So What?

We’ve all had that thing. That one thing we just have to have. That one thing that will make us happy, complete us, fulfill every dream, and make it all worth the struggle.

Maybe it was an award in elementary school. Maybe it was the sports team slot. Maybe it was a toy, a concert, a date. Maybe it was a degree, or kids, or fame, or fortune.

Not getting the thing really sucks.

For those of us who believe God, believe that He’s in control and guides our lives, not getting the thing is more than painful. We wonder if God really cares, because surely if He loved us, He would let us have the thing. What’s wrong with the thing, we ask. Why can’t we have the thing?

We work so hard, try so much, do everything we can possibly do, and still we don’t have the thing. Maybe we have the thing, but it’s not complete. It’s a partial thing, or it fell apart despite our best efforts. Maybe someone else took the thing we wanted. Maybe we did everything right and the thing went to another person anyway. Where is God when we stand empty-handed?

When we don’t get the thing time after time after time, we think we should stop trying. Why do the same action and get the same result?

If God is in charge, and I don’t get the thing despite how much I pray, remain faithful, listen, obey, et al, then maybe I should put someone else in charge instead of God. He’s not delivering, so He has to leave office. Results, not empty promises!

If only that worked.

Deposing God doesn’t work, has never worked, and never will work. Just look at history. Look at the modern world. I recently read an article about a woman who, as part of an elaborate art performance, stood silent in public with a sign inviting those around her to do anything they wanted to her. Over the course of several hours, she was spat on, slapped, beaten, stripped, and otherwise physically violated. When given carte blanche, we devolve with frightening alacrity.

For all the good we do, we can’t fix this broken world. We can’t make it fair for everyone. We can try, and yes, we do some good. We make a positive difference. But we’re bailing a boat without going near the leak. We can barely get ourselves to eat, sleep, and exercise properly. What makes us think we can control the weather, plate tectonics, or other human beings?

Back to the thing. I have wanted things in my life, wanted them so much that the idea of being without them tore me to pieces. I wept for days or months over the things I wanted, moped for years, descended into physical dis-ease, and have done more than a few things I’m not proud of. I almost never got the things I wanted, and I have railed against God for making me miserable.

Where was my heart in all this suffering? Where was my mind? I focused on the thing, and I was miserable. I obsessed about how I didn’t have the thing, and I became sick. All of my being was on the thing, and I suffered.

What happens when the thing is no longer the center of my life? Ask any fangirl how she feels when her show ends, and she’ll tell you how hollow she feels, how void of meaning her life seems. Until she finds a new show, book, whatever. She replaces one thing with another.

Where we put our devotion shows what we worship. We may worship physical fitness, careers, family. Do those things have the ability to perpetually fulfill us, to continually meet our innermost needs? I argue that they inherently cannot. Our bodies fail and break. Careers suffer the whims of economics and politics. Families are full of ornery people who never seem to realize how their selfishness hurts those who love them.

Instead of getting tangled in a thing, perhaps we should look to the Main Thing. Jesus promised us that when we keep the Main Thing as our main thing, then everything else would sort itself out. That Main Thing is to love God with every last fragment of our being.

If love were a weak, ineffective emotion, it wouldn’t be lionized throughout history. We wouldn’t have song after poem after novel after film about how finding true love satisfies us in ways that money, power, and even sex cannot. Love meets a need that we can’t always verbalize or define. The deeper and purer the love, the more it transforms, takes over, and fills us.

God is love. Specifically, He is agape, the kind of love that doesn’t depend on emotions or circumstances, the kind of love that remakes, heals, soothes, and gives. It’s beyond lust, beyond romance, beyond family devotion. It’s so powerful that it’s scary. It’s the Main Thing.

So what if we don’t get the thing we so desperately want? If our attention in on the thing, we’re torn apart by it, whether we get it or not. When we look to agape, the thing becomes a wonderful addition. Its absence has no power to hurt us. Sure, we may feel disappointed when we don’t get it, but we won’t be destroyed because of its absence, and we will have the chance and the means to grow beyond it.

I think that’s a good trade-off.

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