The Next Thing

The Next Thing

Nebraska00.jpg

Cattle

think they have been fenced in to keep them from the better food, but humans are not much different and want what they don’t have, often simply because the don’t have it.

Welcome to the eighteenth episode of Recovering Faith. If this is your first time here, thanks for joining me, and if you are a regular listener or reader, welcome back. I appreciate feedback on this show and you can comment by clicking the “comment” button on the bottom of the pate. If you enjoy this show or episode I would appreciate it if you would rate and review this podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or whichever medium you use.

I have always been an observant person and I remember a time when I was a kid, probably around five, when I asked questions about something I had seen that was confusing to me.  I don't know where we were going, but my family was on a road trip and my face was basically plastered to the passenger window of the car, playing some sign spotting game by myself (those types of games bored my sisters) and when we passed a field full of cows their behavior struck me a peculiar. The area the cows were fenced in was a tall grass prairie, but and at least half of the cows visible from my vantage point were sticking their heads through the fence to eat the grass on the other side, even though the grass on their side was taller and greener. I was a bit perplexed as to why the cows would go through so much effort to get the grass that was obviously inferior to the grass they had easy access to so I asked.

"Mom," I said (I rarely asked my father questions because he would ignore my question, scold me for asking, or give me an answer to a question I hadn't asked), "Why are the cows trying to get the grass on the other side of the fence when they have better grass on their side?" My mother explained to me that the cows thought they had been fenced in to keep them away from the good stuff, but that they would think the same thing if they were put on the  other side of the fence. Basically, it only looked better to them because they didn't have it. At the time I probably said something like, "Well that is silly. I am glad people are not that way." In case you don't know, people are worse about wanting what they don't have than cows are.

There is a song by Sarah Evans that sums it up perfectly, it is called I keep Looking:


I Keep Looking
Back when I was young
Couldn't wait to grow up
Get away and get out on my own
And looking back now
Ain't it funny how
I've been trying to get back home, yeah
When my low self esteem
Needs a man loving me
And I find me a perfect catch
Then I see my friends
Having wild weekends
Then I don't want to get quite so attached
Just as soon as I get what I want
I get unsatisfied
Good is good but could be better
I keep looking, I keep looking for
I keep looking for something more
I always wonder what's on the other side
Of the number two door
I keep looking
Looking for something more
Well, the straight haired girls
They all want curls
And the brunettes want to be blonde
It's your typical thing
You got ying you want yang
It just goes on and on
They say, hey, it's only human
To never be satisfied
Well I guess that I'm as human as the next one
Oh, I keep looking
I keep looking for
I keep looking for something more
I always wonder what's on the other side
Of the number two door
Yeah, I keep looking
Looking for something more
Just as soon as I get what I want
I get unsatisfied
Hey, good is good but could be better
I keep looking
I keep looking for
I keep looking for something more
I always wonder what's on the other side
Of the number two door
I keep looking
Looking for something more
Oh, looking for something more

People are a lot like cows and most of us, if not all of us, long for things we don't have in hopes that they will fulfill us, make us happy, complete us and make our lives worthwhile and full of contentment. The mindset is, if only I had that job or if only I would get a promotion, if only I had that car, that house, that boat. If only I had a girlfriend or boyfriend, or if I only had a wife or husband. If only I had kids, that would make me happy and give me purpose, but as soon as we get what we thought we wanted we discover that it didn't bring happiness or fulfillment and immediately start searching for the next thing, the thing that will complete us and make us happy. The problem with that is we will never stop looking and will never be happy because no thing, no job, no position and no person will ever fulfill us or make us happy; only Jesus can do that, and only if we allow him to.

I’m always in a hurry and I don’t know why. I run and run ‘til life’s no fun.
— Alabama (country band)

Everyone wants to get to the next thing, thinking it will make them happy, and they are so much in a hurry to get to the next thing that they never give themselves the chance to enjoy what they have while they have it. Most of my early life can be summed up by quoting some lyrics from an Alabama song, "I'm always in a hurry and I don't know why. I run and run 'til life's no fun." Of course, as a natural result, my life can also be summed up by saying, "Well, that didn't go according to plan." Other than the Sarah Evans song I mentioned, I can easily think of at least half a dozen other songs about not being happy with anything while you have it and it appears to me that it is human nature to never be satisfied. Like the Samaritan woman at the well, we are searching for things that will not satisfy.  The water we are searching for will never satisfy and we will drink and thirst again, but Jesus provides the living water that when a person drinks of it will never thirst again.

My nieces often say they wish they were adults, especially when they are asked to do something they don't want to do. A few days ago when they were visiting I yelled at my nieces and told them to go to bed and one of them said she wished she were an adult so she could stay up as late as she wanted, get up whenever she felt like it, and do whatever she likes. "You don't wish you were an adult," I said. "You only think you wish you were an adult. When you won't stop making noise and keep me awake I have to get up early, regardless of how little sleep I have had or how tired I am, and I have to work all day doing things I would rather not do."

