Mirages – So Real Yet So Empty

Driving with my family through the desert some years ago, our 3 year old son Timmy and I had a memorable conversation.  As we traveled through the hot desert, Timmy observed water on the road a short distance ahead. However, we never did get to it. It was always a short distance ahead. Seizing this as a teaching moment, I instructed my young son on the phenomenon of optical illusions; that is, in this case, mirages.  There really was no water out there, I informed him.  Now, there were a lot of things Timmy didn’t know, but Timmy knew water (having baths every day and having a close relationship with the backyard garden hose), and he was having none of my rhetoric on the matter.  He saw, he knew and that was that.

So after a few futile moments of discussion, I looked ahead and saw a sign by the side of the road with “water” near it.  I asked Timmy if he saw the sign and the water, and he did.  So I drove to the sign, parked the car and exited the car with little Timmy.  He was speechless, as there clearly was no water on the road.  Puzzled, he got back into the car without any further conversation about water and mirages.

Mirages seem so real but there is really nothing there. They are alluring but empty. In his memoirs, wise King Solomon (who for a time lived unwisely) told of life wasted pursuing mirages in his life.  He identified four that he went after: education, pleasure, material possessions (money) and then hard work.  In his memoirs (the book of Ecclesiastes) he records that he energetically went after all these but eventually discovered that they were mirages (He uses the terms “vanity” and “striving after the wind”). Solomon was a multi-billionaire who could buy anything and do anything to maximize all four of the above mentioned areas of life.  But in spite of that reality, he found them amazingly empty and personally meaningless. They did not produce what they advertised.  But, he does go on to clarify that all four of those things are legitimate if (and only if) the Lord God and His principles are at the center of a person’s life.  Many other biblical authors concur with the King.

We know from the very beginning that God invited Adam and Eve to learn and to engage in scientific investigation.  It is God who thought up the idea of pleasure and gave us the ability to enjoy all things.  God created the material world and there is nothing evil about money and material things, as long as they are not preeminent in our lives. Hard work (not being a “workaholic”) can bring some satisfaction, but even that satisfaction quickly vanishes away if it is the center of life.

Why all this talk about “mirages”?  Simply because, the largest segment of believers in North America (those claiming to be “born again”) are actively engaged in the pursuit of mirages and, like Timmy, they are sure that they are real. Upwards of 90%, according to some fairly detailed studies, see North American evangelicals as being in hot pursuit of money (materialism) and pleasure (hedonism). The other two mentioned by Solomon are present in a number of lives also. These “born againers” seem to have made the terrible mistake of thinking that the “American dream” and a biblical worldview are essentially the same.  They are not.  If a midcourse correction is not quickly made, the “abundant life” promised by Jesus to His followers (John 10) will be missed. And, more significant a greater quality of life in the eternal kingdom of God will be missed.  Timmy eventually came to understand about mirages.  The question is whether or not so many American believers will do the same.