Eureka! I had just hit the jackpot!
As we made a stop on our family trip to California, I was pacing in front of our van and noticed no small amount of golden rocks. I picked them up quickly, thought back to what I had learned about the gold rush, and brought them to my dad, elated. It’s not every day that a nine-year-old becomes a gazillionaire.
While he was interested in what I had discovered, he gently explained to me that I had discovered fool’s gold. What I thought to be my very early retirement turned out to be an imitation of the real thing. Flaky, ordinary, worthless, deceiving fool’s gold. I initially brought them along in hopes of running across a world-renowned geologist who would tell me that it was real gold, but before the trip ended, I released them into the wild to deceive another poor soul.
Unfortunately, mistaking the artificial for the authentic isn’t something I’ve outgrown. Every day I find myself substituting the artificial for the authentic. From sweeteners to intelligence at some point, I engage with the imitation over the substantial. (A divisive topic where I have a hard time making the leap to the artificial is mayonnaise vs. miracle whip; mayonnaise is simply superior.)
On a more serious note, there have been moments in my life when I’ve valued knowing about God above knowing God, connectivity above community, and feeling loved above being loved. More recently, I have valued vegging out and binge-watching Youtube videos (most of them would be considered beneficial) above sabbath rest. Some of these have been more damaging than others; regardless, they have all had a negative effect.
Not all of these things are inherently wrong. It is good to know about God, to be connected to family and friends through phone calls and texts, and to feel loved. Even fool’s gold is useful. However, it’s easy to feel that these are enough when they are only a representation of the real gifts we have been given by God. I have found when I mix the byproduct of the thing for the thing itself, my lifestyle isn’t sustainable or fulfilling.
The artificial always leaves me anxious, insecure, isolated, and hungry.
For the past few months, I have been immersed in Isaiah 55. The text invites the listener to be filled with bread and water that actually satisfies. Not with fillers or MSG but with sustenance that meets our needs. The text goes on to reveal that this bread and water is a restored covenant relationship with God that is given to us when we forsake our ways and thoughts.
Abandoning fool’s gold isn’t easy. It often takes clarity from God to reveal it for what it is. Nonetheless, when we surrender these things and return to God, we are met with compassion and forgiveness.
Missionary Jim Elliot once journaled, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
The invitation to a restored covenantal relationship with God provides us with the only thing we need: Himself. We don’t need the repackaged gifts from God that the world gives us. We only need Jesus – the bread of life and living water.
From multiple arenas of life, I have been reminded of the powerful way God works in the lives of those who surrender their inadequate ideologies and practices. I’ve heard how God has changed the hearts of people who surrendered their thoughts. I’ve seen the redemption of a friend who forsook his ways. I’ve experienced the forgiveness and healing that has come from abandoning my pride. Jesus is our only need. Jesus alone is our ultimate provider. When we forsake the fool’s gold we’ve white-knuckled, we are invited to experience a life-giving relationship with our generous God.