When my nieces tell me they wish they were adults so they didn't have to go to school and can just do whatever they want I tell them they are gravely mistaken about how being an adult works, and I think a lot of adults are mistaken about it as well. I told them that as an adult you have to work when you are sick and don't feel like it, have to give up things you want to do, such as sleep, to take care of your children and other obligations, and you are required to do things on a daily basis that are not any fun, things you would really rather not do. Of course, as a child I was in a hurry to become an adult as well, but not because I thought it would be fun, I just wanted to get away from my abusive father and I looked forward to the day that I could stand up to him, or at very least, move away.

I started working at an early age helping my parents, but I started working my first official job when I was fourteen and, despite the fact that it was illegal, I worked more than full time. Sometimes I even worked double time, which is working over eighty hours in one week. From the day I started my first job, the longest I have gone without working is three months when I was seasonally laid off from one job, and even then I worked on the side.

Even though my father took most of the money I earned from my first job to spend on himself, I worked anytime I had the chance because it got me out of the house. It was not uncommon for me to open at 4:00 Am, work all day and than close at midnight, just to come in the next day and do it all over again.  Even today, I have a difficult time saying no when my employer asks me to work extra, both because of my work ethic and because I feel bad for leaving them in a tight spot. No job though, regardless of how rewarding, has ever made me feel complete, not even when I worked helping troubled teens.

One of the three schools I attended.

One of the three schools I attended.

When I was in college I was constantly changing my major, and in some way I thought it would make me happy and bring fulfillment to my life. I wound up with enough credit hours to graduate but with no degree because I didn't have enough hours in any one area or subject, and the fact that the credits were earned at three different schools didn't help either. I went to Idaho State University, Bellvue University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

I always felt like I was missing out when I didn't have a girlfriend, and then I was in a hurry to get married. I was engaged to my first girlfriend for two years and we never got married because her parents interfered because they did not like me and because they wanted her to have at least a masters before she got married. I smiled a little when I found out later that she wound up marrying a guy her parents disliked more than they disliked me, before she finished her bachelors and an enlisted military man to boot.

Years down the road when I finally did get married I quickly came to realize the gravity of my mistake, not to say that marriage is a mistake, just that marriage. I let her parents and people I went to church with pressure me to get married too soon, before we really knew each other, and that didn't turn out well as evidenced by the divorce that followed. I was Mormon at the time (notice I said, at the time) and a popular saying the leadership often repeats is, "Any two people living the gospel will have a happy marriage." Yea, no. Definitely no. No matter how strongly two people share the same goal, if they are not compatible they will never be happy together.

Anyhow, once two people get married the obvious next step is to have children, especially in the Mormon/LDS Church. I discovered that I can't have children, which turned out to be a blessing because if we'd had children I would have been tied to her for the rest of my life, and I can assure you that neither of us would have been happy about that. I wish her well and hope she has a happy and fulfilling life, I just hope to never see her again or hear from her or any of her family again. I also hope some day she will learn the truth about the LDS Church and becomes a true Christian instead of blindly following a cult that only claims to be Christian. She, of course, does not feel the same about me; she hates me and would not mind if I got run over by an eighteen wheeler, and in fact, the thought probably makes her just a little giddy.

Some people look to the apostles of Jesus as examples of people who had it all together, and those people who do are people who haven't actually read the Bible. Despite the fact that they were chosen for a grand and wonderful purpose, the apostles were very much human and were full of doubts and fears like everyone else. They even managed to initially miss a lot of what Jesus was teaching them, while He was with them.

I want to talk about three of the apostles, Phillip, Thomas and Peter, these three men, all of whom were faithful, had completely different human responses to a situation, and I am not going to take a position and say that any one of them are wrong, because they are not. I just want to contrast.  

At the last supper, after Judas Iscariot left, Jesus told the remaining eleven disciples about things that would happen, including his imminent death and resurrection. I am sure that somewhere during the course of the evening the other eight apostles had things to say as well, but John only tells us what Peter, Thomas and Phillip said. In John chapter 13, starting in verse 33, we read what Jesus told them,

“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

"Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”

With all that we know from history and from reading the Bible, we often give Peter a hard time for not knowing where Jesus was going, but if we were in his position we would likely have missed what was right in front of our faces as well. We often judge people for their reactions to a situation in which they did not have all the information we have, and had we been in their position, we likely would have responded exactly as they did, but that is a subject for another episode. At any rate, that was a perfectly fine question and Jesus did not scold Peter for asking it.

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”

Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!"

The way I see it going down in my mind is Peter dramatically stands up on a chair, throwing his arms up, and loudly proclaims, "Lord, I will die for you! I would follow you to the grave, that's how much I am willing to follow you."

Knowing what would happen in a few hours, Jesus furrowed his brows and looked at Peter with an obviously questioning expression and said, "Will  you Peter? Will you? Really? Will you really lay down your life for me?" Jesus, I imagine, then motioned for Peter to be seated and said, "Sit down, you are embarrassing yourself. Not only will you not die for me now but you will deny you even know me when asked, once even to a little girl, a child. No, you won't lay your life down for me now, but a day will come when you will, just you wait and see."

