When you take a trip, are you a stop-and-smell-the-flowers type, or more like the gotta-get-there, the-sooner-the-better traveler? I’m more the latter. We have a destination, I mentally calculate how long it should take to get there, and we’re on our way. Detours along the route are annoying. If we start the trip with specific stops factored into the itinerary, I’m okay with that. But when trip interruptions are impromptu, I might stop, but I’ll do it grudgingly.
To my detriment, I suppose, it’s all about the destination.
Recently I was reading about another type of destination fixation. The article actually called it “destination addiction,” and involves ephemeral concepts like happiness, or success. It’s “the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job, or even the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.”
Have you ever known someone like that? Have you been someone like that? Are you someone like that now?
I recall seeing a sign years ago that offered simple directions: “You can’t get there from here. You have to go someplace else first.” Too often many of us approach life that way. We’re not happy where we are, so we surmise it’s because happiness just happens to live somewhere else. Maybe it was here for a while, but then it moved. So our solution is to embark on an exhaustive search to find it.
If we don’t leap for joy when it’s time to get up and go to work, instead of trying to determine how to become a better employee, we decide the answer’s in finding a better job. If we’re not enjoying our home the way we once did, we figure there’s no alternative but to move somewhere else. And if our marriage seems to lack the spark it once had, we conclude the answer is to find happiness in someone else. You can’t get there from here, right?
Sadly, the quest for things like happiness and success are like the mirage in the desert. It appears off in the distance, but when you get to where you thought it was, it’s not there.
Repeatedly the Bible speaks to this widespread desire for something else, something better to satisfy our deepest yearnings. It was directly addressed in the Ten Commandments: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife…his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17). God wasn’t intending to be a divine spoilsport; He just understood that no matter where we are or what we have, our sinful nature is to prefer what someone else possesses.
Jesus told a parable about a rich man whose crops were so abundant he lacked space for storing them. So he decided the solution would be to replace his existing barns with bigger ones. Then he’d have plenty of room, no matter how much he could amass. “And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’” (Luke 12:13-21).
Contrast that with the apostle Paul, who had one destination in mind and one only. He wrote, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” (Philippians 4:11-12).
Those of us living in the 21st century, in which contentment is regarded almost as a sin while we’re tugged constantly to pursue more or better or different, Paul’s words seem shocking. But it goes back to certainty about his singular destination, one that didn’t waver according to his mood or feelings at a particular moment: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
We’re all enticed by the “greener grass,” the notion that if we can just get from where we are to what appears more appealing over there, then we will be happy. Then, for sure, we will find love, achieve success, or experience fulfillment.