The summer before eighth grade, I convinced my mom to buy me a trendy new wardrobe.
Being a middle schooler circa 2001, I picked out a jumble of over-sized, striped Tommy Hilfiger polos, thinking, I now have the coolest clothes. This year is going to be different.
Naturally, school began a month later and nothing changed. I was still an average student with an average amount of friends and an average middle-school lifestyle, despite my suave new polos with tiny red and blue emblems.
Looking back, I see how absurd and immature my expectation was that a few expensive shirts could change my 13-year-old life. Sadly though, I think most of us still make the foolish assumption that external changes will solve our internal problems.
For our lack of fulfillment, we travel to exotic places. For our stress and frustration, we buy smartphones, iPads and cars with built-in computers. For our loneliness, we edit our profile pictures and write introspective blogs in an attempt to be known.
Ultimately, these exterior changes simply mask the truth in our hearts. While they bring temporary highs that promise fulfillment, they ultimately burry our souls deeper in dissatisfaction and keep us from living out of our true identities.
Working part-time at a fancy hotel in West Palm Beach, I see this often. The other day a woman arrayed in designer labels came and stood next to me as she waited for her car. We talked briefly.
“How are you today ma’am?” I asked.
“Well, I’ve been on vacation for so long— two years now. I’ve got to get out of here,” she said.
“Wow, that is a long time. Where have you been?”
“Egypt, Israel, Hawaii, Italy… I’m exhausted. I don’t know what I’m doing,” she lamented.
This woman has the world and all of its splendor at her fingertips, and yet her life still lacks meaning. I’m not implying that possessions, travel and occasional luxuries are inherently evil, but when we use these things as Band-Aids to cover our inner-turmoil, we simply let the real problem fester, leading to further decay.
Although there is no easy solution, I believe it starts by recognizing internal struggles require internal solutions.
I love the way David prayed, “Search me and know my heart, O God.” He recognized that all the treasures in the kingdom of Israel would fail to meet his soul’s desires. He settled for nothing less than intimacy with the God of the universe.
Christ said that true life is found in knowing and being known. Only his Spirit can whisper life into the true interior of who we are. We have to stop believing the lie that exterior changes will cure our souls and start opening ourselves up to his transformative love.