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Have you heard the parable of the Happy Meal? Author John Ortberg tells it in his book, "Love Beyond Reason."
Briefly, a little girl discovers the incredible bliss of Happy Meals and begs her parents to buy her one.
She knew it was more than just "fries, McNuggets and a dinosaur stamp," but happiness itself and she didn't think she could live without it. She was convinced she had a little "McVacuum at the core of her soul" and her heart "would not find rest until it found rest in a Happy Meal."
She told her parents, "I want that Happy Meal more than I've ever wanted anything before. And if I get it, I'll never ask for anything again - ever."
She promised she would be content for the rest of her life.
And it worked! She grew up content, even with a rotten husband who abandoned her with three small children and no money. Her kids turned out to be rotten, too, and then she became poor and destitute.
But because of that Happy Meal, she experienced lasting satisfaction all her days.
Ortberg comments that only a child would be so nave to believe that a Happy Meal could bring lasting contentment. You would think after a while children would catch on, but when the excitement wears off, they need a new fix, another Happy Meal.
"Ever wonder why Ronald McDonald grins all the time?" Ortberg asks.
"Billions of Happy Meals sold!"
He concludes, "Maybe when you get older, you don't necessarily get any smarter; your Happy Meals just get more expensive."
Every time my pastor reads this parable it makes me laugh. How absurd, I think. Who, indeed, is nave enough to think that something new and shiny (or hot and greasy) or black and leathery or covered with diamonds (or cheese) could bring lasting satisfaction?
Um, I would.
Except, what I want I cannot buy. I can't even steal it. What I want more than I've ever wanted anything before and which I know, just like the Happy Meal girl, that if I get it I'd never ask for anything again - ever - is for one of my books to be a best seller.
I'm not even asking for all of my books to be best sellers, although I wouldn't complain if they were. But just one book. Just. One.
I even know which one - "Girl On a Swing." In my opinion, it would make a dandy best seller and I would make a dandy best-selling author, very appreciative and all. I'd take good care of the money I'd earn from royalties and answer every piece of fan mail sent by readers of my best-selling book - if only God would allow it to be a best seller.
However, for reasons known only to God, it isn't even a mediocre-selling book. It may be the best book I've ever written or ever will write, but it's not selling well, and I'm not handling it well.
For example, I was in Barnes and Noble the other day and looked at the display case where best sellers are placed and noted with particular ire that it was Joel Osteen's cheesy grin staring from the book covers and not mine.
Not that I wish evil on him, just bestsellerness on me. Although, if he broke out in hives, that would be OK.
I'm pretty certain that if my book were to reach best-seller status I'd be content for the rest of my life and never want anything else ever again.
Recently, my pastor said that whenever there's discontent it's Jesus that our soul wants, yet we'll do anything not to run to him. He also said that often, when there's something we really, really want, God in his mercy thwarts our desires and subjects us to futility. He keeps what we covet at arm's length so that we might reach for him instead and find true satisfaction.
"However, there's a part of our soul that refuses to believe that Jesus is enough," he said.
When I hear that, I know it's true, but I still think that having my book be a best seller would make me truly happy. I still want it. I still think I should have it.
Besides, it's not like I want a cheeseburger and fries and a toy in a bag.
That would just be dumb.