We begin as children: “For play I am a zookeeper and you are my lion.” “I’m the mom and you’re the dad, for play.” “For play the bad guys try to take my children but I fight him off.” “For play…” As wee ones, we are practicing reality by having every good thing happen to us, the main characters, and whenever something goes wrong we’re quickly able to correct it.
Then, suddenly, something goes wrong and we’re not able to correct it: dreams seem impossible to reach. We believe that we have encountered reality. The high taxes and low paychecks squelch the “cozy cottage” dream or “luxurious mansion” dream. Close friends drift apart and steal the “friends forever” dream. Broken hearts shatter the “true love” dream. Problems that can’t be solved with high ideals and the snap of a finger dissolve the “I can do anything” dream…and the dreams continue to float away like balloons released from a child’s hand.
Nevertheless, our souls are drawn to a more perfect reality just as the waves keep reaching for the shore. We read books about it, watch movies about it, and create our own facades about it on Facebook and Twitter. There’s an inner craving for something tangibly real that we can sink our hearts into. We long for meaning that doesn’t fade like Christmas trees lining the sidewalk. There’s a divine restlessness in our souls.
It is not uncommon for this restlessness to be addressed with thoughts such as, “Perhaps if I pour myself out in doing good, or make enough money to buy all I want, or travel the world…I’ll be satisfied, I’ll be content.” But even there, the question of what’s real haunts us. How do we know that pride isn’t our motivation for doing good? How do we know that a friendship is sincere and not merely a ploy to benefit from our prosperity? After all of our travels, how do we know that home is truly home?
We want the lives we’ve always imagined: money enough, time enough, friends enough, content enough, happy enough. Yet life rarely meets our expectations; as soon as hopes are realized, disappointment is quick to follow. Does that mean joy isn’t real, or that reality is always bad? No. It simply means that as kids we know anything is possible, even perfection. But when we reach the age of awareness we allow the challenges of hope deferred to assume greater reality than the possibilities of hope realized. Our craving for more is heaven-sent; it forces us to keep seeking. The vessel must return to the maker in order to find the meaning of its existence. It is only in a heart relationship with God that we can find the peace that is “for real.”