Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sequel to The Games We Play

I just finished playing a game of  “Seek and Suck” with my nephew Eli. The game consists of placing an object a few inches in front of Eli. He pushes himself along until he can grasp the object with his tiny hands and then pull it into his mouth where he proceeds to suck or gnaw the object into obliteration.

One time the object was a juice bottle. The bottle was round so every time he touched it it would roll further away.  Five-month-old babies have more patience than grown adults. Long after I was frustrated for him, he kept after the juice bottle with determination, clueless as to why it wouldn’t stay still.

In considering the games we play, relationships—the modern day excuse for love—are a lot like that juice bottle. And we are the five-month-old baby. As soon as we come close, so close, to grasping that much sought after true love, we do the thing we think will bring it closer. We reach out and touch it. But this act proves to be the very act that pushes it away. Then, like Eli, we cluelessly start the process all over again.

Sometimes, we clueless infants will manage to push that juice bottle into a corner. It holds still so we can get a hold of it easily. When people ask us, “how did you do it?” we don’t really have an answer. Our infantile brain has no idea what happened. We’re just happy we got lucky and can suck on our very own juice bottle while everyone else is still seeking—cluelessly—after theirs.

If Eli had the metal capability to form a plan, he might have figured out what was wrong with his approach to the juice bottle. If he was wiser than the average baby, he might have been able to figure it out without ever making a mistake. But as an infant, we wouldn’t expect him to be able to figure it out. Instead, we’ll reach down and help him.  We’ll place the bottle directly into his arms so he can suck as much as his heart desires. And he would accept our help without even realizing what happened.

Lately, I’ve had numerous discussions with different people about the games we play. Everyone has a different approach, but the major rules are the same. Most everyone agrees that the guy should do the initiating and the girl should do the responding, or the rejecting, based on the situation. Most everyone agrees that if one or both parties are not happy in the relationship, the relationship should discontinue until further notice or terminate altogether.

But that’s just Act I. What about the rest of the story? What about the “how do you know it’s right?” part? Or better yet, how do you know it’s not right? That is the most important question and until we figure it out, our juice bottle will continue to elude us.

            If the answer were concrete, black and white, and, for that matter, simple, we’d have a lot fewer heart breaks and a lot more successful marriages. If only there truly were a formula to follow that equaled happiness in matrimony one hundred percent of the time.

            Alas, the books upon books of wise literates have never been able to discover this foolproof—or infant-proof—formula. Some of these books have guided us towards the truth. Others have done nothing more than to cause more harm and confusion to an already confusing process.

            But the keys of the helpful books have been simple. Difficult, but simple. And those keys lie in the one truth that when it comes to relationships, we truly are infants. We are not mentally capable of figuring out how to corner our juice bottle. If we were, there would be no need for God.

            When I handed Eli his juice bottle, I was bigger, stronger, wiser, and I was the one who had placed the juice bottle in front of him in the first place. I desired that Eli have his juice bottle, so I gave it to him and enjoyed watching him play with it.

            Similarly, God is bigger, stronger, wiser, and is the creator of the juice bottle (i.e. relationships, love, marriage, attraction, the works). When he gives us our juice bottle, it’s because he wants us to have it and enjoys watching us enjoy his creation.

            Sure he allows us to seek after and push our juice bottle away. He also allows us to corner it ourselves. But through it all, he is the overseer of the process.

            Success comes not when we’ve discovered a formula for capturing our juice bottle. Success comes when we recognize, and are content with, our infant state. Juice bottle or no juice bottle, our wisdom is only equal to a newborn’s when it is compared to God’s.

            God loves his children. I believe, for our sakes, he let’s our lack of success in these areas cause us to depend on him like little babies. Sometimes we get our juice bottle before we’ve learned infant dependence. Some of us learn dependence but have to wait a long time before God hands us our juice bottle. 

            I wish I knew the why’s, when’s, where’s, and how’s of God. But infant dependence requires faith in God and his mysteries. Infant dependence requires faith that the juice bottle will be handed to me when it’s time.

            Meanwhile, we have to remember that we’re all just babes.

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