Why isn’t goodness more satisfying?

Stolen water is sweet; bread eaten is secret is delicious!

That’s what the ancient proverbs writer said, and it still rings true today. We, humans, love the illicit and the forbidden.

Why is this?

Why is forbidden fruit so tempting? Why do we crave the things that aren’t healthy for us? Why do we want what we probably shouldn’t have?

The answer is…we actually don’t. We don’t want the illicit; we don’t want the counterfeit—we actually DO want the authentic and the good.

The problem is that goodness usually requires some up-front payment, whereas the illicit doesn’t charge us until a little later on—it’s like a quick and easy credit card transaction that satisfies today but makes us pay tomorrow. Goodness and beauty make us work for it on the front end, and if we aren’t willing to pay that price we’ll turn to lesser substitutes that can hurt us on the back side.

King David understood this. Throughout his life, he walked both paths: the illicit and legitimate, and his conclusion was clear. True satisfaction (the kind that lets you sleep at night and brings life to your soul) only comes from what is good. In fact, David said that when our desires touch God’s goodness it’s so satisfying that it’s almost like we start aging in reverse. He said that God “satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles” (Psalm 103:5).

Jesus agreed with David. He said the Kingdom of God—the reality of the goodness of life in God—was like a treasure buried in a field. It took some work and it cost a life to find it, but once found, it was worth every cent of payment.

Farewell tribute to my father

My father passed away unexpectedly last week, and I haven’t known what to write. I’ve wanted to post something honoring and affirming of him, but creativity is still escaping me. I think I will share a portion of a tribute letter that I read to him at his recent 70th birthday party. Last December our family gathered to honor his birthday and affirm him via tribute statements (the sentiment that was expressed from my mom, my brothers and sister, and all of the in-laws and grandchildren was PHENOMENAL). I presented my tribute in the form of a recommendation letter.

To whom it may concern…to young men everywhere in this generation:

I am writing to wholeheartedly and without reservation recommend my father, David Jackson, to you as a model of noble manhood. For the forty-five years of my life he has never wavered in his commitments to love, loyalty, devotion, wisdom, and strength. These virtues were hard-won. His path was not an easy one. The cultivation of manhood never is, but his path was particularly severe—he was bounced between his father and stepfather as a child, adrift after losing his mother as a teen, buffeted by the social upheavals of his generation, and then drafted into Vietnam while practically still a boy.

He didn’t glide through those times unscarred; no one becomes a man without taking on scars. And nor was he unflawed. His flaws and demons run as deep as anyone’s…but the mark of noble manhood is the willingness to never give up the fight.

As a boy, I watched him model strength, determination, and tenacity, as he changed the course of his personal and family histories. I watched him bear the weight of a community, as he reinvented himself from rebel to guardian angel. And yet the rebel never fully went away.

That’s another mark of authentic manhood—remaining ever true to who you really are. Despite the shifting roles from young husband to father to older man and grandfather, he has remained steadfast to his core, guiding values. I really haven’t ever seen him slip.

He modeled faith and spirituality, and a willingness to repent and heal our family. That takes the most courage of all—owning life’s regrets and then pioneering new realities.

Self-help books abound in our day and age, but noble manhood isn’t something that is carbon copied or mass-produced. If you follow my urging and set my dad as your pattern, you won’t be following a well-worn path. There haven’t been many men like him. In fact, he once told me that there were only ever four truly “cool” men: Elvis Presley, James, Dean, Clint Eastwood, and himself. 🙂

But if you want to follow a trail that winds through great highs and deep lows, through extreme joys and unthinkable sorrows, and then back into sunlight again, his is the path to follow.

As a husband, father, grandfather, woodsman, surfer, poet, worshipper, law enforcement officer, and friend, he has excelled, and I am convinced that he will make a worthy addition to your Noble Manhood Hall of Fame.

I love you, Dad.

 

Meanwhile we groan

At Grace Church we just finished a church-wide 90-day reading campaign where we read all of the words of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. The unique thing about this reading plan was that we only read Jesus’ words—we ignored the entire surrounding context.

I know. I know.

We’re not supposed to read the Bible that way. We’re supposed to understand the Scripture’s context so that we don’t misinterpret or misapply its message. We’re not supposed to lift an isolated passage out of context or we run the risk of “proof-texting”. Even so, it was very powerful for me to read Jesus’ words all by themselves. Hearing Him say, “I am willing; be clean” or “I have chosen you” or “Take heart, my son, your sins are forgiven” and just absorbing those words was exhilarating.

Although I don’t generally advocate a “proof-texting” context-less reading of Scripture, I had another experience today where a single phrase of Scripture lifted up off the page and spoke to me. In 2 Corinthians 5, the Apostle Paul was painting a vivid picture of our promised eternal state with God, and then he said, “Meanwhile we groan” (verse 2).

For some reason that phrase spoke to me on multiple levels:

  • Our ultimate hope is secure…but meanwhile we groan.
  • The Gospel keeps advancing in our lives…but meanwhile we still groan.
  • God will finish what He has begun in us…but in the mean time we still endure some groaning.

This isn’t pessimism! This isn’t a gloomy, Eeyore perspective on life. It’s a validation of our groaning. It’s recognition that sometimes—even amidst God’s potent promises—there is a groaning in this life that has to be endured.

Please be assured that our groaning isn’t the final word—rejoicing is. Victory is. But in the meantime, we groan. We groan as we wait for His unveiling…we groan as we wrestle with sin, temptation, and compromise…we groan as we fight for the liberation of the human soul…and we groan, knowing that He is beside us in our groaning.