Writing today at Middle Places about falling in love and finding it wasn't all I was looking for...
I was single for most of my twenties.
I was hopeful about finding Mr. Right but it seemed like a long shot because I was a campus pastor. Most of the men in my life were college undergraduates or married colleagues in ministry, neither of which were appropriate pools for mate selection.
After reading a book about looking for love, I ambitiously tried to put myself out there, wanting to expand my circle of potential love interests.
I took an open-to-the-community class at Stanford University where I worked. I met a lot of men, median age 72.
I signed up for knitting lessons at the community center. I met 5 middle aged women and a cat.
I started regularly going to a nearby café by myself without my phone or a book, hoping to strike up a conversation. But since everyone else did have a friend, phone or book, love didn’t find me there either. I did meet one interesting guy, but halfway through our conversation I realized he wanted me to invest in his time-share. Sigh.
I told my friends I’d be open to blind dates. After 2 blind dates, I told my friends I was not open to blind dates. Can I get an amen?
And then it just happened one day, at the wedding of mutual friends. I was officiating the service and Chris was a groomsman. At the reception he told me he liked my sermon and then asked me to dance.
I know. What a pickup line.
He called three days after the wedding and the next weekend, we had our first date.
If there’d been a checklist – and let’s be honest, there was sort of a checklist – he ticked every box.
Shares my faith? Check.
Fun to talk to? Check.
Hobbies include things other than video games and paintball? Check.
Seriously, a dreamboat.
We started dating and I knew I was falling hard for this Physics grad student.
But here’s what I didn’t expect: that the hoping would get harder.
I wanted to find love, a partner, someone to share my life with. I’d been praying quiet prayers for years, crying with friends over coffee, struggling with jealousy when wedding invitations came in the mail.
I’d been hoping.
Suddenly that hope had a face and a name and a personality. I didn’t want just any partner, I wanted this one.
Yet I knew our relationship was new and needed some time to grow and develop before we made commitments.
Oh, the hoping was hard.
Sitting in my little apartment, knitting the heck out yet another scarf, willing him to call on the phone. Laying in bed at night, wondering what he was doing, what he was thinking, if I was crazy to feel things this strongly.
To hope is to wait in want. And in an age where Amazon can send coffee and paper towels to your doorstep and you can stream an entire movie on the phone in your pocket, we are not used to either wanting or waiting.
Here’s the thing though: we are hope people. We have to be, because even in an on-demand world, nothing is for certain. We can dream and plan and work and try all we want, but there are a lot of things outside of our control.
Will this job be offered?
Will that relationship stand the test of time?
Will our family get to add another baby?
Most of the time, we have to wait in our wanting.
Hope isn’t like love. Love does. It’s an action. It’s self-sacrifice and giving and hard work. Personally, I like it because it gives me something to do.
But hope is. It just is. It sits there, usually quietly, waiting in want. Not knowing.
As my relationship with Chris grew and we both began to see that it was developing into something serious, the urgent hoping that things would work out was slowly, gently replaced by a trust in our ability to grow together, to communicate, to work through challenges. I no longer felt panicked that this dream might die right in front of me.
My hope that Chris would be “the one” was realized. But a whole new set of hopes emerged after we decided to get married – hopes for a long life together, for good health, for a family.
Romans 12:12 (ESV) invites us to “be joyful in hope.” Real talk: it’s not easy. If my poorly knitted scarves could talk, they would tell you that joy is not my default emotion in the waiting.
But we are hope people. And since we know that we are going to spend a lot of our life hoping, this is a gracious invitation to find the beauty in the waiting and experience joy even in the unknown. I’ve seen it myself these last few years, losing hope in the face of miscarriage and finding it again in the strength of community.
Hoping is hard. But there can be joy in hard things.
Here’s to finding yours.