I hate carrying a purse. In high school and even in college, I loathed the female obsession with purses so much that I used a wallet. Finally, when it became necessary to carry medication with me, I borrowed a purse from a friend. It was a simple design – brown leather, not too flashy – but it was Coach. Then, something happened to me. As I carried this purse, I became aware of its ability to bestow status. At the mall, I used to hope that people would notice what brand my bag was and envy it – and it wasn’t even mine! When I eventually returned the purse to my friend and bought one of my own (at Target), I was both relieved and discontented. I was relieved because I didn’t like how I had acted when I carried the Coach bag, but discontented because I had lost something that had made me feel good, even if it was shallow. In the end, the whole experience just made me feel empty.
I am not proud of this story, and in fact, I don’t really want to publish it except that I see this madness everywhere, even in myself.
There is something really terrible about my insatiable desire for stuff. If I allowed it, it would spin out of control. Then I read a verse like this: “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”* And I’ll be honest, even as a Christian, my first thought is, Okay. So if I try to be happy about God, then he’ll give me all the stuff I want. Even if you’re not religious, a little red flag should go up in your mind when you read my logic. It just doesn’t track. God is not like a vending machine: if you give something of yours and put in the right combination, the object of your desire pops out.
Instead, this verse is circular. The first part of the sentence is the key to the second part. Only when you delight yourself in the Lord do you realize that He is the desire of your heart. C.S. Lewis puts it like this: “God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.”
It’s not that I can’t have nice things, it’s just that I don’t entirely trust myself. If I saved, I could buy a purse like the one I borrowed from my friend. But would the same empty deception creep over me again? I just don’t know. And so, I carry my purse from Target and take my delight in someone who gives me what I really desire: true happiness. ♦