Today has been one of those days. Sometimes I get into a sort of funk where things are going well, but they just don’t seem quite right. Kinda like when you are making dinner and it tastes good, but you can just tell it’s missing something that would take it from great to amazing. But you’re not quite sure just what.
It was interesting for me to trace my thought process as I was standing at the kitchen sink doing dishes as this was going on. Food sounded really good to me (even though I wasn’t really hungry and had just had breakfast about an hour and a half before.) Then I got to thinking about the really cheap solid-state hard drive I saw on NewEgg, and how much faster that should make my laptop if I were to get it. I thought about the new XBox 360’s (the slim ones with better cooling that don’t suffer from the RROD problem.) I thought about projects I could do on my house, about how hard it is to get together with my friends in town cause they’re always so busy, stuff like that.
And that gave me pause. As I stood at my sink, I realized that each of those things was a bandage. A filler. A temporary “solution” for a larger problem. Like using duct tape, bailing wire, and bondo to fix problems with your car, it might work for a while, but in the end, you’ve only tried to cover up the problem, not actually solved it, and it’ll end up either coming back or getting worse.
I was following down the path that our culture tries to lead us all down. “If you only had <x> then you’d be happy.” So we do. We try to get <x>, whatever it may be. “If you get the new MacBook Air, your life will be complete.” “If you get the new XBox 360 with the Kinect hardware, you’ll be happy.” “If you were only in this relationship, you’d be fulfilled.” “If you buy a bigger house, then you’ll be satisfied.” “If only you had a new car, then you’d be set.” “If only you worked for Google, then you’d be on top of the world.”
But what happens when we get <x>? We’re happy, of course! We feel whole, enthused, excited, and complete. For a while. Then we start to feel like something’s missing again. So we start noticing the other things we “need” to be complete and whole and happy.
The thing is, that wholeness and completeness isn’t in stuff. It’s not in people. It’s not in work. It’s not in relationships or electronics or cars or fame or houses or sex or anything or anyone. We may think it is. It might seem like it is. But once we get through the anticipation, past the expectation, and into the acquisition, we realize that we were, once again, wrong. Because we’re still. Left. Wanting. And yet, despite the cute little saying that the definition of insanity is doing something the same way every time and expecting different results, we do exactly that. And as soon as the buzz is gone, and we forget about the hangover of divorce and credit card bills and relocation costs, we’re out looking for another drink, thinking that this time it will be different.
King Solomon definitely could relate. He was the most renowned, wisest, richest king that Israel ever had. He had everything – money, wives, houses, vineyards, armies, wisdom, livestock, peace – anything and everything someone could want, he had. And yet, it wasn’t enough.
I said to myself, “Come on, let’s try pleasure. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless. So I said, “Laughter is silly. What good does it do to seek pleasure?” After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine. And while still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness. In this way, I tried to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world.
I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves. I bought slaves, both men and women, and others were born into my household. I also owned large herds and flocks, more than any of the kings who had lived in Jerusalem before me. I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire!
So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.
That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.
[Ecclesiastes 2:1-11, 12:13-14]
At the end of his life, Solomon realized that even if you could have everything, know everything, and do everything, it’s still not enough. It still won’t fill us or make us complete, and will only leave us wanting more.
So, back to my time at the kitchen sink. If I were to be really honest with you, I’d say that this past week, my relationship with God has been kind of lacking. I had spent the week up in Chicago at a conference, and between the conference, the 5 hours of commute time I had each day to get back and forth between it and where I was staying, and the desire to take advantage of the time I had up there to visit friends, I was left with 3-5 hours of sleep each night. Not the best for reading and praying. And as a result, my walk with God suffered. This morning was evidence of that fact – I was feeling distant from Him. But instead of trying to address the problem, I was looking at addressing the symptoms.
I think that Plumb puts it best in their song “God Shaped Hole,” “There’s a God-shaped hole in all of us, and a restless soul is searching. There’s a God-shaped hole in all of us, and it’s a void only He can fill.”
Stuff and relationships aren’t inherently bad. But they’re not the solution, and they can’t be. They weren’t meant to be. Without a relationship with God through Jesus, we can’t ever truly be complete, content, and fulfilled.