In John Ortberg’s book, "Love Beyond Reason", he tells a parable that I think sums up a lot people I know:
"Once there was a girl whose parents took her to the Shrine of the Golden Arches. There, she saw the opportunity to buy a combination of food and a little toy that someone, in a fit of marketing genius, named the Happy Meal.
'May I have it please?' she asked her parents. 'I must have it. I don’t think I can live without it.'
'No,' her parents told her. 'The toy is a just a trivial little thing that enabled the price of this package to be raised beyond what it is really worth. It is not in the budget. We can’t do it.'
'But you don’t understand.' She thought. She knew that they would not just be buying fries, McNuggets, and a dinosaur stamp; they would be buying happiness.
She was convinced that she had a little McVacuum at the core of her soul: 'Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in a Happy Meal.'
So she explained, 'I want a Happy Meal more than I’ve ever wanted anything before. And if I get it, I will never ask for anything again – ever. No more complaining. No more demanding. If you give me that Happy Meal, I’ll be content for the rest of my life.'
This seemed like a pretty good deal to her parents. So they bought it.
And it worked!
She grew up to be a contented, grateful, joyful woman. She lived with serenity and grace. Her life in many ways was hard: the man she married turned out to be a louse, and he abandoned her with three small children and no money. The kids too were a disappointment. They dropped out of school, sponged off her meager resources, and eventually left without a trace. When she was an old woman, Social Security gave out and she had to live from hand to mouth.
But she never complained. She had gotten the Happy Meal. She would often think of it: I remember that Happy Meal, she would say to herself, What great joy I found there. Just as she had predicted, it brought her lasting satisfaction. She was grateful the rest of her life."
You would think that after a while children would catch on, that they would say, “You know, a Happy Meal never brings lasting happiness; I’m not going to get suckered into it this time.” But it doesn’t happen. When the excitement wears off, they need a new fix, another Happy Meal. They keep buying them, and they keep not working. In fact, the only one who gets happy from Happy Meals is McDonald’s.
Of course, only a child would be so naive. Only a child could be foolish enough to believe that a change in circumstance could bring lasting contentment. Right? Maybe when you get older, you do not necessarily get any smarter; your Happy Meals just get more expensive.
The reason you keep pursuing contentment wherever you think you can find it is that you have a soul.
In this message we began a conversation about a tiny, fragile, vulnerable, and precious part of you called your soul. It is the most important part of you, and we are going to spend a few weeks talking about it.