I have come to believe that nothing is just something. Just when you think a book is just a book, you end up learning something profound in its pages. A song becomes more than just a fine melody when you gain clarity through one of its stanzas…I could go on for hours.
Two weeks ago, I went on a trip to New York City.
From the moment we landed I knew the trip was going to be freeing. The weather was perfect. The sun was shining, and my Toms made their way out of my suitcase. I breathed deeply and got ready for the adventure at hand.
Setting off from our hotel, we walked down 5th Avenue, checked out Trump Tower, strolled down Broadway and 7th, and trucked it through Central Park. We took pictures of the Dakota, the last residence and murder spot of John Lennon, and ventured through Strawberry Fields. The history was rich. My respect for the city grew. As we walked around, I remember admiring the fashion and the way people hurried in their business suits from one place to other. I was fascinated by the tall cathedrals and beautifully constructed buildings, and, to be completely honest, was a bit envious of the way in which people seemed to be taking on their dreams.
That night, as I was walking into my room to go to bed, I told my mom, “This place makes me want to succeed at something.” I would soon realize the depth of that statement.
The next morning, I woke up and went down to the deli next to our hotel. I bought a cup of coffee, pulled out my Bible and pen, and started reading. I came across this verse, and it wouldn’t leave me alone:
Jeremiah 7:23&24 reads, “But I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you. But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward.”
You see, a big part of my story is a continual struggle with trying to find meaning in things that were never purposed to give me such. On this list are a variety of things: a reputation; a certain amount of money; a job title; a particular body shape; and a busy schedule. On that day, in that little deli, I realized that many of the things that once plagued me were, once again, beginning to offer me a dose of their toxins. The idols had fallen off of their thrones, but they had not been destroyed.
Psalm 81:9&10 reads, “You shall have no foreign god among you; you shall not bow down to any alien god. I’m the Lord your God…open wide your mouth and I will fill it.”
In that moment, I realized that my heart was becoming unfaithful. The success that I desired the night before was not the right kind of success. It was success geared at making much of me, and not much of God. I was amazed at how easily an environment had influenced my heart. Would I seek God if I lived in New York City? The question haunted me.
On the plane ride home, later that week, I thought about the question. I spun it around in my head. I looked at the people on the plane, and then thought about it some more. Here’s the answer I came to:
My pursuit of anything that leads me away from God’s design for me is futile. Through my own pain and rebellion,
I’ve learned that one thing is certain – God deals with the sinner whom He loves, and He does what He wills to capture his or her heart again. I could live in NYC and pursue all there is to pursue. I could chase money, success, things, status, etc., but deep down I know that all of those things would lead me to a state of emptiness. I’d end up in a place wanting nothing more than life, joy and peace. I’d end up in a dark place asking God to, once again, turn my life around. It’s a circle.
You see, things that weren’t designed to fill us never can.
Matt Chandler frequently talks about the fact that we are our own number one joy robber. I think it’s legit. No one thing robs me of my joy as much as I do. My decisions, my choices to ignore the convictions the Holy Spirit places on my life, my declarations to go my own way when desiring something of this world, they all rob me.
In Christ is life. Drinking of Him means to drink life at the fullest possible level. When my walk with Him is thrown off, when my fellowship with Him is interrupted, my life lacks peace and my heart becomes ill.
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within” (John 7:37&38).
My little trip to New York was no longer just a trip to New York. It had become an instrument the Lord had used to reveal to me the depth of my brokenness and my desperate need for Him. I was aware, more than ever, of my idols. He used the experience to remind me that He created me, and He knows what satisfies. He satisfies, and He alone is God.