Monday, June 22, 2009

Repost: Searching and Surrendering

A time to search and a time to give up…

                        Ecclesiastes 3.6

The Same Old Song

Solomon’s statement about knowing when to search and when to give up evokes more Top 40 hits than one might first 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 and 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 search so long (often in all the wrong places) without ever finding what we’re looking for—why we can’t get no satisfaction though we try and we try and we try and we try. If we took time to examine 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 convince ourselves what we’re seeking is useful and noble, all the while overlooking the reasons we want it aren’t prudent; too often we camouflage the insignificance of underlying desires—impressing neighbors, for instance, or building a façade—by attaching unneeded importance on things that impress others or foster illusions. Examining these and myriad other motives exposes 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 it’s 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 dream-chasers.

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.

If we’re not searching for the right things for the right reasons, it’s time to surrender our flawed quest and correct our course.

(Tomorrow: Retaining and Ridding)

Personal Postscript: Home Safe and Sound

Walt and I are back at home after a terrific week’s vacation. We thank all of you for your prayers for our safety as we traveled. We were blessed to visit Prague, a city we’ve dreamt of seeing for years, and found it every bit as fascinating and delightful as we’d heard it was. We met some great people, locals and fellow travelers, who taught us quite a lot—so much, in fact, that I’m still trying to process all the information. Some of it is relevant to our discussion here, actually, and I hope to write about it soon.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue reposting the Ecclesiastes series through this week, mostly because I believe it’s not a bad idea to revisit it, but also to free up some time to get out to your blogs and sites. The past few months have been so busy I’ve not had proper time to visit with you and I’m feeling all the poorer for it. So while I’m home and back at the desk, I’m going to keep traveling, knowing what I find at “your place” will be just as fascinating and delightful as anything we discovered while we were away.

Walt in the Rampart Gardens at Prague Castle
Tim on the Charles Bridge.


Cuboid Master said...

Prague is beautiful! I love Prague Castle. Unfortunately, I have never been there but I admire the photos of it at night. Such a lovely place, there with a tranquil river and ornate bridge. You and Walt are so adorable! I see you have a "I"m Happy at Home" tummy, tee-hee. I am so glad the two of you enjoyed your holiday. I can't wait to read about the people you met and the thoughts they shared. God bless you both!

Tim said...

Ah yes, the tummy. I fought with myself about posting the pix because I look like a candidate for a "before and after" weight-loss ad in every shot of me, which gratefully are few. Thank you for kindly attributing it to domestic happiness. (Though Walt's not so happy about it--he keeps reminding me my 50th is fast approaching and the longer I wait to get back in shape the sooner I'm likely to fall into geriatric ruin. He's right, of course.)

Yes, Prague is unbelievably beautiful. Our first night there we wandered over to Old Town Square and turned the corner to see the peripheral buildings lighted up and the spires of the adjacent cathedral glowing in the sky, we literally gasped. Then, almost on cue, we both started giggling like schoolboys because, at last, we discovered what Disneyland was meant to be. It was pure magic!

Like you, CM, we've looked at pictures of Prague for years, idly hoping one day to see it in person-- unlikely perhaps but not impossible. Then, two weeks before Walt's vacation started, we were on the phone with our travel company.

This is why it's never a bad idea to ask for more than our immediate needs. Sometimes it's good to throw in a few wishes, too. "Ask whatever you wish in My name," Jesus said, "and it will be given you." Visiting Prague wasn't even a wish, but more of a wisp, a fleeting idea that bobbed up now and then. And then--wham--we were on our way. (I personally find one of our Father's most charming qualities to be how we never know what He'll do next...)

Blessings of unexpected joy and sudden surprises to you, CM!

Your brother,