How to Love God (And Be Okay With Being Weird)
Posted on January 2, 2014
I really wanted to like David.* It wouldn’t be hard. There was a lot to like. He was sublimely handsome: charming smile; broad shoulders; caramel complexion; and just enough gray-peppered hair to show he was aging well.
We found ourselves seated next to one another on the patio of one of D.C.’s well-known Mexican restaurants. It was a breezy Tuesday evening in late August and I agreed to meet with David at the request of a mutual friend. I wasn’t privy to information about him and the arrangement never struck me as strange. Our mutual friend was notorious for making random connections.
“You need to meet my friend Shakirah. She works in marketing and could help you with that,” was usually how I ended up across the table from many a stranger turned friend. So, I happily accepted the proposal and was pleasantly surprised to find that David wasn’t meeting me for marketing tips.
Within 30 minutes of meeting David I learned he was born in Europe, raised by his Nigerian father and White-British mother (did I mention that his accent was delicious?). He spent much of his young adult life traveling to more than 20 countries and speaking three languages. Coincidentally, his favorite place to visit was Jamaica (surprise, surprise). After leaving Europe he moved to the States to launch his own IT company. Judging by his watch, travel tales and brand new Beamer, business was going well. And David was witty. He had the kind of wit and intelligence that left you pregnant with wonder. Our conversation consumed me.
We laughed while exchanging familiar stories of being raised by foreign parents. I challenged his views on everything. He told me I was beautiful. We were hooked.
I really really really wanted to like David. There was just one problem. David didn’t like Jesus.
I learned this in between sips of margaritas and quips on the political climate in America. He casually dropped it in the conversation in the same manner one would name drop a celebrity they’ve met and realized was a jerk.
“And that whole Jesus thing; I’m not buying it. I don’t think he was as great as people make him out to be.”
“Jesus, thing?” I asked while playing with the straw in my drink, trying to keep cool.
I listened to David’s perspective on Christianity, religion, the bible and Jesus. He admired my passion to support my faith. Though his views obviously weren’t going to change, nor mine, we ended the night on a high note; agreeing to disagree.
“Shakirah, I really like you and enjoyed your company. I’m headed to London in a few days, but let’s exchange numbers so we can hang out again.”
I, reluctantly, gave David my number, reasoning that we would just be friends (we wouldn’t). Even though I wanted to like him, I knew our romantic interests couldn’t go any further than that evening. I know that sounds strange, a little weird even. David looked good on paper. He was the kind of man you brag about: handsome; intelligent; funny; charming; cultured and accomplished. Surely, I could overlook a detail as simple as my religion. I couldn’t.
My religion and relationship with Jesus sit at the core of who I am as a woman, daughter, sister, friend and potential partner. Denying that would be denying my identity. It would also be denying Christ. Jesus and I are a packaged deal.
When I gave my life to Christ I learned that loving God was something you do with your whole heart–all your heart–as implored by Jesus in the Gospels. Previous experience has shown me that a relationship without Christ at the center can mean dividing your affections between two lovers. And those are murky, treacherous waters with devastating under currents. God is too jealous to share.
I’ve also learned that whether you’re Christian or not, we do ourselves a disservice when we’re afraid to give up good for great. Dating David would have been good. I believe he would have treated me with respect and admiration. Fun times would have been had. Yet, greatness in a relationship built with Christ at the center has little to do with surface level things like looks, money or being whisked away to exotic places. Greatness is the inner working of the Holy Spirit between two individuals who are led together. It’s praying and serving together. Greatness is a joining love that displays the heart of Christ to the rest of the world. Maybe it’s out there. Maybe it’s not. But, I’m not willing to fold.
David never decided to call me. Perhaps he realized dating me and Jesus would’ve been claustrophobic. Quite honestly, I was relieved. I avoided the whole, “I’m sorry I love Jesus too much to date you,” conversation.
I really wanted to like David, but I resolved that being loved by and loving Jesus is the one thing in my life that’s only going to keep getting better.
Now it’s your turn: Have your personal convictions ever led you to let go of something for the sake of your religion? (This question is not limited to only those who share the Christian faith.)
Tell me in the comments section below.
*Name was changed to protect the identity of the innocent.