The last time I went to a beauty store, I spent more on the trial-sized items I grabbed while waiting in line than the one thing I went to buy… as I threw bottles and creams into my cart, I thought I was getting a bargain. Each item was under $20 and I wasn’t committing to full-sized, just a tiny trial size. In reality, four items added up and I wasted money on things I didn’t need.
My lack of self-control is not limited to makeup and research shows I am not alone. One out of five people say they make impulse purchases every week. That’s over 50 impulse purchases a year. Have you ever fallen victim to an ad while scrolling social media? What about the treats and goodies by the checkout counter? According to cnbc.com, the top five most common impulse buys from 2018 are shown in the chart below. (O’Brien, 2018)
According to finder.com, the number one feeling people have after an impulse buy — which hit an all-time high in 2020 — is regret. In addition, 44.5% of people felt guilt after making a hasty purchase. What is driving us to make those impulsive purchases in the first place? Something inside each one of us is thirsting for something. We are fooled into thinking that if we use a face cream, lose weight, get the house where we want it, or find a perfect best friend, we will be satisfied. Instead, we face a hefty dose of regret. The diets, house, vacations, and friends let us down and don’t last. The key is finding something that does last.
There’s something in all of us that needs to obey something.
A speech taken from the British comedy-drama series called “Fleabag” by Phoebe Waller-Bridge summarizes the condition of the human heart perfectly. In the scene, a young, free-spirited woman is lost and confused. She speaks in desperation to a priest she has befriended. Read her monologue below:
I want someone to tell me what to wear every morning.
I want someone to tell me what to eat.
What to like. What to hate. What to rage about.
What to listen to. What band to like. What to buy tickets for.
What to joke about. What not to joke about.
I want someone to tell me what to believe in. Who to vote for and who to love and how to…tell them.
I just think I want someone to tell me how to live my life, Father, because so far, I think I’ve been getting it wrong.
And I know that’s why people want someone like you in their lives, because you just tell them how to do it.
You just tell them what to do and what they’ll get out of the end of it, even though I don’t believe your b___ and I know that scientifically nothing that I do makes any difference in the end, anyway, I’m still scared.
Why am I still scared? So just tell me what to do. Just tell me what to do, Father.
Do you hear the fear in the woman’s words? The thirst for truth?
Waller-Bridge won the BAFTA award for Best Female Comedy Performance. The series received 11 Emmy nominations and won six, with Waller-Bridge earning Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Lead Actress, and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. The show also received a Golden Globe award for Best Television Series, and Waller-Bridge, again, won Best Actress. Why? Because it hit the condition of the human heart.
(Unfortunately, despite all the awards the show is crude, lacks any hint of the truth and offers no remedy to the pain so perfectly portrayed. Therefore, I do not endorse or recommend it.)
Fleabag wasn’t even sure what it was she was longing for, but King David did. He described it well in the Psalms:
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me, ‘Where is your God?’ – Psalm 42:1
We want someone to tell us what to do. We desire to worship something and we thirst for God, but we get distracted along the way.
In my life, I can identify many times that I gave my time, energy and thoughts to things that are not God. They were all great things: family, food, shelter, material possessions, jobs, and health. The problem isn’t that I like them or use them, but that I started treating them as the most important things. Like the checkout line, I got distracted by the things of this world and started looking to them more than to God. It’s not that I didn’t believe, but I didn’t completely trust Him to give me what’s best. I made my own little safety net: financial security, the love of my family, a strong network of friendships, career success, optimal health, etc., just in case.
Want to know a trick to see if you are worshipping something? Imagine losing it.
If I lost _______________________________ I would be_________________________________.
(something you value) (emotions/reactions/change life habits)
If losing something means that you are crushed, life cannot go on, or all meaning is gone, that’s a red flag that something has moved above God in priority. I put a lot of things in the crushing category. (which it isn’t fair on the person/thing being crushed!) When stuff disappointed me, I headed in the opposite direction.
“I’m not going to follow my thirst for the world,” I declared resolutely after another searing disappointment. “I am going be the best Christian I can be. I am falling headlong into following God’s rules perfectly. It’s all about obeying Him from here on out. That’s how I’ll figure things out.”
But that’s easier said than done. Soon I began picking and choosing which of God’s laws I wanted to obey. I criticized the behavior of others and looked down on those who didn’t follow as I did. The rules began to dominate my own worth: when I was doing good, God was happy with me. When I wasn’t, God was mad. I bounced between these two false gods. My life was still not in balance.
Jesus’s Radical Act of Love
Jesus picks me up every time I am crushed by the weight of the law. John describes what it was that Jesus gave us:
“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” – John 10:28-30
The world has an easy explanation for these longings within us. Obey your thirst! Follow your desires and act on them! I’ve tried, and it doesn’t work. But you know what else will lead me to a dead-end? Trying to obey God on my own strength.
Not one living creature has managed to keep God’s law perfectly, except Jesus. The call to a big radical change in our lives is to give up control. I want to let go, not just of the desire to create other little idols, but also idea of being my own savior. The message of the Bible is not to stop obeying world and only obey God; that’s still all about me.
The call to a big radical change in our lives is to give up control.
Instead, Jesus gently invites us to let go and trust Him. Jesus has done the obeying for us. Because of Jesus’s obedience to death, We are free to obey God. Obeying is not a command, but an invitation to a new life of unburdened grace.
In the series I referenced earlier, the woman never has a name. She is simply “Fleabag.” Jesus offers the remedy for that young lady, for me, and for you.
You are not a fleabag.
You are created by me.
You are loved. You were saved.
You are a reflection of my goodness in the world.
Therefore, you are valuable and needed.
You are free to worship me in spirit and truth.
I will satisfy you.
Now that’s an impulse you can act on!