I stumbled through the door of the gym at 4:30 AM, frizzy hair jerked back in a stripey highlighted bun, no makeup, and barely awake. I smiled wanly at the desk attendant, rattling off my ID number – “13447.” – like a sleepwalker. He looked different than the usual early shift guy – maybe it was his hair with a slight Jimmy Neutron flair.
He spoke to me while I signed into my post-workout relaxation technique, the tanning beds. “Do you go to Liberty?” he asked. I did a quick self-eval for Liberty-logo gear – no lanyard, jacket, alumni shirt, backpack… nothing. It’s a good guess if one lives in Lynchburg that Liberty is somehow your affiliate. “I work there, and I graduated from Liberty.” I replied. We made some conversation about Liberty before I went on to my fake bake and left for home.
Five days later, Mr. Morning Shift was looking a little too chipper for 4:30 AM. When I walked in the door his face lit up. “You’re here! The highlight of my morning.” He said.
The only way this face is the highlight of your morning is if you have seen no faces at all between 12 and 6 AM, I thought.
Instead I smiled, signed in, and walked to the bathroom with a rock in my stomach. Should I have mentioned Mr. M earlier? I’d only just met this guy! We’d only made small talk! I’d had him in mind for at least three of my girlfriends!
Slightly freaked out at his apparent interest I sweated out the anxiety on the treadmill, dreading the sign in sheet for the first time in my suntanned life.
He was just as chatty when I rounded the corner. I knew I had to head this off or it was headed to worse places, so with the casualness of a Wild West gambler I hinted that my dearly beloved had just graduated from Liberty himself with an (ahem) computer engineering degree. He pushed the tanning sign in sheet toward me. “Lay down or stand up?” he asked, and that was all.
The next morning I received a very chilly greeting. Either his hair didn’t come together the way he pleased, or I was no longer the highlight of his morning. Any hint of kind customer service had vanished, and in its place was a sour Planet Fitness employee punching in my ID and asking if I wanted my tan full time or eleven minutes. What happened to Mr. Nice Guy?
Mr. Nice Guy didn’t view me as a person. He viewed me as a Potential.
The truth is, I have done exactly what that desk attendant did many times over, and now I know how all those poor, targeted guys felt when I did it. I dread checking into the desk! It’s pretty much the most awkward thing since my Finding Nemo Darla-esque braces in 10th grade.
I touched on this topic in the post I Like Him. Now What?. We get attracted to a man and consequently become social chameleons, adapting to his preferences; changing ourselves; picturing a future with him. Then the walls come crashing down and not only are we disconcerted, we begin to hate the guy who dared wreck the dreams he knew nothing about.
This is what happens when People become Potential. When we view guys as potential mates or dates, we place expectations on them that they know nothing about and therefore can never fulfill. We are disappointed when our hopes are dashed and cannot treat the young men with any respect due to our own embarrassment or vulnerability. And it’s not even their fault!
When I first met Mr. Planet Fitness, I didn’t view him as a potential date because I know I am reserved for someone else. But judging by his reaction when I mentioned Mr. M, he viewed me as a ‘potential’. While I was at ease talking with him, like I would any desk attendant, he was talking to me with other intentions. Even though he didn’t know me enough to make any judgment of character, he was interested in using me for the purpose of attention.
When I turned up taken, I no longer served his purposes, so I was no longer worth his time.
We do the exact same thing when we set our sights on a young man, running him through our mind-mill till we’ve ground every Future Husband quality out of him. This is a source of much confusion and heartbreak in the lives of young women.
When we fixate on a person, we do three things:
1. We make him an idol.
“All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human.” (Isaiah 44:9-10)
The craftsmen are only human. We are only human! We don’t know the best choice for us. We don’t know what a guy is like until we have spent time with him as a friend. Placing him on a pedestal of attention steals attention from the one who really deserves it: our Savior.
