"If only I could get a good woman, I would be different."
I heard that twice last week, from two different men who are homeless. The assumption is that their vices -- alcohol and cigarettes -- could be tamed if the "right" woman entered their life. Strangely enough, they have been chasing this ideal woman their whole lives, and they have yet to find one that helps them vanquish their addictions.
But they keep searching.
And so do we.
Maybe we aren't chasing the perfect mate, but we are chasing something -- something we think will provide us meaning and significance, something that will finally help us be who we want to be.
This comes to us in all sorts of subtle ways. For me, some nights it looks like checking my phone 300 times in 10 minutes. Some days it is moving from task to task so quickly I don't take time to breathe, for I am working so hard to do something "productive," to be someone with meaning.
Unfortunately for the modern person, we have so many options for vices. The Internet alone provides an endless source of things to which we can look for purpose and meaning.
On the streets that day, the homeless men and I talked about surrender. I shared how in the past, I had always believed in God but that I never really surrendered my whole life, including all of my plans for my future, to God. The process of my surrender took years and is ongoing, but something changed for me when I moved from just "believing in" God to telling him I would do anything for him.
I finally let go.
I let go of chasing my work for meaning and significance. This provided a measure of freedom to be able to really consider what I wanted to do for work, and how I had been built.
And even still, even now doing something that is as fulfilling as this work is for me, that engages me to the core,
I still chase after other things for meaning. I am always searching for significance.
It is an endless search. In some ways, to be human is to look for why we matter.
To be disentangled from our addictions, to be set free from those things to which we look for meaning, is a lifelong work. I happen to believe that we are often incapable of setting ourselves free.
We are just in too deep.
This is why, to me, the secret is not just "doing better" or handling it differently next time, but it is actually surrender.
It is coming to our Designer, Creator, and Savior God and telling him that without his help we cannot be free. It is being set free from the search for significance by experiencing Jesus's love for us. And this does not just happen once when we first experience it (what is often called "salvation"), but continually throughout our lives. Surrender means going again and again and again to the feet of Jesus, the one who loves us and gave himself for us to say, "Help me. Help."
And then, over time, as though done in secret without our knowing, we experience the quiet working of the Spirit of God -- enabling us to put down the phone, or take a deep breath in the middle of the day.
And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire a thin silence. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance to the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him ...
(1 Kings 19:12-13)
Lord, may we hear your thin silence, wrap our faces up, and come to you to hear your voice.