Well I’m gonna to go then. And I don’t need any of this. I don’t need this stuff, and I don’t need you. I don’t need anything except this.
[picks up an ashtray]
And that’s it and that’s the only thing I need, is this. I don’t need this or this. Just this ashtray. And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that’s all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that’s all I need. And that’s all I need too. I don’t need one other thing, not one – I need this. The paddle game, and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches, for sure. And this. And that’s all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the chair.
And I don’t need one other thing, except my dog.
I don’t need my dog.
~ Navin R. Johnson, The Jerk
What is it that we need?
If you are a Christian then you need God, right? Blaise Pascal said, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” I guess, by implication, Pascal says you therefore need Jesus. Atheists would say if you believe you need God then you are deluded, that God is a crutch for some kind of mental or emotional weakness. Marx said religion is the opiate of the masses, or something like that. Depending on your view they are all right. One glance at much of modern Christianity quickly demonstrates that God is both a crutch and an opiate addressing some very deep need within many, many people. Unfortunately, Sunday morning is too often all about the sincere, aesthetic, and emotional worship of the opiate. I know. I’ve been there. A lot.
On the other hand, what is fundamental to the biblical narrative is the absolute contingency of our existence. None of us asked to be born, but we were. None of us want to die, but we will. Our lives are filled, from birth to death, with needs and wants. The old response to the idea of God being a crutch is to point out that everyone is limping, even if not everyone is willing to admit it. Sure, that’s a bit corny, and it’s also like saying one knows what is in someone’s heart even if that person doesn’t. My problem, however, with that kind of response is not that it’s corny or dubious, rather it’s that I believe it. I believe it with all my soul. God is my crutch. In fact He is much more that a crutch. I am not merely leaning on God. At the ultimate level we are not “in this together” like comrades even though in the day-to-day I have a free will and can choose to turn to God or not. At the ultimate level, however, it’s all God and His will. God did not merely give me life at some point in the past and now I must muddle through. Without God sustaining me every second I cease to exist. Without His sovereign grace and mercy, without His will and His creative power holding everything together I am lost. There only ever was one set of footprints in the sand.
So why am I still muddling through? What do I do with the fact that I experience the reality of waking in the morning, going through my day, facing many questions, facing my fears and insecurities, praying to God that his kingdom will come soon, and constantly failing at being the kind of person I know I should be and want to be. If it’s all God then why also me? Does what I want, then, really matter? Yes, it matters. In fact, in terms of my existence it means everything. God may be ultimately in control, ultimately sovereign, but He also gave me a will that I have to deal with. My life is in His hands, and yet, my life is my life. I am responsible and accountable, and I don’t always like it.
Let me put it right out there, I want to be a different person. I want to be glorious. Imagine the most glorious person you can think of. Imagine the super athlete or the rock star, imagine the greatest politician or smartest brain. Now imagine someone who is so utterly glorious that all those others are laughable in their pitiful glory. I want to be that person. I don’t want to be fool’s gold, I want to be the real deal, all the way through. I want to be that glorious. What would that look like?
It would look like Christ.
Glory does not consist in how popular one can be, or how many battles one has won, or in one’s temporal achievements–regardless of how wonderful they may be. No, glory has to do with who one is. What is your character? If others knew your thoughts, saw what was in the depths of your heart, would they be impressed? Or would they find darkness, confusion, weakness, fear, selfishness, vanity? We do have a lot of glory already. We are made in the image of God; we have within us something of God’s glory as part of being human. But we do not yet have His likeness. In our imageness we carry in us a potentiality. But we look to the day when we come into the likeness of God; when we have finally realized the potentiality of that imageness.
When we think about the coming Kingdom of God we might think about how we will have everything and live in splendor. That is probably true, but all that’s not the real big deal. What will make it so special is that it will be a world without sin. I desperately want to be without sin. I want everything that I touch to stop dying. I want to bring life to others, to be an encourager, a genuine-without-pretense lover. I want my relationships to be full of life while continuing to grow in life. I want to come out of my shell, stop worrying, stop feeling afraid, and stop escaping into isolation. I want to stop making excuses. I want to have courage to be with others, to be the husband my wife deserves and the father my children deserve. I don’t want to be grumpy anymore, or picky, or snotty, or manipulative. It’s not that I want to live forever, I want an entirely different life. And I want everyone to get that new life too. I want others to have real joy, true, but I also want to be around such people. Now that would make for a great world. That would be truly heaven on earth.
That’s what I want. That’s all I need.