Yesterday was the 12th anniversary of the first time Steve asked me out. This year is first time since then that I’ve remembered that particular date. I think it popped up because I’ve been thinking about this blog series on adopting from foster care, and what it takes to want and go after big things.
Perhaps the best thing about the way Steve asked me out and our “courtship” (I’m reclaiming that word from the Duggars) was that from the beginning, Steve was very clear with his intentions.
I’d prayed for this. I’d spent a year or so caught up in a swirl of not-quite-dating situations, and watched the same thing happen to others. It was like all the stakes felt so high and scary, no one was brave enough to admit that we wanted to find a wife or husband, and that the first step to that is to say, “Would you like to go out sometime?” in a way that makes it clear that this is a romantic overture, not just a chance to work at lowering your score at mini-golf.
It takes courage to take a clear first step, because it shows the world (or what feels like the world; usually it’s only a couple of people) that you want something. As I prayed for a husband, I prayed that God would lead that guy to be really clear in his intentions toward me, and for our dating, engagement, and marriage to be free from equivocation and confusion.
And I prayed for what I really wanted: that the guy would pursue me – that he would do the asking out and the initiating. I knew that in days to come, when perhaps I might not feel all that lovely, it would help to know that my husband chose me voluntarily, rather than being caught in an awkward situation that somehow spiraled into a wedding just because I’m good at taking risks. I prayed for a husband who’d be braver and bolder than me. (This felt like one of the 995 ways God prompted me to narrow the pool of viable candidates into the equivalent of a bird-bath, even AFTER He moved me from the Bible Belt to New England and THEN said, “Pray for a husband who’s a Christian.” It was all just ridiculous. )
My experience of MAPP class felt like this same kind of risk: to show up on that first day was, in essence, a declaration: that we wanted to be parents, and we needed CFCS to help us find the right child/children. It was, in a way, like working with a matchmaker.
At some level, we could have “faux-dated” this process – when asked, we could have waxed poetic about the spiritual imperative we see in the Bible to care for orphans, and talked about how called we feel to help children in need. We could have tried to make it seem like we were noble and heroic, rather than wanting something and taking a risk to get it.
But that would have been a lie; an attempt to hide our vulnerability by approaching this as SAVIORS OF CHILDREN!!! rather than just everyday people who needed help creating a family.
That’s kind of the human way, trying to be saviors instead of people with wants we need help fulfilling. We lie because it is flat-out terrifying to admit that we want something big, even if that big thing is good. (A corollary to this is our tendency to talk endlessly about what we want but never take the steps to go after it because we’re so afraid it won’t work out.)
It’s also hard to go after big things. But we were made for hard. We’re good at it. The Bible isn’t a collection of stories of men and women basking in nirvana. A man and a woman screwed up nirvana after about 14 minutes, and now our story is of navigating a life filled with hard challenges. As we take on these challenges, though, we find ourselves closer to nirvana – God’s heavenly Kingdom, here on earth. It’s complicated. There are some serious ups and downs on that ride. But it’s worth it, and ultimately so much more satisfying than living without things that feel essential while pretending to be fine with the status quo.
I saw this expressed in a quote somewhere online last week, something about how the happiness we crave is found through self-sacrifice, not self-expression. I just stared at the screen wishing I could underline or highlight, thinking, “It’s is so TRUE!”
Twelve years ago, it might not have worked out between Steve & me. His asking me out was only a first step. I could have said no. Or we might not have been compatible, and wow, that would have been crushing. But we’d be better off for trying. There’s a lot to be said for knowing you tried. In the same way, MAPP class might not have worked out for us. That would have been disappointing. But we’d be better off for having gone for it than being left wondering.
There’s an expression you hear a lot in sports, about leaving it all out on the field. It means going after every play like it’s the most important one, not holding anything back. I think it’s a moderately helpful metaphor for life, because unlike a game that has a defined timeframe, life goes on until we die and we don’t usually know when that will happen; we need times of going for it and times of rest. But I do think that the idea of recognizing what we want and then REALLY going for it – through prayer, preparation, and clear steps forward/showing up ready to play – is so valuable. Over the course of my life, I want to leave it all out on the field.
This week, if you see a door open for something you know you want, step through it. If you don’t yet see a door, pray for one to open, and for God to light it up such that you can’t help but recognize the invitation.