Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Searching and Surrendering

A time to search and a time to give up…

                        Ecclesiastes 3.6

The Same Old Song

Thinking about this evokes more Top 40 hits than one might expect: The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” U2’s “Still Haven’t Found,” Waylon Jennings’s “Lookin’ for Love,” Chicago’s “Searchin’ So Long”—the list is endless. It’s also enlightening. It tells how deeply seated our drive to find and claim what we haven’t got really is. The compulsion is so overwhelming it eclipses questioning why we’re not satisfied, haven’t found what we’re looking for, etc. If we took proper time to analyze our objectives, though, we’d get a clearer idea of why we’re always singing the same old song.

There are as many reasons for not locating what we want as songs about it. For the record, let’s toss a few around. We may search for more than we can handle or less than we need. We may be captivated by an imaginary ideal that prevents us from seeing the real thing. We may look for something actually secondary to more elusive goals like impressing neighbors or building a façade. Our search may rise from envy or insecurity that ignores the thing itself to focus on what it symbolizes. Examining these and myriad other motives exposes flaws behind the futility of our search. In such cases, it’s time to give up and seek fulfillment in more beneficial, realistic pursuits.

Unexpected Places

Not every search is superficial, though. If it’s legitimately worthy, our search stays in effect until its objective is realized. It demands commitment and endurance. What we’re after remains top of mind. Our eyes stay open and faith guides us to believe it’s already there, waiting to be found. Where “there” is, though, isn’t always where we anticipate it will be. Many searches end in unexpected places, in unusual ways. Matthew 17 describes an incident where taxmen confront Peter about Jesus’s unpaid temple dues. While there’s a bigger point to the story—honoring obligations—what happens illustrates why we never dismiss any endpoint as too unlikely. Peter has no cash. He takes the problem to Jesus, essentially looking for money to pay the tax. “Go fishing,” Jesus says. “You’ll find it in the mouth of the first fish you catch.” It probably was the craziest idea Peter ever heard. Yet he took Jesus at His word and found what he needed.

Finding Love

The most significant search most of us ever undertake is finding love that lasts a lifetime. This quest is particularly urgent for gay people, many of whom view loving partnerships as the ultimate means of validating their worth and reconstructing self-images critically marred by hatred and rejection. The “urge to merge” plays such a potent, prevalent role in our overall community, however, that wisdom is vital to know what we’re really searching for versus what our culture encourages us to seek. Our media and merchants jam our minds with so many images, myths, and mystiques—and we invent so many codes, rituals, and catchphrases—that it’s a constant struggle to hold fast to our search. Too many distractions interrupt us. Too many surfaces gleam. Too many dreams cloud our focus. So our streets and establishments teem with Mr./Ms. Right Nows while Mr./Ms. Rights seem nowhere to be found. But if we’re there, they’re there, because we are they. Yet instead of seeking someone worthy and willing to love us as we are, we insist on circling the ring, looking for someone better—butcher, buffer, bigger, etc., etc., etc. Our world is full of lonely lookers chasing illusions.

If we’re truly sincere in seeking meaningful, lasting love, we have Jesus’s promise we’ll find it. Matthew 7.7 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” We must believe that and take confidence we’ll find what we seek. But before we jump into our jeans and head to the hunting grounds, we should heed Jesus’s warning above His promise: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.” Placating ourselves with momentary pleasure puts us off our search and belittles our bodies, our emotions, and our beings as disposable commodities. It numbers us with the fast and furious crowd, putting us in serious jeopardy of being stampeded and ripped to shreds. “There’s a time for searching and a time for surrendering,” Solomon writes. Our search for what’s real will come to naught if we won’t surrender the unreal figments and fantasies we cling to and let cling to us.

Sincerity in our search requires surrendering our illusions.

(Tomorrow: Retaining and Ridding)


Cuboid Master said...

As always, a beautiful post, Tim. You mentioned an important truth: "We must...take confidence we'll find what we seek." That is the most difficult aspect of prayer, to believe with 100% of your being that God will provide. God wants all people to enjoy the companionship and love of a life partner, thus we must believe it will happen. Not with desperation, not with doubt, but with absolute certainty. I only absorbed that truth into my being a few years ago. Thanks to God, I found the one for me. If both parties are focused on living exemplary lives and following the path of Jesus, both will steadily enjoy greater closeness to God. Partnership is such a gift! With patience and trust in God, we will all enjoy this bounty at least once in our lives. I pray all my GLBT brothers and sisters find this, as I pray my beautiful gay son will, as well.

afeatheradrift said...

As usual Tim, most thoughtful and lovely. Stop my afeatheradrift and pick up a little gift I have for you today!

johnmichael said...

Thanks again for these words of wisdom.
I think for me, the search for everything has just begun...and maybe with some luck, I'll be able to completely step out of the closet instead of just opening a window.

Tim said...

Hey Cube--great to see you! You're so right, praying with 100% confidence is the toughest aspect of the search--knowing the answer's there before we see it. But so much of the time, our confidence is all we've got to keep us going. That's why we keep a mental scrapbook of our past searches, filled with "snapshots" of similar moments along the way and the happy moments when the search ended. When we're losing confidence in what we're presently seeking, it's good to look to the past and say, "If He did it before, He'll do it again!"

Sherry, wow! Thank you so much for including me in this honor--and for saying such lovely things about Straight-Friendly. My folks always taught us "A house is known by the company it keeps." With you (and dozens of other amazing people who drop by), I'm privileged to live in one of the finest houses around! Thanks again.

Johnmichael, the search isn't always easy, but it's constantly exciting--even when it feels futile, because we know where it's leading. As Cube mentioned above, prayer is the key to the whole thing. This is particularly true concerning when and how we come out. I firmly believe it's essential to our personal integrity and that of our relationships that we not hide who we are. Yet coming into our own is a fragile, sometimes worrisome process. As you open the door and step into new light and freedom of self-acknowledgment, I can't encourage you strongly enough to remain prayerful and confident. "In this world you'll have problems," Jesus told us, "but take heart! I have overcome the world." He knows the path we take; He's already been down it. Keep your eyes on Him and you'll find what you're looking for.

Blessings to you all,