Sometimes, people come into our lives who we really wish wouldn’t.
All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
I, being a fairly normal person all things considered, have often enjoyed romantic novels and movies and have been caught up in the idea of “one true love”. Knights in shining armor… starcrossed lovers… passionate embraces… soulmates… happily ever after… these ideas are part of the mainstream culture in which I live – and, actually, have been part of the human imagination for as long as we have had sculpted and written records of human imagination. The romantic notion of “one true love” can really become part of, not only our collective consciousness, but also the practical living of life. Young people looking for someone to love believe that there is one person out there just for them and either fate or chance will bring them together. Or not.
And, if the rush of feelings associated with falling in love begins to fade away after a marriage is already taken place, and married life begins to feel ho-hum or, worse, irritating, perhaps it’s because, the fairytale believing couple will think, they made a mistake. They thought that they were soulmates, but, since they’re unhappy with each other now, they must not be soulmates, so… that “one true love” is still out there somewhere. And they go looking for a relationship like the ones they see in movies and books.
Not everyone approaches dating and marriage this way, of course. Many, many couples make a real commitment to each other, choosing to appreciate, respect, and uphold each other for the rest of their lives. They work on communication, forgiveness, forbearance, patience, gratitude, consideration, demonstrations of affection, common ground, and so on and find the benefit of a long life together. Still other couples believe neither in fairytale true love nor in loving commitment and go about meeting and connecting with people on a day by day or year-by-year basis, whatever works for them at the time. It seems to me that passion does have its season in love and that, while seasons come and go, true friendship and companionship is what brings lasting joy to life. When two people can cooperate together, overcoming difficulties, forgiving flaws and errors, to make a life together of their choosing, side-by-side – that’s a very beautiful thing. And I believe that God blesses all those people who stick to it and remember to give love and mercy.
But, that’s not what I want to say in this reflection based on the given piece of Scripture. I want to talk about those ways in which people think that they will come across their “one true love”, whether by chance or fate.
A young, single woman’s car will break down late at night and only one shop will be opened nearby as the young, single male owner had to do inventory on Thursday because his father was sick on Wednesday… And so it begins.
A man will be walking quickly along a busy street and suddenly feel his phone fall out of his pocket and onto the sidewalk and, as he stops and turns to pick it up, a woman, who is walking to work earlier than usual because a sudden change of appointment means that she will have to leave work later, gets bumped by a man going in the opposite direction and crashes into the man bending over to retrieve his phone…. And so it begins.
These are the kinds of ways that we imagine people meeting their soulmates, an odd combination of circumstances and events that lead them both to their shared destiny. And these tales are usually romantic in nature. And, if not romantic, then perhaps violent, one of those fatal, foreboding, starcrossed kind of meetings that end up with two young punks growing up to be gangsters that kill each other. You know what I mean.
But, we rarely think about the shared destiny of two people helping each other. Yes, we’ve heard the stories of people needing organ transplants suddenly meeting someone who happens to be a willing match. But, we don’t go looking for these things to happen to us unless we are the ones in need of help, unless we are the ones searching, begging, and praying for a miracle. But, what if…
What if that very rude store clerk that waited on you today and made you feel stupid was actually being sent to you on purpose? Not to make you feel stupid, but to test you. And not to test you to see whether or not you would pass or fail, but to test you in the sense of making you stronger, improving some weakness in your character, helping you to become a better, more patient and compassionate person. What if the difficulties that you are having in your marriage is part of greater plan to help you grow closer to your spouse by forcing you to let go of old baggage, resentment, jealousy, and allowing you to trust, relax, to be more open and free in your acceptance of the other? What if the illness you contracted or the injury your loved one received was destined to be part of your life so that you could more fully live your life, learning and experiencing things that you never would’ve learned or experienced otherwise? What if every deformed person that you have ever walked by, trying hard not to stare or grimace, was put in your path for a reason? What if every over-demanding boss, lazy employee, noisy neighbor, two-faced friend, annoying coworker, and obnoxious family member was sent to you by God?
Oh, we’ll get caught up in those romantic stories of two lovers, ripe with fateful meetings and twists, sacrificing all in order to be together forever. But, the new clergyman at church who seems aloof and comes annoyingly across as stubborn and willful? No, that’s a mistake, he shouldn’t be here. That homeless man that always sits on the sidewalk by the grocery store, dirty, out of it, begging for cash so that he can get drunk or high? No, that’s a breakdown in society, someone should do something about getting him away from such a public place – but, not you, right?
You cannot even think that you are being called to learn what you can from the new clergyman instead of looking for cutting ways to teach him a few lessons on what happens when he treats people that way. If you are called to do anything, it’s to criticize him behind his back and leave the church if he stays there any longer, right? And you cannot even think of yourself as the one being called to speak to that homeless man a word of sympathy, a word of helpfulness, or to give him a sandwich, a blanket, a cup of hot coffee, or kind directions to a place where he can get a hot shower and a change of clothes and maybe a bed for the night. No, not you. Do you even think about how that could be you on the sidewalk? Do you even take a moment to be grateful, a moment to be kind? Or do you just shake your head and walk away?
Maybe if you showed genuine kindness and interest in the new clergyman and his life, you could start to break down some of his walls and learn that he had a troubled childhood with a distant father or a shyness that he found very difficult to overcome, only finding solace in routines that are familiar to him. And, maybe, in the sharing of your own difficulties with him, you will start to see your own difficulties in a new light and, in seeking to comfort him, you end up being comforted by him and you both become friends, deciding that you should work together, overcoming your own challenges, to reach out to other congregants who might be facing the same issues?… And so it begins.
Maybe if you take some time for conversation with the homeless man, you will find out that he is a veteran and that he served with your dad and when you tell your dad about it, he comes with you to meet him and they recognize each other and, not only does the homeless man start to want to improve his life with the help of your dad, but your dad is able to face some of the demons from his time in military service and becomes a lighter and happier man himself?… And so it begins.
Okay, yes, these sound like movies, too. And I, like Hollywood, am making them seem easier than they would in real life. But, are these possibilities even part of our collective consciousness? Are they even part of our own ideas of the possible? Do we look for these moments in our lives?
I think this passage from John for my Bible Burst today is rather interesting. If we just look at the words themselves without taking into context anything else that Jesus has said (which, by the way, is something that you should never ever do if you want to know who Jesus is) we might find a message for ourselves. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” Jesus receives the people that God The Father has sent to him, not because he, Jesus, has chosen them himself, but because they have come to him by the Father’s will. And Jesus doesn’t cast them out of his life (even if he might like to).
If we truly understand that God is all-knowing and all powerful, then maybe we can start believing that God has sent everyone to us in our lives on purpose – not to punish us or reward us, but to help us become the people that He has created us to be. We don’t choose our families, and we may not like our coworkers, neighbors, or the people in our community, but they have been chosen for us by God. They are part of our destiny. Let’s not cast them out. Let us embrace them and see where God is leading us… For God desires our ultimate happiness and knows how to get us there.
© 2016 Christina Chase
photo credit: http://www.lifeofpix.com/