I did a forty day memorial recently for a woman who died at a relatively young age (by today’s standards) who had been an immigrant to Canada from a war-torn Orthodox country where she had been raised in near abject poverty. As young adults this young woman and her husband immigrated to Canada, worked very hard and raised two very successful children. Both have become doctors, one at a major research university. After the memorial service, the surviving spouse, let’s call him Theo, kept repeating to me: “She was a very good woman. Both of our children have become doctors because of her encouragement.”
We have come to know that wealth does not bring happiness, yet we continue to hear the same lie whispered in our ear. We have come to know that success does not bring love, but we hear the same lie whispered in our ear. And we have come to know by our experience that owning newer and bigger and better things does not bring satisfaction--yet the same lie continues its monotone drone in our ears: “Buy this and it will be enough”; “accomplish that and you will be loved” ; “If you only had a few hundred or a few thousand or a few million dollars more, then you would be happy.” They’re the same lies over and over again. We know they are lies, but we are still seduced by them.
Some hear a whisper: “look at this pornography, and you will find relief form your boredom or stress or loneliness.” Some feel an urging that would translate into something like: “eat a little more or have another drink or get high one more time; it will be worth it, it doesn’t matter, you will feel better.” And some have an impulse or a driving idea: “If I just had the newest model, if I only had the latest fashion, if I could only accomplish this higher goal; then it will be enough, then I will be satisfied. And even among the religious, the devil has his few but ever repeated phrases: If only you prayed more, if only you were more disciplined, if only you hadn’t made that mistake, then God would love you and bless you and be near to you.
However, those desires and thoughts and feelings are not me. The desire to have the newer, better car or boat or house or outfit is not me. I am not the sum total of my desires and urges. My identity is not found in the records I break or the goals I achieve. These are all things I may do or feel or experience, but they are not me.
Just like the animals, the animal aspect of our life will one day pass away; and with it will pass away all of the social success we may have attained and the possessions and the power and the wealth we may have acquired. Then, on that day, who we are will be revealed. What we have become will be known. May God grant us to keep that day in mind and to consider success to be the acquisition of the Holy Spirit, to be mastery over our animal passions, and to be victory over the demonic lies that perpetually bombard us. This is success: to become, by Grace, God-filled human beings, to become all that God has called us to be.