I want to be famous.
There, I said it.
I want people that I don’t know to know who I am. I want to be walking through Walmart one day and have a random stranger come up to me and ask for my autograph, (not that I necessarily want that to happen at Walmart specifically, but Walmart seems like the place something like that would happen. Don’t you think?).
So what would I want to be famous for? Probably either writing books or writing songs. I love both. And here’s where things go amiss. I love to write. There’s, of course, nothing wrong with that. When I write something I really want people to experience it. Again, still innocent so far. And when I say I want people to experience it, I mean a lot of people.
Ok, now here’s where my motives get complicated.
If I truly believe that what I have to say can be a real encouragement to people, then of course I would want to reach as many people as possible. Right? But is it really that I want to encourage lots of people, or is it that I want to be famous? The truth is, it’s usually a bit of both.
In short, I have a desire to influence people, I have a desire to be successful, and I have a desire to make enough money from doing what I love that I could do it full-time.
But there is a point when desire can cross over the line into the realm of fantasy. And that’s where we get ourselves into trouble.
Fantasy takes all the highlights of the life you think you want, strips them of anything remotely resembling reality, and sets what’s left to music, creating the equivalent of an enticing mental movie trailer about a dream life that doesn’t actually exist. By doing so, it also blots out every highlight of your life as it currently is. It exaggerates every bit of potential dullness, and makes the life you live right now feel at best, mundane; at worst, desperately painful.
Fantasy isn’t just sexual. It is any desire that becomes an unquenchable thirst. It is anything that starts out as something you hope for and slowly becomes something you can’t live without. Your fantasy may be success, approval, marriage, children, fame, sex, and the list goes on.
It is your heaven on earth.
It’s that thing that you tell yourself will finally make you happy, or give you peace. But it will disappoint you. Every time.
We have a God-sized hole in our hearts that we think will be filled with the fantasies in our heads. But Saint Augustine rightly said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
Fantasy rejects that as a lie and tells us instead, “My heart is restless until it rests in ____________.” How you fill in that blank, that is your fantasy.
When desire turns into fantasy, it becomes your idol. You will worship it. You will sacrifice your family, integrity, and health for it. You will not stop until you have it. You will ultimately become a slave to it, and thereby, a case study for Philippians 3:19, “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”
And if the day ever comes that you finally attain the thing you have fantasized about, you will eventually hate it because it will not deliver what it promised.
Fantasy is a lie.
Fantasy is like King Midas, turning everything it touches to proverbial gold. It sounds like what you want, but once the object you once could simply enjoy is overcome by your gold lust, it isn’t enjoyable anymore. It turns out to be a curse.
Fantasy is a lie. But the desires inside you that have evolved into fantasy are not. They were placed inside you for a reason—namely, to remind you that you are not home.
C. S. Lewis said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” Fantasy deceives you and tells you that you were not made for another world, you were made for another life. A life with this career; a life with that achievement; a life with this woman; a life with that much money. If only you could be someone else, you’d finally have it—real happiness.
And it never works. It never satisfies your inner longings. It’s only worth the chase when the chase is on. Once you catch it, it isn’t worth anything anymore.
Hope, not fantasy.
What we need is a “Woman at the Well” experience. Jesus said to the woman at the well:
“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life,” (John 4:13-14).
We need to stop drinking this world’s water thinking it will clinch our thirst, and instead drink “living water”. We need something that truly satisfies our thirsty souls. I’m not talking about something that meets or exceeds our expectations. God will never do that. He is far too gracious to give us everything we think we want. He will let you down regularly in that regard.
I’m talking about something—more specifically, Someone—who stills our restless hearts, yet awakens us to a life long pursuit; someone who satisfies our desires, yet keeps us wanting more; someone who denies us what we think we want, yet gives us everything we truly need.
Like fantasy, this “living water” requires sacrifice too. But it is the right sacrifice—the sacrifice of a “humble and repentant heart,” (Ps. 51:17). It doesn’t end our longings, (after all, we don’t really want our longings to go away), but it isn’t fantasy. It delivers what it promises. It doesn’t always bring us happiness, but it gives us a deep sense of joy even when the ecstasy is gone away (because our fickle emotions will never stop inventing new ideals to chase).
The longings that turn into fantasy will let you down and lead to despair because they can’t deliver what they promise. But the longings that come with chasing Christ are different because they turn into hope, and “Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us,” (Rom. 5:5).
Fantasy creates an imaginary world and convinces you that it’s real and worth everything you have without any proof beyond your feelings. Hope longs in faith for a world far more real than ours, and gives us reason to believe that world exists by giving us a “down payment of our inheritance,” who is the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:14).
My encouragement to you is to give up.
Give up on the fantasies of that dream job, or wife, or amount of money or level of success that you think will really make you happy. In doing so, you can chase those things with healthy desires, knowing that you can simply enjoy them and be thankful for them as they come, rather than worship them as god and then come to hate them because they are not.
“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth — only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.” C. S. Lewis
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