When I was 23 I went on a blind date.
I’m not really sure why I did this. I only knew his name and that he was a farmer and a ‘friend of a friend’. My mates all said stuff like ‘It’ll be fun!’ and ‘It’s always nice to meet new people!’
So he texted to confirm arrangements and I replied writing, ‘Great, looking forward to it’. Which was, of course, a lie.
Anyway, we met at this Italian place in town. Ten years ago blind dates were truly ‘blind’ because there was no Facebook or WhatsApp to have a sneaky peek at your date. And so I turned up having no idea who I was looking for. I remember when I arrived at the restaurant there were a few blokes sitting around waiting for a take away pizza…and I broke out in a cold sweat, thinking this is insane, I should leave – but then my date arrived.
Once at our table he immediately ordered a steak -just a steak, that was it. And he looked slightly bored as I scanned the menu, so I hurriedly choose some lasagne.
Then there was a silence. Not a comfortable, contemplative silence. An awkward one.
But I can pretty much talk to anyone so I began assaulting the poor guy with questions. Hundreds of them. Anything to fill the silence that ironically screamed, ‘This is so dire, Tory! Get out of here, you dummy!’
The whole evening was quite hard work but my blind date was polite and well mannered and to be fair, quite buff. The truth is, we just had nothing much in common and there was no spark, no connection. Plus, he didn’t even order a dessert, people. Perhaps he was really keen to wrap things up but to not even split a Tiramisu? Madness.
So we said all the right things, had the awkward dispute over the bill and went on our merry way.
But here’s the thing.
When I came out of the restaurant there was a text on my phone from the guy I was actually really interested in. This guy made my heart beat faster and my tummy feel weird. We had some ‘history’ and the idea of getting together wasn’t straight-forward, by any means, but when I was around him all good sense went out the window. The idea of effort and patience and change with this person didn’t scare me because I knew it was worth the risk and commitment. The truth is I don’t know why I knew, I just did.
Anyway, he had heard about my blind date. (because I told him pahahaha) and he asked if I would consider giving us a bash instead. Which I did.
And now we’re married with 3 kids. (Yeeeoooo)
All this to say- I reckon in life some things follow a formula and some things hold a mystery all of their own. Like, my blind date was fine – we had the right setting, we had great food, I looked nice and He was handsome – but it wasn’t enough. Falling in love is so much more than a formula. It requires something else, something mysterious that can’t be manipulated or reasoned or explained, even. And probably when we try too hard to make it happen, we can ruin it.
I wonder how often I apply formulas to things that are supposed to hold some sort of mystery? I wonder how much of the beauty and the wonder is lost?
Worse still, am I ever in danger of destroying these things completely?
It makes me think about how easily I can reduce my faith to a formula.
My story is perhaps like yours in that for many years I was steeped in a religious culture that told me if I did this and looked like that and remembered to do the other, then all would be well. I would be accepted and loved by God and those around me.
Much like mixing blue and yellow to get green, I spent a long time hoping to mix church attendance with no bad language and end up with Jesus.
And the truth is, I actually managed this pretty well. Turns out, I am good at making good impressions. I mean, no one would have been able to tell that on the inside I was tired and confused and isolated.
No one would have known that as I sang songs about freedom and hope I actually felt under pressure, guilty and a bit lost. My redemption lay in a formula of good behaviour and right living, and somehow I had replaced relationship with rules.
And so in truth, the whole thing was missing something- or actually, someone.
It’s always been about Jesus and what He has done and the relationship He freely offers us.
Incredible hope is in Him. Wholeness and peace are in Him. Radical life in all its fullness, is only found in Him.
It’s all so pointless without Him.
And so, to the person who lists all the reasons they aren’t good enough to become a Christian I say -that’s okay, but can we just talk about Jesus? Can we just talk about how much He loves you and your mess? He knows you have been let down. He knows what you carry. He weeps for the ways in which you have been hurt. He knows you have questions and doubts.
And the thing is, I don’t have a winning formula for you. I have a person – Jesus.
It’s taking a lifetime but I’m learning He didn’t come to make the good people better. He came to bring life and peace to everyone, all of us, everywhere. He came to invade our hearts and our souls and restore everything that felt lost.
It’s true that sometimes it is hard to let go of the winning formula. It feels like I am wired to resist grace, constantly proving my worth with all I can do, earning my salvation with the rules and the rituals. My heart is prone to wander off in search of another way to redeem myself…
But no right formula will ever save me. Only God can do that.
And it’s crazy, but I find that when I rest in the light of a love so great, I am motivated to surrender to His ways. I am actually drawn to everything that is pleasing to Him and brings Him glory. My faith in a God of love flourishes, as does my character and relationships and values. My hopes and dreams start to reflect that of my creator God. And I begin to move to a rhythm that is superior to my own…
A few days ago, I was walking home from a bible club with my daughter and out of the blue she said, ‘Mummy, I believe in God. I can feel Him when I pray. I know He loves me.’
And I thought to myself- crikey, in three short sentences you have sort of nailed this faith stuff, Autumn.
But then I began to think of all the ways I could make her faith a success – in other words, all the ways I could control it. I was so eager to pile formulas onto a faith that is already so simple and pure it makes me want to be five years old again.
Imagine if she was to enjoy her faith- explore it, be suspicious and honest and real about it? Imagine if she’s okay with the mystery and actually leans into it?
Forget the formulas.
Surrender to a faithful God.
And live the gracious mystery that is a real relationship with Himself.