Happen to Things
Up to “fate,” or up to YOU?

“Meant to be” is an easy phrase to throw around. It usually means that something succeeded or failed with admittedly little effort on our part.

People who think things are “meant to be” are often resigned to inaction. Thus, they are easily victims of circumstance. They are at the mercy of things happening to them.

This mindset has seeped into how history is taught, as Gerald Flurry brings out in his book The Former Prophets. In his appendix “The Law of History,” he quotes a commentary by George Will: “When history is taught at all nowadays, often it is taught as the unfolding of inevitabilities—of vast, impersonal forces …. The role of contingency in history is disparaged, so students are inoculated against the ‘undemocratic’ notion that history can be turned in its course by great individuals.” Contingency here refers to an event that may occur, but is not certain to. It’s apparently not “democratic” to think that individual choices matter, because certain things are just inevitable.

Algis Valiunas wrote in Churchill’s Military History: “… historians in democratic times do not take account of great men who dominate vast events, but rather show vast events dominating the masses of men.”

“Things did not need to turn out the way they did; choices matter,” George Will wrote elsewhere. “Since Hegel, Marx and other 19th-century philosophers decided that history is History—a proper noun, an autonomous force unfolding an inner logic—humanity has been told that vast, impersonal forces dictate events, nullifying human agency. But they don’t. Choices matter.”

Coming to a similar realization is partly what turned American author Candace Owens from liberal to conservative. “I recognized that my current worldview was not serving me,” she wrote in her book Blackout. “I needed to change my perspective, and I started by asking myself a simple question: What if the world is not happening to Candace Owens? What if Candace Owens is happening to the world? It was a daunting question. It implied that nothing was owed to me and that even those situations that were not necessarily my fault were, in the end, certainly going to be my problems to contend with.”

The world didn’t happen to great men and women of history. They happened to the world. They didn’t accept the unfolding of History, or the autonomous force called Fate.

Dates … and Fate

Misconceptions along these lines work their way into dating. Hollywood storytelling would have us wait for something to “happen”—like some intangible “spark.” We go on a date, and think, Oh well, nothing happened—as though we are at the mercy of vast, impersonal forces.

Matt Walsh countered these Hollywood notions in a January 13, 2015, Blaze article: “I didn’t marry my wife because she’s The One, she’s The One because I married her. Until we were married, she was one, I was one, and we were both one of many. I didn’t marry The One, I married this one, and the two of us became one. I didn’t marry her because I was ‘meant to be with her,’ I married her because that was my choice, and it was her choice, and the sacrament of marriage is that choice.”

In God’s Church, God is the one who brings two people together. But He does not expect us to be bystanders in this process!

Walsh continued: “We were not following a script, we chose to write our own, and it’s a story that contains more love and happiness than any romantic fable ever conjured up by Hollywood. Indeed, marriage is a decision, not the inevitable result of unseen forces outside of our control. … Thankfully, I made this choice with my wife. She is now my soul mate, my other, my completion, but I could not say that about her until we said ‘I do’ to each other. We could have not said it, you know … but this was our outcome because we chose it. Not because we were destined or predetermined, not because it was ‘meant to happen,’ but because we chose it. That, to me, is much more romantic than getting pulled along by fate until the two of us inevitably collide and all that was written in our horoscopes passively comes to unavoidable fruition.”

Waiting for “The One” or the “magical other,” is a passive approach rooted in selfishness—waiting for someone who makes you happy, who loves you—wanting to be loved instead of being loving.

You probably know from your closest friendships of either sex that those relationships took time to build. They didn’t just “happen” if they’ve lasted for any length of time.

The same is true of a marriage, which Mr. Armstrong often called a “career.” If you have a career, you also realize this was the result of hard work and a healthy investment of time. Yet how many people give up on a relationship, because it just seems “too hard”?

The Protagonists

Matt Walsh said, “We are the protagonists of our love story, not the spectators.” In other words, don’t look at dating as an “unfolding of inevitabilities.” Saying, If it’s meant to happen, it will happen, turns you into a spectator.

The singles in God’s true Church must be proactive, motivated people who make things happen—in dating, and in life generally.

In The Seven Laws of Success, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote that “most people have no aim—they are merely the victims of circumstance. They never planned, purposefully, to be in the job or occupation in which they find themselves today. They do not live where they do by choice that is, because they planned it that way. They have merely been buffeted around by circumstance! They have allowed themselves to drift. They have made no effort to master and control circumstances.”

Ephesians 2:2 describes those swayed by the “prince of the power of the air”; the Philips translation says they have “drifted along on the stream of the world’s way of living.” Noting this in The Incredible Human Potential, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “However, no man is impelled to respond to and obey these impulses being broadcast to Satan. Satan has no power of duress to force anyone to think or do wrong. But the unsuspecting automatically do without fully realizing what is taking place in their minds. They ‘drift along.’”

