We live in a society that tells us: "Go get it." See something you like? Go get it. Want a shiny new bobble? Get it. Slimmer body? Eat this, do that--you've got it. But what society fails to mention, an inconvenient little caveat, is that none of these things brings lasting joy. Sure, they may feel good for a while--give us a boost, some extra pep, a spring in our step. But satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts? Sorry, but--no. I've been reading a wonderful book this Easter season called Easter Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections. In it, a passage on the subject of desire states:
"The reality [is] that deep within we are seeking the infinite--that which lasts forever. Much in our society today is focused on self-interest, encouraging us to do everything for our personal gain and satisfaction. But part of us, deep inside, will never be completely satisfied with earthly things.... [Only Jesus] satisfies the deepest hungers of our hearts." (emphasis added.)
This is so true. When it comes right down to it, aren't we all, in the end, seeking the infinite? Do those new shoes give you peace deep within your heart? Does a snazzy career or shedding 20 pounds quiet the ugly, lost, hurting places deep within? While they may lend some satisfaction and temporary distraction, they never truly satisfy. Are these evil pursuits? Certainly not. We are all called to use our gifts, challenge ourselves and seek to enrich our lives. But the danger lies in losing the balance between earthly desires and eternal ones. Once we turn away from God, lost in pursuit of our earthly goals, we are headed into dangerous territory.
There was a time not too long ago that I had begun to lose my "heavenly focus." So wrapped up in my own little world of earthly desire, I had completely placed my focus on...well, myself. Rather than consulting God to set my path I got sucked into a world of external desires--longing for "stuff," acting out of pride, and thinking about all of my own wants, rather than focusing on how I might serve others. Instead of seeing the beauty in all of the things in my present life I got stuck in a downward spiral of:
If only my house were bigger.
If only I had a maid to help with some of this mess.
If only my husband could pick up his dirty socks once in awhile.
If only I could magically press a magic "fast-forward to bed" button on my kids on the hard days.
If only, if only, if only...
If only, if only, if only...
Before I knew it, I found I was no longer satisfied with all of the extraordinary graces in my life. Rather than "seeking the infinite" I was begrudging the present and dreaming of a non-existent future of what could be. And if we don't get a grip on these desires, the longings just get bigger and hungrier until we reach a place of total dissatisfaction with the present. We act out of self-interest to the point of even hurting others. In our focus on what "could be" that we lose the beauty of what is. And this line of selfish thought can become the devil's playground for a whole host of idols-- be it physical fitness, career aspirations, imbalanced time spent on hobbies, etc. The list goes on and on.
And the truth is, that many of the puffed-up dreams we chase are really just illusions, anyway. It's easy to convince ourselves that our "rub a lamp and make a wish" life would fulfill our deepest longings, but in the attainment, the reality often falls short. In an recent interview popular blogger Jennifer Fulwiler talked about her light bulb moment she when, at the pinnacle of her computer programming career, she thought (paraphrased) : "This is it? This is the dream I chased? This is really kind of...lame." (Great interview, by-the-way! I highly recommend watching!) And if we, in our "light bulb moments" fail to pray for guidance, the illusions snowball. And that is a sad place to be--trapped in an illusion.
It is not in the attainment of personal pursuits that we are truly filled, but in the emptying of self. We are called to die to self in order to be filled by Christ. When we serve others in love, when we act on the whisperings of the Holy Spirit, our longing can truly be satisfied. When we kneel at the foot of the cross in sincere humility, with soft supple hearts, it is only then that we can truly be nourished. The Lord fills our gaps and empty places with abundance. But He can only feed us if we acknowledge our hunger for Him. We need to make space inside of us for Him to fill.
I was at the grocery store the other day and saw an old man struggling with his shopping list. I was frazzled, just trying to hurry through the rest of the trip with my 3 kids in tow. The man looked troubled as we perused the cheese selections. Admittedly, (not my finest moment!) I felt a little irritated he was taking up most of the aisle. It was almost lunch time and this was the very last aisle of the store, so by this time the kids and I had had it. The man looked at me and asked: "Do you see any more of the cheddar on sale?" I knew he needed my help. I felt so torn between my own desire (to be DONE with shopping!) and the nudging I felt to help. So, I found the cheese he was looking for, and as it turned out, he had also lost his pen. I paused for a moment holding my purse, knowing that only my favorite pen was inside. I really didn't want to part with it. But he needed it. So, I gave him my pen. Immediately after I felt so happy I had helped this man--he looked at me with such gratitude, and thanked me so heartily. Truly, there was nothing better than that moment--of choosing someone else over my own stress and ridiculous pen-loving desire. I can buy another silly pen, but I'll probably never get another chance to be a blessing to the old man on the cheese aisle.
So as you live through your weeks and months and years, go ahead and make your plans. Make great resolutions, dream big, reach for the stars. But all the while, ask the Lord to walk your path with you. Include Him in those plans of yours, and thank Him for the gifts and graces along the way. Dream big, but remain humble and open to the path He sets, enjoying the graces of each day. And allow yourself to be amazed by what the Lord can do when you let Him take the lead.
Do you have any "If onlys" you need to let go of in order to seek the infinite?