The story continues in chapter 14 where Jesus continues speaking to the apostles.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Again, another reasonable question. Where Peter was all gung-ho and proclaiming his undying love and devotion, Thomas expressed his doubts and asked how they could know how to get there when they didn't even know where he was going. In my mind, Thomas says, "Wait, hold up a minute. You lost me somewhere before that last exit. Not only do I not know how to get to where you are going, I don't even have a clear idea of where you are going. Come on Jesus, help me out here."

Back to the Bible, 'Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Phillip doesn't get a lot of page time in the Bible, and when he does it is usually when he said something silly, something that would cause believers to poke fun at him for the next few thousand years, like this little gem of a question. I wonder if he ever kicks himself for it.

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. "

Phillip, like a lot Christians, even today, looked at Jesus as the means to an end instead of the end in and of itself. Phillip looked at Jesus as a way to get to the father, a way to get to God, a way to get to something, shall I say, better? What Phillip didn't realize is that Jesus was and is eternally God, not just a way to get to God, but God Himself in the flesh. People would often ask if, "When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?" (John 7:31) because they completely missed that he was the Messiah, just like Phillip, somehow, missed the fact that Jesus was literally God in the flesh, and while not the Father, he did all the works of the Father and if they were to see the Father they would not have seen anything new or any greater works than those performed by Jesus.

A lot of people look at Jesus as the means to reach their goal and not the goal itself. People want Jesus because Jesus can take them to heaven while completely missing the point that it is only heaven because Jesus is there. Heaven isn't just the place to go because it is so much better than the alternative; heaven is the place to go because Jesus in in heaven.  We should  not want Jesus so we can go to heaven, we should want heaven because Jesus is there, and it is only heaven because he is there.

I firmly believe one of the main reasons why a lot of friendships and marriages fail is because people add a friend or a spouse to their life thinking he or she will fix them and make them whole, like a lot of Hollywood productions seams to suggest will happen, but no person can fix you and it is not fair to put that burdon on another person. When you get into a relationship with another person the goal should not be for him or her to lead you to something better, the goal should be to be with that person. When a person is used as a means to an end both parties will inevitably be hurt and disappointed.

In regards to dating and marriage, I heard an elderly person say once, "It is O.K. to shop around until you make a purchase, but once you buy, you best stop shopping." Always looking for the next best thing ensures that we will never be happy, will never live in the moment and enjoy what we have while we have it, and it is a death sentence for relationships. Employers are also not overly excited when an employee is always looking for something better, and if it is discovered that he or she is looking for something "better" the company may oblige the unsatisfied employee by letting him or her go so they have more time to find whatever it is they think they want.

I was asked once if I had it to do over, if I would date any of my ex girlfriends again, and without hesitation, I responded that there is one, but only one, that I would do it all over with again. If given the chance, I would gladly date Collette again, my first girlfriend, the one I was engaged to for two years, only I would not rush to get engaged. The LDS Church tells you that as soon as you know you want to marry each other you should get married, but if I had it to do over, especially since I now don't believe anything that church teaches, I would have just been content to date for a good long while before getting engaged, which would have worked out better.

Dating with no serious commitment would have taken a lot of pressure off and would have removed most of the reason why Collette's parents were opposed to the marriage in the first place. You see, they were afraid that if she got married before she finished school that she would have a bunch of kids right away and never finish school. On a side note, Collette's father was a bishop in the LDS Church and really should have been advocating the Church's point of view, but I am not sure he truly believed in the Church, despite his position. My point is, if I had enjoyed what I had instead of only thinking about the next stage than all parties involved would have enjoyed it more and I think Collette and I would have eventually gotten married and would be married today.

I will end this episode by quoting the words to Natalie Grant's song, More Than Anything:

I know if you wanted to you could wave your hand
Spare me this heartache and change your plan
And I know any second you could take my pain away
But even if you don't I pray

Help me want the Healer more than the healing
Help me want the Savior more than the saving
Help me want the Giver more than the giving
Help me want you Jesus more than anything

You know more than anyone that my flesh is weak
And you know I'd give anything for a remedy
And I'll ask a thousand more times to set me free today
Oh but even if you don't I pray

Help me want the Healer more than the healing
Help me want the Savior more than the saving
Help me want the Giver more than the giving
Oh Help me want you Jesus more than anything

When I'm desperate and my hearts overcome
All that I need you've already done
When I'm desperate and my hearts overcome
All that I need you've already done

Oh Jesus Help me want you more than anything

Help me want the Healer more than the healing
Help me want the Savior more than the saving
Help me want the Giver more than the giving
Help me want you Jesus more than anything
Help me want you Jesus more than anything

Thanks for listening. Next week's episode will be another episode on the LDS Church, but I have not yet decided specifically which topic within that scope I will cover. As always, the goal will be to point people to the Bible and to Jesus Christ.

Mormonism is Not Christianity pt3: The Church is right, even when it is wrong.

Mormonism is Not Christianity pt3: The Church is right, even when it is wrong.

Mormonism Is not Christianity Part 2: As man is God once was.

Mormonism Is not Christianity Part 2: As man is God once was.