Reflections . . .
Searching for Love
While scanning the classified section of the Sunday newspaper many years ago, my eye inadvertently fell upon the personal ads placed by singles. I was then attending Faith Lutheran Church up in Cicerco. There she was, a “Lutheran Woman, 29, 5' 5"” seeking a “handsome, kind, generous Lutheran Man who has a variety of interests.” Knowing myself to be Lutheran and male, I accepted the “handsome, kind, [and] generous” attributes as a matter of fact. And “variety of interests” fitted me perfectly, though I wondered what a woman who enjoys, as the ad stated, “the outdoors, travel, SU, [and] sports” would think of someone who has a collection of toy tractors and makes a sport of riding the lawnmower. I soon discovered that this was all irrelevant, for the ad specified a search for someone between 31 and 36. I was disqualified.
Feeling rejected, I sought consolation in neighboring personals. One had been placed by an “athletic, adventurous” single who liked to roller blade, mountain bike, raft, hike, and dance. I can do only one of the five. Then there was the “heart out on sleeve, spontaneous Divorced Christian mom” looking for a “nonsmoker, nondrinker, and drug-free” Christian Gentleman, 45-55. The age range was on target, and I scored a near perfect match on her three other criteria. This was becoming interesting. How about the Sicilian Female who promised to treat me like a king? Then I stopped, feeling as if I were prying into the lives of others, an uninvited guest.
What is it about contemporary American culture that makes these personal ads necessary and popular? I understand that many singles have become tired and even fearful of the bar scene. Dating and matchmaking services thrive, and each week’s paper promises many new ads in the “Personal Line.” In the 19th-century, immigrant German farmers promised marriage to girls from the Old Country, sight unseen, due to the shortage of females on the frontier. Today’s “blind date” is a close approximation, and a thirty-word ad in the local newspaper is not far behind. The loss of community and neighborhood, the incessant mobility of job and residence, have contributed to a lack of connectedness. Is there a remedy?
I decided to play “matchmaker” myself and, hoping to help out our Lutheran female, scanned the want ads from men. There was a “winter couch potato” in his late fifties. Nope. Won’t do. How about the “energetic biologist” in Fulton or the “rugged farmer” in Watertown seeking someone interested in cows and farming? Problem. Denominational affiliation not specified. I found not a Lutheran in the bunch, and only 2 of the approximately 130 males advertised themselves as Christians. One sought a tall companion. The other declared an interest in a mate who was “kind, gentle, and physically fit.” Might do.
Jan and I celebrate 48 years of Christian marriage this month and except for the year I was in Germany as a Fulbright scholar and the nine months or so she was in Baltimore doing health care consulting, we have never been separated. We plan on growing old together, so I have no need to peruse the personals and beg the forgiveness of those good people whose lives I intruded on by reading their all too public displays of loneliness.
My wife and I met in our twenties on a Concordia, St. Paul Lutheran college choir tour. I had my eye on this cute alto for some time, but was a shy guy and only first spoke to her when the two of us teamed up to chase a stray cat out of the sanctuary of a church in Upper Michigan, or was it South Dakota? I think of that cat as providential, a sign from heaven that we two were destined for each other. I shudder to think of what would have happened had I resorted to an ad on the Personal Line. I didn’t have much to offer prospective “Mrs. Rights.”
Any attempt at humor aside, there is serious business here. Loneliness can weigh heavily on the heart, especially for those who find themselves without a partner to share life’s sorrows and joys. Companionship is a precious gift, to be treasured always. But God looks upon all of us--whether we dance the dance of life as single, married, divorced, widower, widow, etc.--in the same way. Some congregations give the impression that they care primarily for families with children--but God welcomes us all the same. No personal ad, however cleverly written, gains us special merit with God. Of Jesus, the Gospel writer St. Luke says, “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Dr. Milt Sernett