Posts

What My Failed Blind Date Taught Me About God

Written By Daniel Hamlin, USA

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.

 

The Plan

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.

How I Discovered the Key to Hearing God’s Voice

“God told me to…”

All my life as a Christian, I’ve heard people around me use those words. People I looked up to would recount testimonies of how God had dramatically changed the course of their lives through an audible voice. My peers would discuss how they regularly heard God speak to them and direct their daily decisions.

Personally, I’d never experienced anything remotely close to it. And it made me jealous. After all, if the Creator of the universe was going around talking with my friends, I wanted to be in on that conversation.

But it wasn’t just the novelty of hearing the voice of God, it seemed imperative to Christian living that I heard from God. I mean, that was the way that my friends seemed to make decisions—whether they were life-changing decisions or mundane ones. And if I wasn’t hearing God speak to me, who knows what kind of implications my uninformed decisions could have?

Did I pick the wrong university course, setting me off on a path down the wrong career choice? Was I wearing the wrong clothes, ones that wouldn’t grab the attention of that special someone God had been saving me for? Was I missing out on divine appointments?

I was desperate for these same experiences that so many other Christians were having. I’d read books about it, spent what seemed like ages straining away in a dark room, attended altar call after altar call, in the hope that I would finally hear God’s voice.

Then one day, it happened. I’d just started university and decided to check out the campus Christian fellowship. After attending a few sessions of their weekly meetings, one of the staff workers, Joel, asked me if I’d like to meet with him to read the Bible over a meal.

And that’s when I finally heard God speaking to me—clearly and surely, there was no doubt that it was Him.

It seemed so ridiculous that I hadn’t realized it, but the key to hearing God speak had been in front of me the entire time. That day, as Joel and I opened our Bibles and read Paul’s letter to the Colossians together, we weren’t just reading lifeless words on a page. On the contrary, the living God was speaking to us through it.

We studied the Bible in-depth, thinking hard about what Paul had been trying to convey to the Colossian church, and how each verse in the letter supported this purpose—to remind them of the supremacy and ultimate sufficiency of Jesus, and convict them that there was nothing else a Christian needed to be right before Him. Two thousand years ago, God was speaking through Paul to the Colossian church, and as we worked to understand what He was saying then, He was also speaking that same message to us.

I realized then that hearing God speak is about opening His Word and seeing what He had written there for us.

The fact is that as I’d strived to hear God speak, I’d subconsciously relegated the Bible to a lower level than other ways of knowing Him, such as hearing an audible voice. But while I might not have heard the audible voice like my friends may have, I’ve discovered that hearing God speak through the Bible is powerful.

For one, it’s the inspired word of God. Though the Bible was written by human authors, it was God who was doing the work, speaking through the authors. This means that when Paul was writing to the Colossian church to remind them of a certain truth, it was God who was speaking through Paul to them. That same God is speaking through the Word to us today.

Furthermore, it gives me a certainty about my faith. Throughout my time of seeking to hear God’s voice, there were many times when I thought that I might have finally heard Him speak. “What’s that, God?” I would say as I strained to concentrate on what that voice in my head was saying, “You want me to go to that restaurant today?”

The truth is that I could never truly be sure if that really was God. But as I read the Bible and study it, I can be 100 percent sure that it is the Creator of the universe speaking to me. And with that comes a deep certainty and a firm foundation. It means that I can truly be convicted and have the courage to make hard decisions, knowing for sure that my actions will be pleasing to God.

And as I discovered the riches that were waiting to be unearthed in the Bible, my Christian walk grew in stability and maturity. I could never question whether God wanted me to do something because I could read it clearly in the Bible. The state of my relationship with God was no longer contingent on experiences, but instead it was rooted in the convictions that the Holy Spirit was building in my heart from what I was reading.

I’m convinced that though extra-biblical communication with God might exist, it cannot replace or even come as close in importance as hearing God speak to us through the Bible. As John Piper, a Christian theologian, said, “Something is incredibly wrong when the words we hear outside Scripture are more powerful and more affecting to us than the inspired word of God.” After all, if we’re wondering what God wants to say to us, shouldn’t we start with what He has purposefully put together for our instruction?

And sure, I may not have specific guidance about my daily life in the same way that some of my friends might have. But by hearing what God has to say through the Bible, I become more familiar with His character, and this equips me to make daily decisions that I know will be in line with what He has instructed us to do.

For example, when deciding if I should take a part-time job while I’m still at university, I consider what He said to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, to be responsible and not be a burden to others in the Church. However, I also take into account what the mission of disciples are—to spread the Gospel and encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ; will having a part-time job still allow me to accomplish these things?

So today I no longer envy or desire the experiences that my friends have, because I know that each day when I open my Bible, God is speaking to me. It’s undeniable, clear, and amazing. I know for sure that these are the words of the living God, who holds the universe in the palm of His hands.