Thursday, December 10, 2009

Being Satisfied

Always wanting more seems to be an inescapable part of the human condition. No matter how much we have, how happy we are, or how many blessings are showered upon us, we always want more. Selfishness creeps stealthily inside our hearts until we're more focused on getting more than we are on loving one another. Our savings account becomes more important than our gifts to charity and and the time we guard for our own personal use is more precious to us than the time we devote to others. We think more about what we lack than what we have, and we become ambitious and calculating. We structure our lives around how to get what we want instead of how to serve others. Each of us has a little glutton inside of us tempting us to overindulge and to do whatever it takes to gratify our desires.

This selfish tendency to betray love in order to get more for ourselves is the most primal of sins. In fact, it is the original sin. Imagine the scene in Eden. Adam and Eve are together in the garden. They have lots of tasty food to eat, and they don't have to labor to produce it. They spend their days exploring the garden and enjoying its delights. God Himself is their best friend and spends time with them every day. They have a charmed life under the watch of a caring Creator who provides for their needs. They have no idea what new wonders God might have in store for them, but they decide to take matters into their own hands in order to ensure they're getting everything they can get. Sure, hanging out with God is pretty nice, but wouldn't it be better to be God's equal? God has given Adam and Eve His love and attention, a beautiful home, and even their very lives, but they are still willing to betray Him in order to get more. They're about to learn the hard way that love is worth much more than the power and wisdom they seek.

Only two weeks ago we celebrated Thanksgiving and remembered all of the good gifts in our lives. Yet those feelings of gratitude can fade so quickly into the background. Perhaps we haven't turned into greedy Scrooges yet, but some part of each of us is looking longingly at shiny items in store windows and wishing we had more money to spend on treats and gadgets this holiday season. Perhaps we're wishing that we weren't stuck in dead-end jobs or that we lived in nicer houses. Maybe we're feeling grumpy about having to waste so much of our time, energy, and money on other people and wishing we had more for ourselves. When we get carried away with these feelings we may even start thinking about what (or who) we'd be willing to sacrifice to get what we want. We forget the wonderful acts of love that others have done for us as our thoughts focus on how those others stand between us and what we want. Like Adam and Eve we criticize God for not making us like Him instead of being satisfied with all the good gifts He has given us.

One of the opening scenes of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone features Harry's cousin Dudley inspecting his birthday presents. Dudley throws a fit because there are only 36 presents, and last year he had 37. J.K. Rowling paints this scene as an absurdity, making the ridiculous Dudley a foil to Harry's more practical and good-hearted nature. Yet we are not always so different from little Dudley Dursley, screaming about a present we thought we deserved instead of bubbling with delight over the 36 presents heaped before us. Even those of us who live comfortable lives frequently spend a lot of time complaining. Why hasn't God done more for us? Why don't we have more? We suspect that God is holding out of us, and we forget how amazing His love for us is. Like Adam, Eve, and Dudley, we find ourselves dismissing what we have in the face of what we don't have.

My prayer for myself and for the people in my life today is that we can learn to be satisfied. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, but His love is constant. Having more or less is inconsequential compared to the absoluteness of God's love for me and my love for Him. As Solomon wrote, "Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred." (Proverbs 15:17) By trying to get more, Adam and Eve risked the most precious thing they had—their relationship with God. The gain they sought turned out to be an illusion. Our quest for more separates us from the one thing we really need, so I pray that we can learn to be satisfied so that we do not stray from the one who gives us our very lives.

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