My seventeen-year-old self, this time six years ago, wrote:
“I saw Elizabethtown last night. It stirred up lots of emotions while I was watching it. It did a good job of convincing me that I should believe lies. When I was watching it, I wanted to believe that life was about meeting beautiful people and making shallow attempts at deep connections with them. I wanted to believe that life was about fast-paced, short-lived romance that should mean more than it does.
Last night, just for a while, I wanted to pretend that I believed those lies. I was angry at myself for thinking that way, of course. But, just for a moment, I wanted to pretend that it was okay to have quick, passionate flings, and that they would actually happen to me. I wanted to live a movie life…I wanted to pretend that life was all about great movies, great songs, great books, great people. I wanted to pretend that these things had the power to change the world. Then, I remembered the one thing that really has the power to change the world for good—for eternity; the one thing that really only mattered, and I knew that it was worth it. I didn’t feel it, but I knew it. I feel it now…when I remember what my life’s supposed to be like and the adventure that will come with just following and not having things in my total control, I feel it.
…I wanted to pretend life was about earth and earth was about life… Then I remembered life’s about eternity. I questioned why God made things the way they are. That’s because I’m simple and finite, only an outstretch of this Universal Mastermind who knows why things have to be the way they are.
It will all make sense one day. I don’t know what’s going to happen, exactly. I only have an idea, but I will understand someday. Not fully understand like God does, but I’ll understand enough. From what I know, I’m scared, but I know it will all be okay because I’m on the right side. And I’m scared for those who aren’t. I want them to be. I want to tell them how they can be. I want to have the boldness to do that. I want to be able to trust that God will help me.”
Like the seventeen-year-old me, I can still get wrapped up in movies sometimes. I identify so closely with the main character that I start to say, “That’s me!” I am Jane Eyre. I am Elizabeth Bennett. I am Fraulein Maria. I am the female lead who gets the shaft for the whole story, until just at the very end, the charming man I love, and probably hated at first, sweeps me off my feet and we live happily ever after.
If that’s the case, I’m still waiting for the happily ever after part, or so it seems.
But you see, that’s the danger with getting wrapped up in these stories, somehow convincing myself that they so perfectly represent my life, or the life I think I want to live. It reveals, at the core, one of the biggest lies my heart is so easily tempted to believe: that it can be satisfied with things of this world.
It, in fact, cannot.
I’ve learned that the hard way.
I’m still learning that—and probably will continue to until the day I leave this earth.
How many of us have thought things like, at one point or another, “Once I’m married, I’ll be happy,” or, “Once I’ve settled into a career and a nice suburban, 2-car garage home with a white picket fence, and have 2.5 children and a Golden Retriever, I’ll be happy,” or, “Fill-in-the-blank, and I’ll be happy.”
I have. I’ve actually thought that romance, motherhood, recognition, and adventure would satisfy me…that happiness was unattainable until some or all of those things were attained—as if happiness is the chief end in life.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Is it wrong to want, or have, a spouse, career, children, a comfortable home? No. God gives us wonderful gifts that we should receive with thankfulness. The wrong is in thinking those things will ultimately satisfy us. Essentially, it is wanting those things more than God—because He is the only One who can truly satisfy us; it’s how He made us. It’s idolatry.
I’m not trying to trivialize God, as if His purpose is just to give us warm fuzzies inside. We’re not just looking for a quick fix. There is a longing in our souls that goes much deeper than that. That’s why, in our pursuit of meaningful things, we’re left stunned when there’s still the feeling of something missing.
C.S. Lewis has often been quoted in saying, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
The point is, we weren’t made to be satisfied by this world, or the things in it. It was made for our enjoyment, true, but not our worship. When God first made Adam and Eve, they didn’t struggle with this. They enjoyed the presence of their Creator, in the way things were designed to be. When sin entered the world, that fellowship was broken, and so began the human quest to try to make life work apart from God; it doesn’t. Never has, never will. Any semblance of success at that is just a facade.
I realized that when I watched Elizabethtown. And I’ve since had to be reminded of it in the times I attempt to find my fulfillment in anything but God.
But I also realized it needed to go a step further. While it is absolutely essential to recognize that God alone is worthy of my total worship, and that He alone satisfies, it’s also important to remember that He’s left me here, on earth. I’m not home yet, free from the distractions of this world, from the forces that attempt to lure my heart away. I also realized that other people are stuck in the same trap of trying to stuff themselves silly with things they think will satisfy. And if there are other people like that, I have the responsibility to tell them that it will never work. Further than that, I have the desire to—because I don’t want them to suffer eternal condemnation, and God is worthy of the worship He will receive through redeemed lives that understand He is all they need.
“For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” Psalm 107:9-10
In a world where nothing satisfies, what better message to proclaim than one that speaks of the God who does?