Chasing rainbows

If you are questioning man’s depravity lately, might I suggest you cut on your television.

This weekend, I visited a friend in Richmond and was sitting on his couch before church. The television was on the National Geographic channel, and I noticed the documentary was titled Taboo. Now, many of you may recognize this particular show, but I had never seen it.

In a word, it was sad.

The premise of the documentary was to expose certain life practices that are socially unacceptable and discuss their validity. Over the course of the television show, it showcased grown men who pretended to be babies, women who pretended a baby doll was, in fact, their real baby, Japanese men who dressed up as female cartoon characters, and people who lived out illegal sexual fantasies in online computer games.

Some who read this post may find those activities ludicrous. Others may know people who participate in one of them. Whatever the case, a major facet of the program was to discuss the underlying impetus that would cause someone to step out against their cultural norms to do these activities.

The men who pretended to be babies, sitting in their 6-foot-tall high chairs letting nannies feed them, had stunted childhoods. The women with the fake babies were not able to have children. The men who dressed as female cartoon characters were identifying with a character that they admired from a fantasy world their preferred.

In short, they were chasing rainbows.

That may sound odd, but let me explain. Certainly, you have heard the old myth about a pot of gold sitting at the end of a rainbow. Stories abound in folklore about people chasing the end of the rainbow, trying to find their treasure. However, it is the nature of rainbows that one can never reach their end. That treasure is an impossible pursuit.

In each of these “taboos,” the satisfaction they sought was also an impossible pursuit.

Many of you may remember a formula from your psychology course called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In essence, Maslow stated that people attempt to move up this hierarchy from basic life necessities through increasingly satisfying levels until they reach what he called self-actualization. It is in self-actualization that a person finds fulfillment and joy. My goal in this post is not to debate the validity of Maslow’s formula, but to show what occurs when it plays out in a fallen world.

Over the course of thirty minutes, I watched people who had tossed away their cultural moors so they could find happiness. In every profile shown, the people in the documentary gave the same reasoning. Everyone of them felt they had somehow been wronged, and that if these practices made them happy, then it was acceptable. This approach to life is founded on three important propositions. First, life is not fair, and the world is broken and keeps us from joy. Secondly, if someone does whatever it takes to fill that void in his or her life, then they will find joy. Finally, that the highest priority in life is, in fact, making oneself happy.

Before we seek to dismiss this approach completely, the first two propositions are, for the most part, true. However, sin has so diseased creation and the human mind, that the third proposition taints the other two and changes how we approach the problem.

This world is not fair, but we have not been wronged. It is our fault the world is not fair and hurts us. Furthermore, there is a void in man’s life that must be filled for him to ever find joy. It is the void of relationship lost. Man was created for that relationship. When it was destroyed, we became creatures destined to live a life without purpose. Apart from this relationship we are a hammer that never touches a nail, a pen that never touches paper, a book that is never read.

Yet, when we seek to fill this hole by chasing after some selfish desire, some perceived deficiency in our own life, we are chasing a rainbow. Sin has clouded our judgement and has us running everywhere but the truth. There is only one source from which real joy springs, and it is not found in ourselves.

But before our temptation is to consider the actions of the people in that documentary as sick and twisted, perhaps it would be wise to consider the motivation behind our actions as well. Truth be told, most of us may not participate in such fanciful taboos as the ones mentioned in that documentary, but are our lives motivated by the same heart?

Perhaps it is only a desire for wealth and success that causes one to neglect what is really important. Or maybe, it is some vague desire for happiness that causes another to leave their husband for someone else, justifying it with a need for fulfillment. While these are far more accepted in our society, they are just as evil and stem from the same heart.

In the end, if your pursuit of joy takes you anywhere but the arms of Christ, then you are just chasing a rainbow.

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