A few weeks ago I met a twenty-eight-year-old woman who told me of a struggle. Growing up, she longed for a good husband, a nice family, and a moderate house.
She had all she had wanted but she still felt restless.
They bought a newer car. They repainted the house. They added granite countertops; then stainless steel appliances. They were promoted. Her husband got an MBA. She quit her job and become a full-time mother. It felt good but the satisfaction didn’t last.
Soon, again, she felt discontent and restlessness. She asked herself, “Is this all there is?” She saw the same restlessness in her friends. Then she read an Einstein quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.”
She said, “I wonder if we’re all spiritually insane.”
We all know people…
We all know people who live frantic lives of restless discontent:
- The mothers who push kids into piano classes; then the travel soccer team; then the chess club; then the school play; then A/P English. They are frenetic.
- The young man who is like a serial boyfriend, always looking for the “right” girl. None has satisfied yet, but he keeps looking, night after night. He is restless.
- The pastor who grew a congregation from 100 to 300 and now wants 500; or has 500 but wants 1,000. He can’t sleep at night.
- The addict who lights up one more joint or does another line of cocaine, but it’s never enough. Tomorrow he does it again.
It’s easy to see frenzy in others. They grasp for different things. What about you and me? How often do we think, “If only my wife would stop nagging (or my husband would start doing dishes),” or “If only she loved me,” or “If only we had a deck out back”?
The young woman told me that she had everything she wanted, but it wasn’t enough. Her marriage, family, and home were great, but they didn’t satisfy her soul. She said,
“This time around, I’m going to pause in my discontent and rest in my restlessness.”
(I told her she was a genius, on par with Einstein. She said, “Thanks! That feels great.” A moment later she said, “Oh no. The feeling’s gone.”)
I tried the pause
I decided to try her challenge, pausing in my discontent and resting in my restlessness. I sat at my desk and made a list of my “If only’s:” writing a bestselling novel, taking a month-long Caribbean scuba vacation, or owning a 16-person retreat center on a lake.
I asked myself, “How much happier will I be if I get them?” and “How much less happy will I be if I don’t?” My answer was, “Probably not much. They won’t satisfy for long.” So why do I restlessly push for them?
I must be spiritually insane. As I reflected on my insanity, I read a C. S. Lewis quote,
Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. We feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. 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 (Mere Christianity, chap. 10, emphasis added).
It’s right and normal to want food, love, homes, families, relationships, and careers. But satisfaction of these desires will never bring the deep soul satisfaction we crave.
Because we were made for another world.
Leaveable and bearable
John Newton said, “If we really knew the future glory for us, it would make the best times leaveable and the worst times bearable.”
That is the deep spiritual longing of each heart and soul; we long for a satisfaction so rich that the very best times will be leaveable and the very worst things will be bearable.
Phew! Frankly, I’m sick and tired of repainting the house.
P.S. Try my friend’s challenge. Take a few minutes and a pen and paper, and write down the things you go to for satisfaction. Then ask, “How much happier will I be if I get them?” and “How much less happy will I be if I don’t?”
What do you think?
- In this moment of your life, what are your longings of which you say, “If only…”?
- What “satisfactions” have you had that only satisfied temporarily?
- In what ways might you be “spiritually insane?”