‘Now I Know’

The Bible records several significant moments of history that were contingent on human action.

Genesis 22 describes God testing Abraham by having him sacrifice his son. Verse 3 shows that Abraham didn’t drag his feet—he took immediate action.

God could have stopped Abraham at any point in the process: You got up early—you prepared the wood—you didn’t take an animal with you…. But God apparently did not fully know Abraham loved Him more than his son until he was about to take the ultimate action. It was when Abraham took the knife that God said, “Now I know that thou fearest God.” In verse 16, God made an unconditional promise: “because thou hast done this thing.”

When James relays this account, he warns against confusing faith with inaction. Abraham’s faith was seen in how he acted. “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?” (James 2:21-22). Actionless faith is dead. Abraham teaches us what perfects faith and makes it live!

‘Who Can Tell If God Will Turn?’

Prophecy seems inevitable. But so often God makes its fulfillment contingent on human choice.

Centuries before he came on the scene, King Josiah was specifically prophesied by name to eradicate idolatry in Israel (1 Kings 13:2-3). In 2 Kings 23:15-20, he fulfilled this prophecy. As it was happening, he learned that he had been named in a prophecy about that moment. But even this inevitable-sounding series of events hinged on human choice. The Chronicles account says this happened in the 12th year of his reign. Then, in the 18th year of his reign, he repaired Jerusalem’s temple—going beyond the specific prophecy. In so doing, his high priest found the scroll of the law. Josiah’s reaction and subsequent actions delayed the inevitable curses he read about (2 Chronicles 34:24-28). And after God told him that, Josiah didn’t relax; he led the nation in the greatest Passover seen since the days of Samuel the prophet (verses 31-33; 2 Chronicles 35:16-18).

In another instance, King Ahab altered history by how he responded to a specific prophecy from Elijah. This man’s wickedness was unparalleled (1 Kings 21:25), yet when he heard that God would bring evil on him and cut off all the males in his house, he “rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly” (verse 27). God then said to Elijah: “Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son’s days will I bring the evil upon his house.” Ahab’s actions delayed God’s prophecy. It even impacted Elijah’s commission: He had been told to anoint the one who would wipe out Ahab’s house (1 Kings 19:16). But because of this delay, that commission was delegated to Elisha (see 2 Kings 9:1-13).

Then there was Nineveh, a Gentile city so wicked that it captured God’s attention (Jonah 1:2). Their punishment seemed so inevitable to Jonah that he figured he didn’t need to go warn them. Yet after Jonah eventually arrived and told them destruction was coming (Jonah 3:4), Nineveh’s king took bold action! In his edict commanding widespread repentance, he wrote: “Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?” Verse 10 says: “God saw their works,” and changed what He had planned to do.

Were these things “meant” to happen? You get the sense from these events that, had men chosen differently, the Bible would read differently. Nineveh could have been like all the other cities God destroyed, or its account would have been omitted altogether. Ahab and Josiah might not have made personal decisions that delayed anything. Abraham’s choice in the matter could have been left out if it hadn’t gone that way.

The point is, in all those cases, God responded to the choices and actions of human beings.

‘For Such a Time as This’

In some biblical examples, human beings choose how they respond to “inevitabilities.” This was the case for Esther, living in Persia at a time when Jewish extinction had been mandated by royal law.

In Esther 4:13-14, we read of Mordecai sending word to Esther in the royal palace, encouraging her to use her position as queen to take action to save her people. “Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed,” he wrote. Mordecai believed deliverance would come. To him, it was inevitable—because of his faith in God. He essentially told Esther she could be part of that plan, or perish for inaction. The rest of verse 14 reads: “… and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

In some cases, history is shaped by human choice. In others, certain inevitabilities are of God, and our choice determines what part we will play. For us living now, at the end of man’s rule over man, what monumental opportunities we have! God wants us to realize that we are people “for such a time as this”!

“A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). We have a partnership with God. Psalm 37:23 makes a similar point, adding that we must delight in God’s way. Our plans can’t be at odds with God’s. Still, He wants to see ambition and direction as He directs our steps.

Dating Mr. Armstrong

Let’s bring this back into the realm of dating. Consider the example of Herbert Armstrong. In The Missing Dimension in Sex, he wrote: “I devoted considerable time in public libraries, in the philosophical, or travel, or biography departments, acquiring knowledge for interesting conversation.” He did homework for dates, so he could discuss interesting things. That is not someone passively expecting something to “happen.”

He describes a system he crafted in dating for marriage. This occurred before his conversion, and the system itself is not something he advocated later in life. But there is a principle behind it that he did endorse.

