I could feel my heart pulsing. Any sense of calm I’d been harboring fled like an outgoing tide. In the Pacific Northwest, I experienced a similar feeling looking over the edge of a cliff hundreds of feet above the wild Pacific Ocean. This time the cause was even more intimidating—I was on a blind date.
I’m not sure why I agreed to the date; I hate blind dates. The awkwardness, the apprehension, the fear of rejection. It is everything I try to avoid in life.
But there I was, trying to put on a brave face and introduce myself to a girl I was expected to impress. And if I didn’t impress, well, then I’d get the joy of having that wonderfully embarrassing conversation with the person who set us up and explain to them how it just wasn’t meant to be.
Truth be told, I really did want to impress Katherine. We talked a couple times on the phone before we actually met in person for our date. She seemed fun, down-to-earth, and enjoyed the outdoors. I wanted to think outside the box and do something on our date she hadn’t done before, something other dates wouldn’t have thought of.
I came up with a plan.
I had it all figured out—we were going fishing. I know it’s not exactly every girl’s dream to go fishing on a first date but I promise it wasn’t as bad as it sounds (well maybe it was). I packed a few snacks, some chairs and fishing poles, and drove us out to a nearby lake nestled in the hills.
I set up the chairs near the water and cast our lines. We sat next to the lake talking and getting to know each other. It was quite pleasant. In fact she seemed to enjoy it, so much so that she wanted to get dinner after we were done fishing.
But the thing was, I hadn’t really planned anything other than fishing. I hadn’t thought that far ahead. It was an afternoon date and I didn’t take into consideration the possibility it might actually go well and she might want to get dinner afterward. So I winged it.
The Failed Date
I offered a few suggestions on where to eat, trying to get any hints as to what she might like, but she just politely said it was up to me to decide. Like I said, I really wanted to impress Katherine, so without telling her where we were going, I made my way to a favorite steakhouse. It was a little pricey but I hoped that would impress her.
The steakhouse is one of those classic western ones, with cowboy attire and big game trophies mounted throughout the dining room. As we sat in our booth, I couldn’t help but feel relieved at how well the date was going.
After a few minutes, the waiter returned to take our orders. Katherine ordered first.
“Can I just get a plate of vegetables?”
It was at this point that I remembered a small but significant detail about Katherine that she’d told me on one of our phone conversations—she was a vegetarian! It was also at this point that I became keenly aware of the big, dead, moose head that hung above our booth.
Yes, it is true. I took a vegetarian on a date to a steakhouse.
There was no second date.
How Dating Is Like Hearing God
I share this story because it taught me something about how I approach my walk with Christ. Most of us have a tendency to think we must do something great for God, show some extravagant gesture of just how much we love Him, and how great a sacrifice we’re willing to make for Him.
But even in that desire to offer Him something out of gratitude (which I believe is a good desire), it’s usually a gesture or sacrifice that we’ve determined to be what God wants. What I did with Katherine is exactly what I often do with God. Instead of listening to her, I simply chose a restaurant based on what I thought would impress her.
It’s easy to do the same with God. Instead of listening to Him and learning more about what pleases Him from His Word, I often try to please Him by doing things my way and calling it “sacrifice” or “service”.
For example, surfing has played a significant role in my life, and the Lord has used it as a means of ministry over the years. But at one point, I considered quitting surfing in an attempt to show God just how much I was willing to sacrifice for Him. I realize how minor of a dilemma this might seem to some, but for me there was nothing minor about it. It was my passion, my pursuit, my lifestyle. And I wrestled over this for days.
Then I read 1 Samuel 15:22 and it felt like a veil was removed from my eyes. It says, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” I realized then that God didn’t want my sacrifice, He wanted my obedience. I needed to obey God with all aspects of my life, including surfing, not simply sacrificing it for the sake of impressing Him.
Don’t misunderstand me, I believe there are times in life when the Lord asks us to give up certain things and we need to obey at all costs because He knows what’s best for us, but it should always be done out of obedience and not sacrifice. The difference between the two is that sacrifice magnifies self, whereas obedience magnifies God.
If I truly want to please God, it won’t be accomplished by impressing Him with my own efforts but rather by simply obeying Him.
Obedience means that there is trust and intimacy between the two parties. To obey is to listen first and respond accordingly. I took Katherine fishing because I knew from talking to her on the phone that she liked nature and the outdoors. Our phone conversations weren’t quick, one-sided remarks, but there was dialogue between the two of us.
Our relationship with Christ should be similar; we should have an open and ongoing dialogue with Him. The only way to truly get to know someone is to spend time with that person, to do life with them, and talk to them in honest conversation. I believe our relationship with God is no different. The only way we learn to hear His voice is to spend time with Him; to read His word, to talk with Him, to become close with Him.
I’ve found where I often flounder with Christ is where I floundered with Katherine. I wanted to take a shortcut, to impress her by showing her how much I was willing to spend on dinner. Instead of making our date about her, I made it about me impressing her. And I often find myself making my walk with Christ about me impressing Him rather than about Him. I believe the one thing God desires most of us is intimacy, and there is no shortcut to achieve that, it can only be accomplished through personal relationship.
As we live in obedience to God we find something truly remarkable—liberty. When I realized I didn’t need to impress God, that it wasn’t about my sacrifices or efforts at all, that the only sacrifice that mattered was His sacrifice on the cross, then I began to experience a freedom and joy like no other. C. S. Lewis once said “Obedience is the road to freedom.” But the onramp to that road is the ability to listen to the Lord.
Perhaps if I’d listened first, I might not have thought it was a good idea to take a vegetarian on a date to a steakhouse.