The following is Part 1 of a seven week “Reality Radio” series. The series was advertised on secular radio and unfolded online at a special website that no longer exists.
Do you remember when you were little how it felt to wake up on Christmas morning and walk into a living room filled with sparkling lights and a blitz of colorful wrapping paper? With your heart racing, you asked yourself, “Did I get what I asked for?” Sure enough, boom, there it is! “Yes! I got it, I got it!”, you shout. Maybe there were years when you did not get it. I know that feeling as well…
Somehow, we seem to grow out of the “high” of Christmas morning. Or maybe it is better to say that we push that feeling down and don’t allow ourselves to get too hopeful. If you did not get what you wanted, it felt like free-falling into a deep valley of disappointment. But even if you got everything you wanted, you likely remember that eventually – later on Christmas day or a few days later – that feeling of utter excitement faded into the distance and disappointment crept in. Maybe you said to yourself, “Ah man, another whole year until Christmas…”
With each passing year, it seems my parents had to make Christmas bigger and better just to keep up with my ever-growing hope for over-the-top excitement and surprise. And yet there came a point where no matter how over-the-top generous they were, my excitement was numbed by a sense that the feeling simply would not last…it ultimately would fade away leading to quiet disappointment.
I think we take that Christmas morning “high” into other areas of our lives. For example, I felt a similar anticipation and excitement about important milestones throughout my teenage years – “Will I get that really cool sports car? Will I ace the SAT? Will I get into that popular fraternity? Will I get a goodnight kiss from my date? Will the alcohol buzz be a good one tonight?”
Speaking of alcohol for just a moment…I remember the day I stopped drinking “to get drunk.” I woke up sick for the very last time and I just knew that morning that I would never get wasted again. Throughout my teens, getting that buzz held out the excitement and hope of Christmas morning – “Tonight is going to be an awesome party night!”
For a while, getting high seemed to work. But coming down from such a “high” high always meant a long freefall back to reality…it was the day-after-Christmas disappointment all over again. Except this kind of disappointment was more complex…it was combined with guilt, shame and regret. Waking up on a bathroom floor with my head under a toilet was not the most dignified moment of my life! The night before was fun…but was the hangover really worth it?
So I gave up alcohol and drugs pretty early in my life. But I always ran to the next journey trying to fill up my life with excitement, purpose and satisfaction. Next on my journey to significance was turning my thin frame into a muscle machine. At one point, I went from being a 6’ 2” 155 lb toothpick to 185 lbs of ripped muscle.
To arrive at that destination, I had to work out 6 days a week and consume all kinds of crazy protein shakes on top of a high protein diet. After all that work, my satisfaction with a 185 lb muscled physique just kind of numbed a bit. All of a sudden, I was hoping for 200 lbs of muscle. But my body was not designed to be that big…my body was ideally designed to be around 175 lbs. And so I had to face the disappointment that I could not reach that next level. I would have to settle…disappointment again.
More disappointment was headed my way. I badly injured my knees in a snow ski accident and could no longer work out 6 days a week. After years of modeling my body to feel good about myself, I was suddenly very limited and my body shrank back down to 165 lbs. The muscles did not last…and I was not satisfied even at the peak of my weightlifting regime.
During these years of looking my best, I pursued love with a great sense of hope that it would satisfy my deepest longings. I had many hang-ups throughout my teens that left me kind of living a repressed life sexually. I was not comfortable with my body. I was the guy the girls called “nice”…we all know what that means! But after college, I came into my own being…put aside all the worries and self-doubts…and really decided to do it my way for the first time in my life. I had always wanted to please my parents…or my teachers…or my friends. I had always wanted to be the “good boy” and play by all the rules. But at the height of my bodily confidence, I finally had the courage to be me.
Falling in love was so awesome. That feeling…there is nothing like it. Not even the artificial high of drugs. And yet I carried high hopes into relationships…hopes that a lover would “complete me” or that an orgasm would forever satisfy. Well, love did not often work out that way. In fact, expecting lovers and orgasms to forever satisfy proved to be more about lust than about love. This kind of high was elusive and unsustainable.
My experiences often left me with that day-after-Christmas disappointment as I sought lovers to fill in the empty or incomplete places of my heart. Looking back, I now see that I unintentionally used lovers to gain what I lacked within myself…a sense of personal significance.
Do you see the pattern here? My pursuit of significance led only to ultimate disappointment and despair. That deficit or longing with me…I thought it could be satisfied with enough money or pleasure or vanity or stimulant. What I thought would satisfy did not even come close to quenching my thirst. Is it any wonder that we tend to get caught in addictions of all sorts trying to fill up the empty void within us that cries out for acceptance…for meaning…for significance.
Can you relate to this kind of striving? Can you relate to this pattern of expectation or hope followed by freefall disappointment? Can you relate to that innate desire within that craves life purpose and significance, internal peace and satisfaction?
Let me close by adding that I’ve had a great life – loving parents, a safe home, a high quality education, excellent health, a well paying job and many fortunate breaks. I’m extremely thankful for the life I’ve had. I’ve always been an optimist believing that tomorrow is going to be better than today…even when a lover broke up with me…even when my knees killed my working out regime…even when the drugs did not deliver what they promised. I always felt an internal comfort or assurance that I am worthy…even in the midst of craving a deeper fulfillment and satisfaction that seemed to elude me.
An ancient intellectual once wrote: “Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor.” It seems that my journey to achieve satisfaction and fulfillment only led me to fill my life with things that disappear and ultimately disappoint. There was something I yet needed to obtain – I needed a wisdom that would give real life…a life of significance.
My name is Will, and I desire the “real thing” in life! What about you? Does that resonate with you? If so, come back next week for the next segment of my story.
Journey on and seek the ride of life that leads to faith and satisfaction…I’ll see you next week!
NOTE: Tune in each week as Will’s story continues to unfold in seven (7) weekly segments. Click here to easily navigate to Week 2.