I was twenty-two years old when a personal mentor of mine made the following remark: “God has been such a gentleman to you.” I was completely taken aback. As one of the many young women who prematurely joined the broken hearts club a few years prior, I was taken aback when she said this.
A gentleman, I repeated in my head. Images of men in English tailcoats opening doors for ladies appeared in my mind. Did God fit the description of gentleman? It’s certainly not the first word that came to mind in the past. Now that I’ve chewed on this concept for the past few months, in my personal stained-glass window of God of which a little more light illuminates each day, the word is second only to savior.
Here is a little backstory to the conversation with my mentor. She and I were in a scheduled meeting discussing my life and the direction I was praying about taking it next (with the caveat of Proverbs 16:9). Sometime during the outpour of my cares and anxieties, she asked me to do something incredibly helpful: she asked me to call to memory, because hindsight is 20/20, the times in my life where the Lord has directed my steps.
To my surprise the list was long, and that was just what I could recall in the moment with her. I spoke to her of the when I knew that the Lord had put something on my heart, or pressed me toward a specific decision, He would always make a way. I applied to one university for my bachelors and was accepted. I applied to one job after cosmetology school and got it. I applied to one job on-campus at university and got it. In every situation, each choice I made I knew God had pointed me to. He did everything except submit the applications. This says nothing of my personal merit; it says everything of God’s ambition. The Lord does what He plans (Lamentations 2:17 NIV).
He even barred certain doors. Thinking back to a specific memory, I knew that door wasn’t meant for me. But love is strange, and thankfully God is gracious and saves you from hypothetical self-inflicted bullets. Enter heart-break; enter dependency on the Lord to survive. I learned that God will let us bang and pound on doors until our fists bleed red and our voices give out from the wailing, all the while consoling, “no, My child.” That pain is mercy compared to the death on the other side. Those unmet desires are grace compared to their toxic fulfilment.
“Wow,” my mentor says, “God has been such a gentleman to you.”
I’m twenty-three now, only barely. I’ve reached the time in my life where I need to know Who set the standard for all gentlemen—the Gentleman. The gentle Man-God, who in love and tender compassion walks us through the varying seasons of our lives; He is our firm footing in the tsunamis of life; our advocate in the times of joy; our strong Disciplinarian in our death-inducing rebellion; our Doctor who pieces together the broken vessels that are our spirits and with His own literal sweat, blood, and holy tears, creates something even more beautiful than before.
So, yes, God is a gentleman. Every hope and every expectation you ever placed on anyone else will fall short. Every tender human affection cannot and will not be matched by God’s. If you married Mr. Darcy himself, with all of his riches and strength-balanced compassion, neither could compare to God’s. Consider the following quote from C.S. Lewis, taken from Mere Christianity:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
It does make sense, though, doesn’t it?—why we appreciate certain qualities we find in fictional or nonfictional people? Our spirit is drawn to them for good reason. They can be rightfully appreciated in a human, too. But no human can stand up to meeting needs only designed to be met by God. The puzzle piece won’t fit, even if we jam it. Do we need fellowship with others? Absolutely. The Trinity itself is a testament to the importance and significance of relationship.
“But,” God says, “all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40 ESV). God cares about the order of things. There was a proper order to building the tabernacle. There was a proper order to Jesus’ days on Earth. There is a proper order to the entirely of humanity’s timeline—even if we do not fully grasp it, God does. God does nothing without a purpose, including the order in which and manner in which He does them. Accordingly, there is a proper order to our needs being met and the love of which we draw from and give out of. Saying God should be number one is no Christian cliché: it is the literal way life functions.
The question is then, what does all of this say about you? What does it mean that God regards you in such a way that He treats you like a gentleman would treat a woman He pursues? It means you are pursued. It means you are wanted. Not for what you can bring to the table, not for what you can even bring to the relationship (as it is with human relationships oftentimes). He wants you and He pursues you because He wants to and because He loves you.
Have you ever read this verse? Job 35:7 (ESV) reads, “If you are righteous, what do you give to Him? Or what does He receive from your hand?” What can an infant give to a parent? They are utterly incapable of giving anything and utterly, pitifully helpless without a caregiver. I do not have children yet, but my mother has told me that nothing teaches you more about God’s love for us than the unearned and unconditional love for a child. And to think—humans love flawed. God loves perfectly.
God loves perfectly and is the perfect gentlemen of our lives, opening doors along the way, walking on the side closest to the street so we’re no nabbed, pulling out chairs, saying, “not this way, darling, I can see something you can’t there”, or, “here is a little present I got for you.”
That reminds me. Remembering what God does for us—not passively but intentionally—is like opening little presents from Him. Make no mistake, He is always giving you presents. The instruction to the God’s chosen people, the Israelites, applies to God’s chosen person, you: “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way” (Deuteronomy 8:2 NIRV). Reembrace is a gift; it allows us to open our eyes to the gifts of today. Remembrance breeds thanksgiving, and thanksgiving breeds joy.
One of my all-time favorite books, and largely the most impactful book in my life thus far, is One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Its words are lush and plentiful and I love it. I reread it all the time whenever I can’t find the gifts of life. It reminds me that I have to unwrap them, and remembering and giving thanks are the manifestations of this. She writes, “Joy is the realest reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped. God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy.”
My mom told me early on never to accept a present from a boy I didn’t like or wasn’t interested in, because the giving of gifts is hugely significant in its implication. Gifts are a language of love—and our God invented and uses every language of love. He gives gifts because He pursues, and He never stops—even after He wins you! He is the ultimate gentleman and romance never dies with Him. The joy never ends. The soul is satisfied. And one day, not long from now, we’ll see Him face to face. And it will have seemed like exchanging love letters for a short while and then, finally, meeting.
So, when God holds a door open for you, say thank you, as you would to any gentleman. When He closes one or redirects you, say thank you. When He holds your hand through dark alleys, say thank you. When He gifts you with something precious, say thank you. Keep track and remember all the little gifts. Treat him like the gentleman He is. At the end of the day, you might be surprised to find how many little gifts He has given you and the various forms He sends them in.