2. We set up false expectations.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33)
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15)
When we fixate on someone, we make plans that may never come to fruition. It is out of our control. These plans contain the human variable; a person who owes us nothing and can do whatever he wants. Plans centralized in a person will fail, but plans founded on a God who knows the future will bring hope (Jer. 29:11).
We should be busy about the plan of God for our lives, to be a worker who is not ashamed of her actions and emotions but is actively serving her Lord.
3. We try to play God’s part.
“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3)
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Prov. 16:9)
When we fixate on a person, we in essence tell God, “I’ve got this! I know this person is the answer to my prayers. I am going to spend my time thinking about him, dreaming about a future, and making tentative plans in case you come through on my terms.” We would save ourselves a lot of disappointment if we let God be God. We plan the broad way we go – dedicating our relationships to the Lord – and still try to establish our own steps to get there. God wants to have both our ways AND our steps along the way.
What can we do to be confident, capable women in this area?
1. We can make him a friend.
One thing I find helpful is to consider each man I encounter to be married. Just as I am dedicated to Mr. M, I consider these men dedicated to another woman. They are taken; reserved for someone else. Even when I was single this enabled me to remember my male friends are not my possession; they are God’s men. I could be their friend, but it was up to them whether I was worthy of pursuit. Dreaming about it did nothing but set up unrealistic expectations.
When we emphasize friendship with our male friends, we are treating them with the respect and brotherly love we owe them as Christian women. We reject the world’s method of ‘go and get ’em’ and patiently wait on God’s timing and choice.
2. We can find out God’s plans for us.
Yes, we can know God’s will for our lives. But it’s not going to be a scroll that drops from heaven with a blueprint of the next twenty years. God’s will is revealed step by step, in the moments of need. God gives enough grace for our present circumstance, not enough for tomorrow or next week. Just so, he only reveals enough of His will for us to take the next step.
As we know God we discover His plans. He will slowly reveal which people will stay in your life and which will leave. There are people I thought I’d be friends with forever who I have no relationship with at this time. Others who didn’t fit what I had pictured have changed my life forever by their influence! We do not know what is best for us until we are at God’s feet asking. He wants to tell us, and we don’t have to guess!
3. We can play our part in God’s will.
This is the time to make the most of your skills.
Phylicia, if you harp on ‘skills’ one more time I am unfollowing you!
Sorry girls, I’m going to harp on this like Cupid and his lyre.
Every woman has skills, talents, and gifts. However, many girls and young career women shove their talents aside after 8-5 and spend their time on TV shows, romance novels, parties and shopping. I too enjoy a good Gilmore Girls series and can shop with the best of them! But I also realize that in the end my body houses a soul, and that soul has a purpose. And that purpose is running out of time.
Some view this as fatalistic, but I would challenge you to think differently. We only have one life to live and have been given gifts to live it. They were not given to us so we can bury them in pleasing ourselves and our Christian friends. They were given to us so we can actively live out God’s purpose in the years we have on earth, so we can prepare to minister to our community and someday-families, and make God’s name apparent by our character.
For me, this is cooking, cleaning, bringing meals to the sick, leading a group of 25 kindergarteners, or counseling a girl in a therapeutic horseback program. For others this is painting, teaching single moms money management, serving with Compassion International, facilitating showers and parties for loved ones, or singing at church. What God gives you to do will be specific to who you are and where God has you. This is our part in God’s will for the world.
Love God, and love people. As women of God people are not there to serve our purposes, lined up for our ‘potential’ future plans. Capable women do not let emotion dictate their actions. Confident women know their God-given purpose and rest their hope in Him. Complete women don’t need back-up, fall-back, potential mates lined up because they are God’s ‘priestess queens’ (1 Peter 2), free to serve others without partiality.
Did you read that? You are God’s royal daughter! He would provide no one but the best for you, and in your own mind you won’t find him. But God will.
“We have fixed our hope on the Living God, who is Savior of all men, especially of believers.” – 1 Tim. 4:10