In the Autobiography, he said his “system was born out of fear of this possibility”—that a man could suddenly and unsuspectingly “fall” for a girl to the point of being blinded to whether she was good for him or not. “But, if this ‘love bug’ should stab a hypo-love potion into me prematurely, I wanted to have insurance against being bound to the wrong one.”

Mr. Armstrong didn’t want to leave marriage to chance and end up a “poor victim.” He was a protagonist in his love story, a man working to forge his own destiny. He also said God brought him and his wife together despite his system. But God did not force a pairing on someone who was just a spectator in life.

‘The Way of a Man With a Maid’

In preparing for marriage, both the man and the woman need to be the spark, the protagonist, and the cause of good things.

For men, this is vital in all of life, not just dating. Show spark and ambition in your career—be a protagonist! Doing so will increase your confidence and ambition in dating. And those attributes can be immensely appealing to a woman. Ladies who see drive in your life and in how active you are in planning dates and group get-togethers will take note of those signs of strong leadership.

Pay attention to “turnabout” weekends. The whole point is to see what the other “side” of dating is like. Ask yourself: What does she (as an individual and as a representative of women) prioritize in dating? This can provide great insight to a man.

Proverbs 30:18 sets up “three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not.” This is a poetic device intended to draw attention to the fourth item. “The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid” (verse 19).

The first three “things” are images of beauty, smoothness and action: It’s not just empty air, a solitary rock or a vacant sea. Things are moving on them: not a perched eagle, a sleeping snake or a docked ship.

These three images create a complete view of the world: sky, land and sea. But the fourth is extraordinary: the human realm. And this is not just a solitary beautiful woman, or a man sitting and looking impressive: It’s one force moving on the other.

‘Feminine Forward’

As the above proverb shows, the man is an active force in dating. If a woman takes the lead in this area, it can create imbalances in a potential marriage, where she is to submit to her husband as unto Christ (Ephesians 5:22-24).

So, for women, it can seem there is less to do in being a spark, or being active as we’re describing. You might think you just “wait around” for dates. But there are ways women can be active within their role—ways to be “forward” that are inherently feminine. Joel Hilliker, one of God’s ministers who looked after the singles program for nearly a decade, encouraged ladies to be “feminine forward.”

Women certainly must be active in building an intimate relationship with God. Praying specifically about their dating lives is important. One single told me how she was concerned that her fellow singles girls weren’t being dated enough, so she prayed fervently about it that day. The next day, she was asked on a date. Every time she prayed about those specific things for other girls, she would get asked the following day!

Beyond this, women can actively develop qualities that enact positive results with men. A 1902 article by Rafford Pyke in the Harmsworth London Magazine offers remarkable insight on this point. The article, “What Men Admire Most in Women,” first dismisses certain notions of beauty. But Pyke says this particular quality will reflect in a woman’s face. In short, the quality he suggests men admire most in women is responsiveness.

“The responsive woman is the woman of sure sympathy,” he writes. Seeing genuine manifestations of this quality, men might say they are attracted to a woman’s eyes or her smile. It’s not necessarily the color or shape of the eyes, or the angles of the lips: Her eyes and smile show a response to what he is doing and saying. And he notices!

Single-Minded For God states: “A man feels deep satisfaction when he sees the look of appreciation in a woman’s eyes for some kindness he has shown her.”

After responsiveness, Pyke adds the characteristic of frankness. Not being rude or insulting, but “the courage of conviction, the splendor of sincerity.” He challenges the age-old notion that women need to be evasive and coy. Men, who typically say what they mean, are refreshed when a woman says what she means—instead of couching it in some mysterious expression. Some women think it’s “feminine” to feign indifference, or to constantly keep a man guessing, but that is deceitful, and exasperating to worthwhile men.

Pyke sums up: “Responsiveness that springs from an instinctive and intelligent sympathy; fineness of thought and delicacy of feeling; the gentleness that appeals to strength; the frankness that gives all and asks all without fear—these I think are the traits which render their possessors supreme among their sex.”

Responsiveness comes in the form of a look in the eyes, a smile on the face, even laughter when appropriate. Women tend to laugh more with men than other women, and men find great pleasure in making women laugh. Ladies: Be attuned and responsive to his humor, and see if it doesn’t encourage him to be more comfortable, more genuine, more himself around you.

Happen to History

Consider this 10-word motivational English phrase, comprised entirely of two-letter words: If it is to be, it is up to me.This maxim challenges the “meant to be” notion to which we so easily can fall victim.

Sure, that phrase doesn’t necessarily account for God. But we should not turn faith in God into some copout for inaction. The Bible records plenty of examples of God responding to human action. Faith is perfected by works.

Don’t let history happen to you. You can happen to history!

Leonardo da Vinci once said: “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”

Choices matter. Be singles of action. Be the sparks that ignite great results. Go happen to things.