Are You Dating Ishmael?
- 2004 12 Feb
With his perfectly coiffed bleached blonde locks, a self-assured swagger and a beaming white smile that never quit, it was crush at first sight when I channel surfed past the music video for "Hungry Like the Wolf." And while I jumped on the Duran Duran bandwagon a little later than most, Simon LeBon was the picture of perfection in my 11-year-old mind. He was the man I was going to marry. Or so I thought.
It turned out that my rock-star in shining armor had a penchant for the older, model types, and now, 17 years later, I'm over it. Years of fame, excess and hard living haven't exactly been kind to Simon, and my pre-teen idol is nothing more than a lovely nostalgic memory. But the unusual thing about this crush was that it set the appearance standard for the guys I often fell really hard for in the future. They were usually tall and lanky with pseudo-blonde locks, a killer grin and the kind of confidence that usually fell into the category of being cocky - in that endearing way, of course.
I'd like to say that by the time I made it to college maturity kicked in, and I gained this new, non-superficial perspective. But time and again, these fair-haired prototypes piqued my interest, and the joys and heartaches of hanging out with these heartthrobs filled the pages of my journal.
Then one day, I wisely realized I needed more from a guy than a great set of highlights. I desired something deeper. So, I began to look for something more - spiritual strength, common interests, a great sense of humor - with an appreciation for sarcasm being a plus in my book. It was amazing how my relationships improved, and I built some great friendships with guys that I still keep in touch with years after college graduation.
But even with my renewed perspective, "Mr. Right" never surfaced. Believe me, this is virtually a feat of cataclysmic proportions at a Christian university where every day is like the Spring day scene in "Bambi" where all the animals get twitterpated and find a soulmate skunk, rabbit or fawn to call their own in a matter of minutes. And now, nearly six years after graduating from matchmaking central, I find myself in the same single boat, much wiser of course, but happy most of the time.
Still, as time passed and I was accused of being "too picky" one too many times in my choice of men, I began to find myself settling a little too often when it came to guys I went out with. Not only did they lack the panache I've always been attracted to, but those more essential qualities as well. Maybe he didn't really care about His relationship with God. Or worse yet, didn't believe in Him at all. Maybe he didn't have proper gentlemanly qualities or know how to treat me with class and respect. And it wasn't long before I grew weary. What was the proper balance of not being too picky, but picky about the right things?
One day when I was reading through Genesis, I found an excellent answer to my question that rocked my world and literally changed my perspective on the "Am I too picky?" issue.
Early on in Genesis, Abraham was given an amazing promise that he, a man with humble origins, would be the Father of all nations. But like many people who are destined for great things, there were tumultuous times of testing ahead. When it so happened that the love of his life, the fair Sarah, was barren, the promise seemed more than a little implausible. How could the promise be fulfilled if his wife couldn't even have a baby? She certainly wasn't getting any younger, and neither was he. Was God completely crazy or what? And so he and Sarah decided to matters into their own hands, and in Genesis 16, they employed their maidservant Hagar to give them the child that God wasn't blessing them with. And along came Ishmael-whose name appropriately means "God hears."
Now like all newborn babies, I'm sure Ishmael was adorable. I'm sure it was amazing for Abraham and Sarah to see and hold him for the first time. But despite how incredible Ishmael was, he wasn't the promise that God had in mind for Abraham and Sarah. In Genesis 17:19-21 (NIV), God said, "Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant...And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and increase his numbers...But my covenant I will establish with Isaac whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year."
When I read this story, it helped me realize that as long as I'm being picky about the right things, that was OK. While Ishmael was a great blessing, God had something even greater in mind for Abraham. Fortunately for Abraham, despite his disobedience in trying to make his own way, God still blessed him with what He intended.
But unfortunately, when it comes to relationships, one bout of settling could potentially have lasting, lifelong effects. It could result in a broken heart, a broken marriage, or even worse, a broken relationship that distances us from Creator of the universe. And while redemption and God's grace allows for second, third, fourth and even hundredth chances, it only makes life that much more difficult when we settle.
While an "Ishmael" could be good enough to date or even to spend the rest of your life with, I decided then that no matter how long it is that I'm holding out for an "Isaac." Now the jury is still out, however, on whether he'll have any resemblance to the Simon LeBon of old. And that's probably OK with me either way, minus the tacky '80s attire of course.
Christa Farris currently lives in Nashville, Tenn. where she serves as the Editor for CCMmagazine.com, the Books and Music Editor for CCM Magazine and the Managing Editor of Special Projects for Salem Publishing.
Check out Christa's Valentine's Day column from last year!