I have heard so many children, during the Christmas season, utter the same words over and over. I, like them, have said them myself. Every child goes through it. They see something they absolutely have to have and they say, “If I only had that, I would never, ever ask for anything else.”
That one sentence is used not only to express their desire but it also is a selling point. Children use it all the time with their parents. They would tell them that they won’t want or ask for anything ever again. Parents know that’s not the case. Next Christmas, their children will be saying the same thing about something else.
In one of my favorite plays and film adaptations, “Inherit the Wind”, Henry Drummond tells his client, Bertram Cates, a little story about those things we see as being everything that we ever wanted only to find out that all shine was just that. All shine and no substance.
Mr. Drummond relates a story of his first love, Golden Dancer, a rocking horse that he saw in a general story window.
Drummonds, with fondness, tells Cates, “That was the name of my first long shot. Golden Dancer. She was in the big side window of the general store in Wakeman, Ohio. I used to stay out in the street and say to myself, ‘If I had Golden Dancer, I’d have everything in the world that I wanted.’ I was seven years old, and a very fine judge of rocking horses. Golden Dancer had a bright red mane, blue eyes, and she was gold all over, with purple spots. When the sun hit her stirrups, she was a dazzling sight to see. But she was a week’s wages for my father. So Golden Dancer and I always had a plate glass window between us. But – let’s see, it wasn’t Christmas; must’ve been my birthday – I woke up one morning and there was a Golden Dancer at the foot of my bed! Ma had skimped on the groceries, and my father had worked nights for a month. I jumped into the saddle and started to rock – and it broke! It split in two! The wood was rotten, the whole thing was put together with spit and sealing wax! All shine, and no substance! Bert, whenever you see something bright, shining, perfect – seeming – all gold, with purple spots – look behind the paint! And if it’s a lie – show it up for what it really is!”
In the movie adaption, Drummond shares his “Golden Dancer” story with his opposing counsel, Matthew Harrison Brady. In either case, this story sums up the things we desire most. We believe that if we just had whatever it is, we would be happy and filled with joy. Nothing could or would ever matter in our lives. But, once we get it, we often find that it wasn’t exactly as it appeared. As Drummond points out about his “Golden Dancer”, it was made of cheap material and “put together with spit and sealing wax”. There was no substance to it.
I share this dialog to illustrate my point. We often find ourselves acting like children and desiring the things of this world. We say the exact same thing that we all said as children except our desires have larger price tags. We say that if I only had that car, house or boat, then I would have everything. We even say the same thing about our jobs. Even our personal lives are not immune from our preoccupation with “all shine, and no substance”. We say that if we only had that person as a spouse or companion, we would be so happy and complete.
Just like Drummond, we all soon find that the thing we desire most and think will bring us joy just doesn’t. Soon, we find ourselves saying the exact same thing about yet another thing. So, most of us go through life just wanting one thing after another and never feeling fulfilled or experiencing that joy we thought we would realize from having the object of our desire.
Our joy should not come from the things of this world. The things of this world disappoint every single time. During the pandemic, divorces climbed to new all-time highs. Online purchases skyrocketed. We just kept wanting more and more and finding less and less. Disappointment after disappointment came our way.
But, if you look to God the Father, I can assure you that you will find that joy, peace and true fulfillment. The things of this world are fleeting. All are subject to rust, rot and insects.
Jesus, in chapter six of the Gospel of Matthew, tells those listening to his Sermon on the Mount, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”
The real treasure that we should be storing up for and will give us the greatest joy and fulfillment can only be stored in heaven. Our desires should be there and not with the things of this world. Everything here will one day dissolve and go away. Those things we store in heaven will never fade away. They are truly forever. We should take great joy in knowing that and that our joy truly comes directly from the Lord.
In Psalm fifty-nine, a psalm devoted to David, the psalmist writes, “But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress. O my Strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love.”
The joy we feel when we have that special relationship with God the Father is real and has substance. In all situations, we feel His love all around us and His hand upon us. Our real joy comes from the Father’s unfailing love for us each day. He is always there and is our refuge, fortress and everlasting arms.
When we lean against His everlasting arms and seek Him only and not the things of this world, we can experience true joy and know that He is all we ever need in our lives. Once we have that sort of relationship with Him, we can stand firm in His grace.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.