The news that my mother was preparing to bake something was always met with exuberant support and joy in our house. My mother is known for her delicious baked goods, so it stands to reason that all members of the household would unanimously support her plans to bake. Now, let’s contrast the reactions when I made such an announcement. When I announced an intention to bake, imagine dramatic orchestral music accompanied by a slow motion montage of all members of my family frantically lunging to prevent me from entering into the kitchen, in hopes of stopping me from proceeding with this catastrophic plan. Where my mother’s plans were met with joy, support and excitement, mine invoked doubt, suspicion and fear. The guarantee of something heavenly emerging from the oven as a result of my mother baking no longer dominated the thoughts of those unfortunate few that heard my announcement. Now the only guarantee is that something was definitely going to go wrong. The question was no longer, “How long will we have to wait?” spoken in anxious anticipation. The now unspoken question was, “How long will we have to wait?” in fearful expectation of disaster.
Why were the responses so different? The answer comes again to “trust.” My family had all the trust in the world in my mom’s baking abilities, and little to no trust in mine. And this trust, although to me clearly biased and one-sided, was not misguided. In fact, it was absolutely justified. My mom possessed a long and illustrious record of producing wonderful creations from the oven. I did not. My mom had proven herself a wonderful baker. I had proven that I had no right to be baking in the first place. Therefore, the fear of what might happen when I began to bake was a judgment call made on nothing except my record. My record of mistakes spoke louder than my record of success.
With each passing year we all hope to be one step closer to our goals, whatever they may be. Regardless of which direction you are heading, everyone is heading somewhere. Regardless of what destination you are striving toward, everyone is striving to attain something. While we can all accept this observation as mere common sense, what we tend to forget is how much we are investing every day of our lives in promises that perhaps do not deserve such committed sacrifice and devotion. To invest so much of ourselves into certain things that make such bold promises and encourage us with such hopeful guarantees, we would be unwise to neglect a look at “the record.” Human beings are amazing creatures that are capable of incredible levels of thought and analysis that not even science can fully account for. We are incredible beings with incredible minds. Our ability to think is what elevates us above the animal Kingdom and gives us an advantage over every other living thing in this world. Yet it is shocking how often we make seemingly blind investments in unsure things. We forget to “use our minds,” constantly unwilling to analyze “the record” of those unfulfilling things in which we invest, repeatedly left astonished by the outcome when perhaps the outcome is not all that surprising.
Perhaps a person takes the guarantees of a job at face value: that to accept a new position will ultimately bring about happiness. While the job may produce forms of happiness, there are typically caveats in the promise, where happiness will ultimately evolve into promises unfulfilled. Perhaps you or your family might begin to enjoy certain perks of the new job, like luxurious vacations provided by a competitive salary, fulfilling the promise of happiness. While these vacations most certainly bring about happiness, enjoying these relatively short-lived experiences of bliss tends come at the cost of long working hours and decreased family time. While this might not always be the case, it is widespread and tragically common. With such a predictable outcome, why do we continue to fall for the trick? Perhaps buying the latest and greatest merchandise keeps you going to work every day, putting forth the effort that you do. Perhaps it is the promise of acceptance and value that you will feel once you purchase said merchandise that keeps you working so hard. After months of working and saving, perhaps you finally buy the thing which you have striven to attain for so many months. This feeling is noticeably satisfying, and the joy of possessing your new “precious” gives you a feeling of such joy and delight that, at that moment, all of the toil was worthwhile, and the promise was fulfilled. Unfortunately, what you find, time and time again, is that as your “precious” begins to age, and a new “precious” becomes known to you, the journey to attain “precious 2.0” begins all over again. Day after day, month after month and year after year we chase the uncatchable and grasping for the unattainable.
With the knowledge of such repeated dissatisfaction it is shocking that so many of us continue to fall for this scam. These motivations to strive and pursue certain things, whether a career or material desires, are based upon the same assumption: that if we seek these “pots of gold” with our greatest passion and ability, we will ultimately be satisfied when we find them. Yet, something rather illogical and inconsistent is observed when we view the pursuit of these things with the same rationale that my family used when questioning my baking ability. My family was not judging me because they had anything personally against me. My family loves me deeply, but they judged my record as Nathan, the infamous cake buster and cookie burner. Their hesitation to trust was based on my past failures.
Why do we continue to live for things that are proven to disappoint us? When we consider what sin is at the center of the human heart, the answer is clear. At the heart of sin is a belief that we know best what will truly satisfy us. However, what sin ultimately produces in us is an addiction to a counterfeit satisfaction. In an attempt to satisfy our cravings, we are eventually consumed by them, left with little that truly satisfies. While jobs and “things” might tend to take more than they give, in the process of chasing them we see that even slight or temporary gratification provides us with such a “high” that we continue to chase. When asked to choose between low, yet prolonged, levels of excitement versus high, yet fleeting, validation of worth, most people would choose the latter.
All of us deeply desire or even need to be something bigger than we are, to be in a better situation than what we now find ourselves in. We spend our lives seeking to satisfy these inner desires, yet without complete success or satisfaction. We throw ourselves at the feet of those who promise to deliver us this sought-after satisfaction but are repeatedly confronted with the realities that the promises were simply words and the desires remain unfulfilled. At the mere utterance of a newer and more successful plan to deliver our deepest dreams, our ears perk up like a dog hearing the clinking of the food bowl. We are so quick to say, “Yes, Yes, Yes!” without stopping to ask,“Why, Why, Why?”
For many years, I saw the Bible as a legal textbook, an unnecessarily long document of laws, regulations and standards that loomed ominously over my head in judgmental condemnation. I viewed the writer of this book to be someone so perfect that to expect such a standard of living out of a regular person like myself was clear evidence that this “God” was too perfect for me to have anything in common with, or too clueless to realize my limited potential. However, this view changed as I read through the Bible in its entirety for the first time. To my surprise, what I found was not what I initially assumed I would. I found was a heart-breaking love story of a father that knows that his children can do so much more if they would only trust his voice and follow. What I found were children, people, who think they can do things on their own but tend to find themselves making long and painful detours which often lead them back to where they originally began, scarred, broken and more hopeless than before. What I found was a father who, over thousands of years, has proven his promises to be true. What I found was a God telling me that I have the potential to become something more than I am now, and in a place more satisfying that I now find myself. This God I found had been trying to prove to me that I can trust his promises, and that all he wanted to do was bring me into the true fulfillment of my heart, satisfying in the way that he intentionally designed.
My new reaction to God’s word was not unlike my family’s reaction to my mother announcing that she would soon be baking a cake. My mom has proven herself time after time to be a competent baker so, naturally, we all looked forward to the finished product.
On a much larger scale, God is no different. He has a long history of making good on his promises. Not one of them has been left unfulfilled. He promises to create something in us that is bigger than we hoped for, and better than we could have ever expected. The question is, have you looked at His record to deliver on such promises? And if you have, what is stopping you from trusting in Him and eating His cake?