Episode 1. This Great Paradox we call Life
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The more we try to fill ourselves up, the emptier we feel. When are we finally going to wake up to the fact that Life’s not just about “me”. Join Berni Dymet as he takes a look at life – from …
It turns out that the more we try to fill ourselves up with all the fun stuff this world has to offer, the emptier we feel. When are we finally going to wake up to the fact that life’s not just about “me”?
Life is full of paradoxes and contradictions and complexities. It’s funny how we can see something one way, believe with all our heart that that’s how it is and then in an instant you discover we had it all wrong. Like lemmings sometimes, we all rush in one direction and just in time someone says, “you realise that’s a cliff”.
People and societies chase after this idea or that belief; they believe it with all their hearts only to discover it doesn’t work. Take just one thing, consumerism. The advertising industry has a single, very simple mantra that rings out through almost every advertisement and it’s this, “if you buy me you’ll be happy”.
And to convince us of that each ad has glossy images of success plastered all over it, images of the things we aspire to: beauty, luxury, quality, comfort, happiness, a great marriage; a beautiful, happy, successful woman; a handsome, strong, driven man; delighted, well adjusted teenagers without acne.
In effect the ads tell us what to aspire to because they’re defining success. Fine dining, business class travel, crystal clear wide screen televisions, big houses. Who doesn’t want those things? But when we finally get there it’s a case of, well so what? Great but now what’s next?
Who doesn’t want a good espresso coffee or sit in those wide comfortable seats at the front of the plane or to drive a nice car or to have a happy family? You know the ads that really, really get me, you see father’s day and mothers day ads on television sometimes and they have images of happy well adjusted children, you know come in on mother’s day or father’s day morning and jump on mum and dads bed and they’re all smiling, they’re all happy.
What mother or father doesn’t want that to be the story of their family? Or even the margarine advertisement, you know in the mornings and all these happy people, all well dressed and their hair groomed, having breakfast, drinking freshly squeezed orange juice, scraping margarine on perfectly cooked toast, just to sell margarine.
Or those watches that cost, you know up market, thousands of dollars type watches and you have images of multi million dollar racing yachts that appeal to the man inside the man. Or the four wheel drives. You notice they’re always on beautiful wide country roads which lead towards freedom, never in the maddening peak hour traffic where most people drive them. Or the washing powder that will make your clothes whiter than white and brighter than bright. Or the showers that never need cleaning or the germ free sparkling toilets.
This incredible list, on and on and on, all with the same message, buy me and you’ll be happy but the plain simple fact is, it’s just not true. I mean most of the things they’re good, there’s nothing wrong with any of those things but they don’t fulfil us, they don’t fill us up. Our career, self actualising through our work and power and big salaries, whatever people want out of their careers. You see it doesn’t matter what it is or how exciting or glamorous it appears ultimately all work becomes mundane and ho-hum.
You might be thinking, ‘Berni what’s the matter with you today? I mean why are you all down and pessimistic?’ Well actually I’m not but I know a lot of people who are. They’re living on this treadmill all their lives, round and round and round just to discover that it’s hollow and it’s empty. You know something, even the most wonderful marriage on the planet, if there’s something not quite right inside one of those people there, it can end up being hollow.
The problem is we’ve been conned, this buy-me-and-you’ll-be-happy thing we know it doesn’t work but what’s the alternative? I mean so often we don’t know anything else so we just keep on going round and round on the same track again and again. You see people swilling around those glossy, ritzy shopping malls, what for? Are they looking for happiness there?
These last few weeks on the program and again this week we’re looking at what it means to discover your destiny, to be the person you were made to be, to live the life you were made to live. And we’ve been unpacking this sort of emptiness that so many people feel, this nagging sense of dissatisfaction.
Can I ask you something? As you look forward to the rest of your life is how you’re living it now the way you want to live it for the rest of your days on this earth? Are the things that you’re aspiring to, the things you’ve been working so hard for, the things that you’ve been sacrificing your life for, are they really worth it? Is the story, the mantra, the perspective on life that society has somehow infused into you the story that you want for the rest of your life?
They might be unsettling questions, I hope actually that they are because this week I want to unpack this paradox, why is it that things don’t seem to be working out in life sometimes? Why is it that somehow we try and live our lives kind of the way we’re supposed to, the way that’s supposed to make sense but it doesn’t make sense? I don’t feel fulfilled, I don’t feel like I’m being the me I was meant to be, why is that?
To me this is the biggest paradox of all and it’s one I had to discover and unlearn the hard way. The great British columnist Bernard Lennon once wrote this:
Countries like ours’ he said, ‘are full of people who have all they desire and yet they lead lives of quiet desperation, understanding nothing of the fact that there is a hole inside and no matter how much food and drink we pour into it, how many motor cars and TV’s we stuff it with, how ever many well balanced children and loyal friends we parade around the edges of it, it aches.
See so many people relate to that, sad but true. Can I ask you today, do you relate to that? As we’ve been spending this short time together today are you one of those many people who, if you’re really honest with yourself, would say, “you know, truly there is something missing in my life. The way I’ve been living my life, the way I’m living my life today is not the way I want to spend the rest of my life?” Because if you are the next question is, so what are you going to do about it, huh?
You may think that I’m railing against having money or having possessions, I’m actually not. There’s nothing wrong with money, there’s nothing wrong with having possessions, have a listen to what wise old King Solomon wrote in the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes chapter 5, verse 19:
Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them and to accept his lot and to rejoice in his toil, this is the gift of God.
Maybe you have wealth, maybe you have possessions but do you have the power to enjoy them because that power is a gift from God. Accepting your lot, enjoying who you are, rejoicing in the work you do, all those things are a gift from God.
I like so many people of my generation made the mistake of believing the mantra of the advertising industry, “buy me and you’ll be happy”. It’s not true, it never was true and it never will be true. Happiness and contentment are a gift from God.
Joy is something that comes only ever from an intimate close relationship with God, knowing that through Jesus Christ we’ve been forgiven, knowing that through Jesus we have a fresh start, a new life, the opportunity to fulfil our individual, custom made, handcrafted destiny that was written down in Gods book of life before any of our days ever existed.
The Apostle Paul hits the nail right on the head in the first chapter of the Book of Ephesians when he writes that God has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places and it’s only when we lay hold of Gods blessing, real blessing, eternal blessing, blessing that lights up our hearts here and now, the very blessing of God Himself that all this stuff that we have, all the things that we do are enjoyable and make sense.
Does that sound like the sort of story you want to live out for the rest of your life? Yeah me too.