On Making the First Move

photo (58)I was eighteen when I made the first move on my would-be-man. It was a tortured decision, borne out of the fear of rejection and the fear of John Eldredge. But there was no other way to meet the crooked-tooth hippie I’d been seeing around campus. For days, I palpitated and planned and even penned an e-mail that began, “You don’t know me, but I’m strangely attracted to you.” And it was strange, strange that the little man with the tan hands had my heart so sure.

I never sent the e-mail, thanks to the counsel of a guy friend who told me the note was, well, “stalker-esque.”  I had done enough stalking to know that the stranger’s name was Rush, and Rush could be found on Thursday nights in the chapel. There he led an ecumenical worship service with equally sensitive musicians, artists, and students looking to meet God. And as it goes when you are looking to meet God, you show up where others say God is found. So it was with Rush.

It was a start, putting my body in the same room as his. But I was hardly in my body at all. Somewhere above the swooping melodies and diving rhythms, I hovered. Frantic prayers for peace and clarity and the right words to woo carried me until the last note was sung. And then I waited. I waited for his friends to part and for the musicians to pack and for him to be alone. I imagined this was what it was like when people waited for their moment with Jesus. From the stories I had read, it seemed you had to be fierce to get his attention. You have to go after what you want.

When the crowds left, I walked up to the altar where he was winding up the mic stand. My pick-up line? “I see Jesus in you.” As laughable as that now sounds to me, I know it was the most honest  thing I could have said. We talked for a few minutes about the music, how it sounded like the kind my Vineyard Church played, how he had attended a Vineyard Church when he was abroad. I looked down at my shoes a few times before getting the gall to say, “I could use a friend like you around here.” Then, I asked him to coffee.

I’m convinced that God loves a good first move. God is, after all, according to philosophers like Aristotle and Aquinas, the first mover. And we, men and women alike, are made in the image of agency. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus affirms this agency as a sign of faith again and again as wanting-people come to him. He doesn’t use telepathic powers to discern who is the most wanting – or the even the most deserving. (“Oh, I’m getting a word that there’s a woman with a long term illness in the crowd. Wait! Now I’m seeing blood and the number 10, no 12!”) Who Jesus heals appears more to do with who asks than anything else.

Often when I recount the story of how Rush and I met, friends marvel, “You made the first move? I could never do/want/support that.” Some are still sure-sure that this is a man’s strength. Any man who says he likes being pursued is lying or, worse, passive. Any woman who says she likes the chase is controlling or, worse, desperate. The truth is we can’t peddle Scripture as biology. We need to go deeper into our own souls to explore how God makes each one of us tick and chime. I’m wired to make the first move. I get a blood-rush from making the first move. I prefer to make the first move. The thing is, I tell friends, making the first move wasn’t the hardest part. The hardest part was waiting for him to make the second.

I don’t doubt that for some of us making the first move toward God in prayer, partners in romance, or friendships in conflict is a bit overwhelming, maybe even paralyzing. For you, the challenge may be to get after it already. Name the unbidden desires. Speak the aching wants. Pray for the ridiculous request. But for those of us who like taking the initiative, our challenge may be different. Wait for the unbidden response. Listen to the aching silence. Pray for a ridiculous word.

Why did I wait for my would-be-man to make the second move? I needed to know I was going to have an equal in love. Without my pick-up line, we may never have met. There was no reason we would have without divine intervention. Sometimes we are the divine intervention. But without his bid to go “off campus” after six weeks of friendship, we may never have lasted. My strength would have caused me resentment. (A friend of mine calls this one-sided initiative “over-functioning.”) More importantly, I would have missed the playfulness of asking God to move and the out-of-the-blue awe that came when Rush and I began moving together.

One response to “On Making the First Move

  1. Emily and I wouldn’t be together if she hadn’t made the first move… and the second, and the third. The divine works in mysterious and numerous ways.

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