There are good things that can become distractions from great things. A couple of years ago I bought an old house and decided to remodel it. I sketched a plan, hired an architect, and pulled the necessary permits.This started the long and treacherous road to house overhauling.
For the next two years, I would endure an unimaginable amount of mental stress and financial burden. I didn’t have the money needed to complete the remodel, so I had to borrow from friends and family, plus I also took out a construction loan. The construction loan and mortgage payments were too much, and I could barely keep up. Furthermore, the money that I borrowed from friends and family put a strain on my relationship with them. To cover these extra expenses, I would work all the overtime that I could get. For about nine months I worked a graveyard shift plus an extra two hours of overtime seven days a week. At the same time, I was also attending Northwest University. Sure it was only one or two classes a week, but it added to my list of things to do.
All of these commitments took a toll on my health and well-being, but the house would not build itself, so I had to get it done. Every day I would wake up, and it seemed there was some problem that needed my immediate attention. I would run from emergency to emergency, putting fires out. I had to deal with bad weather, unreliable contractors who did not deliver on their promises and burglars who kicked the door in and stole things from the house, three times mind you. I installed cameras on the house to deter the burglars away, but they climbed the porch rail and pulled the cameras off the house. To add insult to injury one day I came home to find the words, “F*** YOU,” written on the door with a cigarette bud; to say that I was angry would be an understatement, I was furious. Just then I realized that I no longer owned the house but rather the house owned me. It owned my emotions, mind, and ultimately my heart.
While that house brought a degree of joy and pride of home-ownership, it also became a symbol of attraction and despise, where sweat and blood flowed frequently and quite literally. Regardless of all the mixed feelings and thoughts it never dawned on me that perhaps it slowly replaced so much of my life. My relationships with my family and friends were taking a turn for the worse. I became irritable and unapproachable, even the slightest remark about helping anyone else annoyed me. In essence, my treasure was my house, and my heart was attached to where my treasure was. I was unable to recognize it, but my eternal passion for God was slowly being replaced with the temporary excitement of finishing yet another project on the house.
The odd thing was that I kept on blaming my circumstances and other people for all that I was responsible for. It would never cross my mind that maybe the reason my life was falling apart; is that I was no longer worshiping the living God, but one of cement, metal, wood, and glass. I wish to tell you that I came to my senses right away, but the truth is I didn’t. I kept on spending hours researching different types of methods of installation systems and products. Every time I was dealing with frustration, a relationship problem, or a spiritual setback, I would escape into my world of projects that I had to do. After all, some people escape their reality by drinking, smoking, drugs or looking at pornography; at that time in my life, I was escaping my reality by researching faucets and light fixtures. It would sound comical if it weren’t so sad. My passions and adoration orbited around this project and not God himself. I constantly escaped into my fantasy world of what the house would look like when it was done. Every time I wanted to escape my real life I would watch YouTube videos on the latest HVAC system and doorknobs. I am ashamed to admit, it but I found that profoundly satisfying.
Unlike me, maybe you are not remodeling a house, but there is another area of your life that you constantly look to escape into, such as researching the latest car parts online by constantly looking up the latest exhaust and air intakes. Or perhaps you might spend lots of time glued to your TV, set for hours upon hours watching football games or playing “Call of Duty.” There are plenty of things to escape into; we can choose one or few. There will always be a show to watch, a video game to play, a sports team, or celebrity to follow. Furthermore, the worldwide web and social media are constant with us in the palm of our hands. We can escape into a fantasy world of what our life could be when we get the latest house, perfect performance car, or be married to the model in that perfectly edited picture we saw on Instagram.
It is the world, unlike the one we experience day to day. It is a much more exciting world. Day-to-day life is mundane and at times boring, yet different forms of entertainment claim to portray real life, although it’s not. For example, we don’t have the right music playing in the background while we go about your day. We don’t have crowds cheering for us. We don’t get to do a hundred takes of a task to see which one is good and then edit it to make it great. We do not get to practice out-loud or redo our lines before we say them. It seems that everything in the shows or movies we watch falls into place perfectly. So we return to our regular life after a great show or movie just to realize how boring our lives are in comparison.
But herein lies the problem staged entertainment is not real life but make belief, and to compare our regular life with something that hundreds of people worked on is sure to disappoint. In a sense, these things create an unrealistic appetite in us for something that does not exist. No, you can’t be superman or batman. Those stories and character are only creations of other peoples’ imaginations. They aren’t real. After all, our adventure trip to the mountains is no, “Lord of the Rings” adventure, and the sad reality of fighting a real world war where people fight for their lives without sleep, food, warmth, or comfort is no competitor with chugging down Red Bull and sitting on a comfy sofa while playing, “Call of Duty” without any real-life consequences.
Furthermore, staged entertainment only creates the perception of the great adventure. For in sterilizing our experience to enjoy the pleasure without the danger of its consequences, we are also stripping our sense of adventure. Because adventure is not sitting on a couch eating chips and watching movies, but getting out of our comfort zone, taking risks experiencing all that God has created us to be.
Anytime we escape from what God called us to be into our world that we created it becomes an idol and our idols never deliver on what they have promised. They only lead us on a chase for something that is unreal that can’t satisfy desires that are real. They only numb us, making us unable to feel, experience, and enjoy. For in trying to attain the unattainable, we are slowly forgetting what it is like to be fully present with other human beings. We are slowly losing our touch with our surroundings and submersing ourselves into a make-believe the world; where our cravings are intensified, our senses overpowered, and anything else outside of this fantasy world pales in comparison.
Regardless what fantasy world you escape into, I challenge you to look deeply at your passions and see where do you place your hope and joy. Perhaps it is not as extreme as a drug or pornography addictions; it could be as innocent as following your favorite sports team, celebrity, or favorite show. It could be a house or a car, where you spend all of your time resources, and as a result, your passion is attached to temporary things instead of eternal things.
You see, God has designed us with an appetite for eternity and a relationship with Him. If there is a place we should escape to that is to Him. We are free to escape into our fantasy world, but fantasies can’t fulfill desires that are real. That’s why St. Augustine was on to something when he uttered the words; “Our hearts are restless until our hearts rest in Him.” He too escaped in his make-belief world where he flirted with some idols which ended up controlling him. When he encountered Christ, his life changed forever. Your life can change forever too.
Ask yourself, what is that one thing you escape into? Where do you spend most of your time? What are you thinking about constantly? What makes you excited? Angry? The answers to those questions are clues as to where your heart is. If your heart is not rooted in a relationship with God and eternity, then you should wonder if you worship God or a god of your imagination in a fantasy world. It might provide a sense of security and relief, but in the end, we will be exposed for what it truly is a fantasy.