By Joan Endicott
The cheerful girl with bouncy golden curls was almost five. Waiting with her mother in the checkout stand, she saw them: a circle of glistening white “pearls” in a shiny gold-foil box. The pearls looked just like the ones her mommy wore.
“Oh, please, Mommy. Can I have them? Please, Mommy, please?”
Her mother checked the back of the gold box and then looked back into the pleading blue eyes of her little Jenny’s upturned face. “A dollar ninety-five. That’s almost $2.00. If you really want them, I’ll think of some extra chores for you and in no time, you can save enough money to buy them for yourself. Your birthday’s only a week away and you might get another crisp dollar bill from Grandma.”
As soon as Jenny got home, she emptied her penny bank and counted out 17 pennies. After dinner, she did more than her share of chores and she went to the neighbor, Mrs. Smith, and asked if she could pick dandelions for ten cents.
On her birthday, Grandma did give her another new dollar bill and at last she had enough money to buy the necklace. Jenny loved her pearls! They made her feel dressed up and grown up. She wore them everywhere: Sunday school, kindergarten, doing errands with mommy and even to bed. The only time she took them off was when she went swimming or had a bubble bath.
Jenny had a very loving daddy and every night when she was ready for bed, he would stop whatever he was doing and come upstairs to read her a story.
One night when he finished the story, he asked Jenny, “Do you love me?”
“Oh yes, Daddy. You know that I love you!”
“Would you consider giving me your pearls?”
“Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have Princess, my white horse. The one with the fluffy pink mane and tail that you can brush. Remember, Daddy? The one you gave me. She’s my very favorite!”
Her daddy smiled and said, “Oh, that’s okay honey. Sweet dreams. Daddy loves you.” And he brushed her cheek with a kiss.
About a week later, after the story time, Jenny’s daddy asked again, “Do you love me?”
“Daddy, you know I love you!”
“So, what would you think about giving me your pearls?’
“Oh, please, daddy—not my pearls. But you can have my new baby doll, Chrissy. I got her for my birthday, remember? She’s so beautiful and you can have the soft pink blanket that matches her sleeper.”
“Oh, that’s okay sweetheart. Sweet dreams. Daddy loves you.” And as always, he brushed her cheek with a gentle kiss.
Several days later, when Jenny’s father came in to read her a story, Jenny was sitting on her bed, her lower lip trembling and one silent tear rolled down her cheek. With a quiver in her voice she held out her hand. “Here, Daddy, it’s for you.” She opened her hand and her beloved pearl necklace was inside. She gently placed her treasure into her father’s hand.
With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny’s loving daddy reached out with one hand to receive the dime-store necklace, and with the other hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet box with a strand of genuine pearls and gave them to Jenny. He had had them all the time and was just waiting for her to give up the imitation ones so he could give her the genuine treasure.
We can’t begin to fathom how much greater our loving Heavenly Father’s desire is for us to have and enjoy the genuine treasures He offers. The great news is, we don’t even need to guess what that looks like because He’s provided a blueprint in His Word.
You may be thinking, Yes, Joan, I agree with all that and it sounds great—but why does it feel so darn hard at times? The simple answer is, because if the devil can distract us from God’s best, we do the rest. Our human condition includes a daily battle with the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. Listen, as you read this, know you are not alone so please don’t let the devil pile on guilt and shame. When we get under that pile and feel no hope for change, it’s easy to do nothing and there we remain. We are not in a hopeless, helpless state. Christ’s work on the cross defeated the devil and set us free from those destructive chains. We are more than conquerors—we have victory in Jesus!
Listen, friend, it’s nothing new for us humans to be tempted to compromise or settle for less than God’s best by accepting cheap imitations. We can resign ourselves to thoughts like, “I don’t want to miss out. I want something—now. it’s better than nothing.”
It all started in a garden named Eden with an unsuspecting woman named Eve who met a slithering serpent whose aim was to deceive.
Satan didn’t even start with an outright lie, simply a question: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Thus began the slippery slope to sin and all its consequences.
The implication Satan was making is that God was holding out and Eve was going to be missing out! So, it appears Eve originated FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).
This starts in us as babies. At just a few months old, when babies see something they want and they don’t get it, guess what? They let you know if they aren’t happy, and they start to cry. For the rest of our lives, if we don’t choose to grow and mature, we can have the same response any time we feel deprived in some way. Though we may not outwardly throw a tantrum, it can manifest in a variety of ways: FOMO, anger, frustration, jealousy, envy, discouragement, depression, or we can look for ways to continually self-soothe which leads to unhealthy habits that can become addictions. (Addiction: The fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity.) When one thinks of addictions, it’s natural to think of specific substance abuse like drugs, alcohol, pornography, and sexual addictions. Those are all destructive, but so are the addictions that are more socially acceptable, such as cell phone and social media addictions—which have been proven to cause major mental health—and—personal relationship issues.
An addiction is something that clearly feels like a solution, in the moment, to offer (temporary) relief from participating in the responsibilities of the real world around us. We can escape, be passive, enjoy a brief visit to LaLa Land where it’s fantasy and dreamlike. In our desire for comfort and convenience, we look for the path of least resistance. Because after all, who doesn’t want that?
Just like cartoons that so aptly show the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other, the human condition brings with it a literal battle—a spiritual one. Every moment of every day we are choosing if we want to do what is easiest in the moment and simply succumb to our fleshly desires or live for what truly matters and has eternal value according to our Creator. If I’m living, for instant, temporary gratification rather than a life of true meaning and purpose, my daily decision-making looks vastly different.
We can start with honestly asking ourselves: “Do I want God’s best—or—do I just want to live to satisfy the desires of my flesh?”
Then follow-up questions help us process where we are in the moment—and where we want to be: 1) What do I want now—temporarily? 2) What do I want—ultimately? 3) What decision/action will I be satisfied with tomorrow? These are helpful perspectives, whether on the road to recovery from addictions or making daily decisions.
In our desire for comfort and convenience, we can begin by believing the lie that God is somehow holding out on us. That attraction and desire we have toward something we can’t—or shouldn’t—have is what I call The Law of the Forbidden Fruit.
David lived with horrific consequences when he gave in to his temptation and lust for Bathsheba. (My wise husband points out that David wasn’t even where he should have been—with his troops. It’s a great reminder to not put ourselves in places of obvious temptation. In a keepin’ it real, lighter note example, I realized years ago not to go into a bakery because “I’m just looking.”)
David’s sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah, though forgiven, brought grave consequences: God told him, “The sword will never depart your house.” And it didn’t: His newborn son with Bathsheba died, among his children there was incest, rape, murder, conspiracy and the list goes on.
What does the substitution of God’s best look like today? It’s not a mystery: It’s anything that will distract us from God’s original design and desire for us. For example, the desire we have for intimacy in marriage cannot be filled outside of marriage by any other means. There is no possible way we can fill any of our legitimate God-given needs by illegitimate means. There is no room in our hands to receive God’s best if our hands are already full of insatiable imitations.
Ultimately, the God-shaped void we all have in our heart cannot be satisfied with anything other than our Creator. He designed us and He alone can fill the hole in our soul.
(*I read the story of the girl, the dad, and the pearls years ago. In searching for the author/origin, it is always sourced as Unknown. This is a combination of versions I’ve read, along with a bit of my own flair.)
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