For Valentine's Day, my granny sent my two sons each a card, with $5 inside. (Yes, I still call her Granny. So what? This is the south, man...what else can you call a sweet old southern grandmother?) They have been anxiously awaiting using their money to buy a toy, so after church Sunday we took the boys to Toys 'R Us.
When you first enter the store, on your left are the lower-quality toys. They are likely to tear up, poorly packaged--you know, the cheap stuff. You know just by looking that the kids will play with them for an hour or two and then just forget about them. They are cheap, low-quality toys.
Of course, that is where my kids run to immediately.
So my wife and I are encouraging our kids to move along. Come over here, to the Lego section; or over there, to the Nerf section. Let's go back to Sports or board games or anything else. Don't waste your five precious dollars on something that is of little value and will provide only cheap, temporary thrills.
But would they go? Nope. We spent probably 30 minutes in that area. They were unable to comprehend that there were "cooler" toys in the other parts of the store. The (cheap, terrible) toys in front of them were tangible, real. And even when the parents whom they trust and love encouraged them, they still preferred what was directly before them to the infinite possibilities of the joy that they were turning down. In the end my oldest buys yet another action figure and my youngest buys a box of marbles.
My sons were so enamored by the thrills that were immediately in front of them that they failed to trust their parents, who were telling them that something better was waiting. They could not even comprehend how something could be better than what they had in their little hands already. Better toys awaited--with the price already paid!--but they were unwilling to trust what we said and go find those toys. They clung tightly to what they had already picked out. And in the end, we gave them what they chose.
Too often, we adults are the same way, aren't we? God tells us that He has something great planned for us: a life for all eternity, and (in this life) peace and joy and rest. Even better, He tells us that He's already paid the price, and we need to provide no money or effort of our own to earn it--not chores, or good grades, or good behavior. He has already paid the price for us.
But do we listen? Most of us do not. Do we go for it? Most of us keep clinging on to the cheap toys of this world, the things that we can see--sex, drugs, money, fame, security, power. These things give us temporary thrills, but they will break and fall apart. They are a cheap form of happiness. No true lasting quality exists in these things.
And some of us (like my youngest at Toys 'R Us) DO, in fact, go through the store as our parents asked...but they do so clinging tightly to the cheap toys. So many of us try to follow God's desire for us into eternity, but we cannot let go of the toys of this world--whether it be jobs or family or friends or philosophy or whatever. This is what God meant when He said we had to leave everything to follow Him--if we cling to our cheap toys, we have no hands to pick up the great toys He has planned for us.
Ultimately, God will do what my wife and I did--He will let you choose your toy. He will encourage you to go accept the better toys He has chosen; He will plead with you to take what He has paid for. But, ultimately, you can choose the toy you want. If you choose the cheap, temporal toy, then you will have it; if you choose to trust in His will for you, then you will get the better toy. Let no one say God was unfair! He bought the better things for us, and pleads with us to go take them. It is we who stubbornly refuse to give up the cheap thrills in our lives and go to Him with open hands.