You’ve heard that hokey story about the man who prays to be rescued from a flood and God sends a car, a boat, even a helicopter when the water rises high but each time help comes the man refuses, remains comically committed to “waiting on God.” And then he dies. That’s the ending, right? He dies waiting for the answers that had already arrived.
I’m paranoid that man is me. I’m especially paranoid because for the last two months, I’ve been asking for affirmation from God, the universe, my dog, ANYONE, to tell me that I am on the right track. And despite having “heard” many times that I am, I’m behaving as if it’s a hoax. I’m behaving as if life is a Magic 8 ball that’s stuck on “Reply hazy. Try again later.”
Forgive me for my middle school foolishness.
It surprises me NOT AT ALL then that for the past three nights I have dreamt of one Jared Avers, my eighth grade crush and conduit for confidence. J.J. was that guy who knew what was up before every other thirteen-year-old goobs did. He was tall, tan, and already prickly with puberty’s facial hair by the time I started the eighth grade at a new school. A democratic flirt with a teddy bear bod, he walked the line between your best friend and your safest bet for boyfriend practice. Even though I knew he was laying down smooth lines for every soon-to-be high schooler, I took the affirmation. I catalogued the affirmation. I transmitted the affirmation to my best friend, Lia, even though she was dishing the same to me and it got a little weird at times. Still, we LIVED for it.
As I have sat with these dreams some and put on my tallest theological hat, this is what I have come to: God is like Jared Avers. He is dishing out affirmation ALL THE TIME, and even though you know he’s doing the same to every other sorry soul, it is your job to take it in, write it down, and mutual brag to your best bro or broad about it.
Do not die waiting for the affirmation that has already arrived.
Middle school spirituality is still strong in me. I still find myself hunting after affirmation in all the wrong places and assuming if it comes easy it must be suspect. (EXAMPLE: When I finished my recent Love Notes from God series, which many of you were so brave to tell me you found needed, I decided y’all were just big cheeseballs with bad taste.) I’m still enamored with the chase, to winning over the hard-to-love, to tall boys who are too cool for their own good. But this pattern of life is not affirming. It is addictive.
Affirmation is everywhere, God keeps telling me—except it’s not God, as in a disembodied voice from on high. It’s in the “thank you’s” from a weirdly wide swath of people for this writing work. It’s in the citrusy-scented hug from a new friend who lingered after church—despite her introverted loathing—for ME. It’s in the body of a small, muscly, female pastor who doesn’t just say the right things but does the next right thing by celebrating an inclusive communion that makes this cold heart quiver.
I never did have my moment with J.J. He walked me home from the bus stop one day, but when he asked to come inside to play Nintendo, I said no. Because I was also a thirteen-year-old who knew what was up.
Sooo, God is also NOT like Jared Avers.
But may we have the wits to know what’s up before we miss what’s going down.
To get word when I’ve written a fresh one, sign-up for my free e-newsletter, Good for You. In addition to posts like the one above, you’ll receive subscriber-only tools for practicing purpose from my experience to your inbox.