I’ve experienced an extremely nagging thought throughout this holiday season. One that has affected me much more this year than in years past. It started nagging as I experienced my first Christmas as a father and has escalated as my eldest little girl has grown and become more aware of the euphoric experience of receiving presents. I am growing to intensely dislike the habit of giving ridiculous amounts of gifts one day a year – especially to my children – especially on what we call Christmas. As I often do, I’m sure I’m over-analyzing the entire thing, but my heart has been troubled at the thought of my daughters falling in love with the shadows of Christmas instead of seeing it for what it is.
The more I thought of this, the more I noticed that this distraction from the true substance, or form as Plato named it, is natural to the human condition. We too easily accept the shadows and end up deeply attached to them while the substance is readily available to us. We do it with food, love, work, music, art, and every other facet of existence. Instead of loving the God who gave us taste and stomachs, we love food, cooks, restaurants and our own abilities to find and purchase things that appease our cravings. Instead of seeing hunger as a communication of our deepest need for God, we see it as a natural element of survival. We trade the substance for the shadow.
In Ecclesiastes 3:11 Solomon writes that God “has put eternity into man’s heart” so that man might seek Him. There is nothing eternal apart from God, therefore there is nothing that can satisfy the heart of man apart from Him. So why is it that we pursue so many other things other than Him? Why do we pursue cars, money, sex, control, relationships, acceptance as if any of these things or combination of them could ever bring peace to the heart of man? The answer is simple, we prefer shadows to the substance.
Most of us would never admit this to ourselves, much less anyone else. We prefer to believe that the shadows are the substance. We prefer to make up our own realities. We prefer to remain in the shadows than to step into the Light. What happens to shadows when you step into surrounding and penetrating light? There is no place for them. They disappear. All that is left is the Light, and for us here on this earth, that Light can be elusive. Eternity is hard to grasp for finite, broken man. Shadows are much easier to hold and control. Shadows seem to satisfy, at least for a moment. How blind we are to the truth of what we pursue.
It is my hope as we start a new year, that people’s eyes would be open to the truth of what we are pursuing. Are we pursuing shadows or the Light? Do we run after things that will satisfy us for eternity or for a moment? May it be that we would allow God to fill the void in our hearts and let go of these fleeting shadows. I love y’all more than you know. Grace and peace,