You know there is no magical moment when you are content. You know there is always going to be some restlessness in life. You know that the most valuable things in life are not some unrealized goals but the people that surround you each and every day.
These are things I remind myself on a regular basis because of the restless discontent that oftentimes characterizes my mind. This past week, I preached a sermon on the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. As an illustration, I came up with a set of American Beatitudes that I think drive us.
Blessed are the talented for they have a bright future. Blessed are the confident for they will be successful. Blessed are the ambitious for they will be promoted. Blessed are those that pursue wealth for they will live in luxury. Blessed are those that look after themselves for they will get the prize. Blessed are the good-looking for people will look up to them. Blessed are the strong for they will not fail. Blessed are those that live comfortable lives for they will be happy. Blessed are those that are popular for they will be admired.
There are numerous ones that challenge my own heart. I put a premium on ambition, strength, and comfort. These are things that oftentimes drive me. I am sure you have your own areas that compel you in life. The primary point I shared with my church was that these values should not motivate us but rather the values of Christ: grace, love, mercy. It is the latter which provide security and contentment not the former.
As I continue to reflect on this issue, the one word that keeps popping in my mind is “chasing.” I know that ambition is no guarantee when it comes to future opportunities. I know that comfort can disappear at any moment. I know that my strength can give out without notice. A phone call from my doctor powerfully reminded me of this truth. Yet, I still chase them.
In this, there is a sense of denial. I continue to chase the very things that I know provide no foundation. I am a fairly intelligent person yet I think there is a mirage that I allow to continue floating around in my head. I know they are not true (any of the American Beatitudes) yet I keep chasing them. A popular definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. Based on this definition, I am insane at times (no comment). But, I don’t think I am alone in this regard. It is the reason so many people are unhappy. They keep chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow even though they know it doesn’t exist. Deep in our hearts, we say to ourselves that we will be the exception. I will be the one to find joy in wealth. I will be the one to bottle self-worth from popularity. The older I get the more I realize it is an illusion. Now, if I can only stop chasing it.
Yet, maybe it is not simply stopping the pursuit. I think sometimes we chase it because there is no alternative. What else is a person to do but try the best they can to get some joy from the only thing that is in front of them – possessions, fame, and health. I mean we have door #1 and oh yeah door #1. It is the only thing we see. Everyone else is chasing this door so I better join the race before I get left behind. But, what if there is a second door that we have failed to truly pursue?
Yes, I think Christ is that door. The problem is that we too often are simply peeking in it until we have a chance to go back to door #1. We never really jump into it. I wonder whether we would ever look back at door #1 if we did.