Ever since my wife and I began our healthy lifestyle campaign back in 2009, I have been developing a list.
It's not a list I'm proud of.
The list compiles my "fall off the wagon" foods - the things I would eat were good sense and care for my body no longer considerations.
The top of the list is a burger called "The Dead Texan" found at a downtown Chicago joint.It includes two 10 oz. patties, BBQ sauce, cheese, jalapeños, bacon and a fried egg. That, however, is not the worst part. The bun is made from two grilled cheese sandwiches on Texas toast, and topped with a spear of onion rings that makes the burger nearly a foot tall from top to bottom.
Now, I know that if I were to eat that it would accomplish two things: One, I'd probably have to have surgery. Two, my desire for it would be gratified and I'd probably be disappointed that I put so much stock in how good it was going to be.
In Tuesday's post, I talked about how we struggle in the life of following Jesus because we're seeking happiness instead of joy. The practical fallout of that search is that we are far more concerned with gratification than we are satisfaction.
Gratification primarily serves my own physical and psychological needs, and it's temporary. (I'll eventually replace one burger with another supposedly-legendary delicacy). Food will need to be eaten again, water replenished, sleep re-entered - they gratify needs and rightly so but life has to be about more than simply chasing the basics.
Satisfaction, however, if it's that good and true gift we're all driving toward cannot be exhausted or replaced. It leads us to contentment. Jesus is that satisfaction, as He tells the woman in John 4: "If you drink of the water I have, you'll never have a dry throat again." (my paraphrase) No more water, because there will be no more thirst. Satisfied. Completed. Done.
Satisfaction is truly the core of the legendary "vine and branches" passage in John 15.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)
What Jesus is talking about is the ability to abide - to stay or remain or dwell somewhere - in Him so that life begins to flow into us and through us via our "fruit."
The problem is that gratification doesn't play well with "abiding." Gratification seeks new sources of fulfillment, soothing, and desire-appeasement. Ultimately, this is what leads to serial behaviors. Multiple sexual partners dot the map of gratification. Addiction is the logical result of gratification. Distraction and distance from healthy rhythms of life is gratification-in-action. Greed and debt come when the old is not as snazzy as the new and we have a new-itch that needs to be scratched.
However, there are also overlooked places where gratification becomes an issue. For example, telling half-truths or simply never clarifying the truth for others is a way of gratifying our need to be relevant, wanted, and knowledgeable. The moment that is best for me in teaching is when I can respond to a question by saying "I don't know." I wasn't always able to do that, mainly because I was interested in protecting my own reputation and putting on a mask of superior intelligence.
How many times have we let on that we knew/had experienced/understood something so as to not appear negatively in someone else's eyes?
Satisfaction in Jesus means I don't need to prop myself up, because He is my identity through and through. (See Galatians 2:20)
Satisfaction is what Paul is talking about in Philippians 4:11-13, that classic verse about "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." Great verse, but it is loaded like fireworks on July 4th by the two verses that come before:
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (4:11-12, NIV)
A life of gratification dry-heaves at these words. A life of satisfaction takes a deep inhale at these words.
If we are willing to learn the way of contentment, in any and every situation, and dwell on the vine that gives us life through that holy photosynthesis called the Spirit of God, we will learn a new way of joy.
Joy springs from contentment in Jesus, and happiness is a holy day of celebration journey punctuating the journey of joy.
Tomorrow, I'm going to give you a prayer for Friday (as always) but also a few key disciplines that will help train us for the life of contentment.