to become our partners, it is in the sense that we need to abandon the world’s standards of judgment and learn to use God’s character standards as the measure of the people we consider. God then become our “filter” to screen out the sort of partner who will ultimately disappoint us (not to mention their filter for assessing our choices and behavior). Only when we are carefully following the principles of God’s word with respect to an appropriate partner can we say with any confidence that God has “brought” us anything at all. (A list of practical and spiritual considerations in choosing a partner may be found here.)

In addition, we need to bring God into our relationships through constant prayer, asking that he make us alert to warning signs we might otherwise miss, and that he keep us from the sort of delusions infatuated people tend to fall into. We also need to be able to walk away from a prospect who doesn’t pass the scriptural character test rather than waiting around indefinitely for God to magically fix relationship problems for us. He may not.

But, with the rarest of exceptions, nothing will happen if you are not out there looking, and making yourself visible by taking every opportunity to involve yourself in activities that please God and serve his people. It is my experience that many people who sit home passively waiting for a partner to appear in their lives tend to end up single.

Whose fault would that be? Certainly not God’s.

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