Moving the Goalpost

Alfred E. Neuman, mascot for Mad magazine, once said, “Most people don’t know what they really want – but they’re sure they haven’t got it.” It might be true that a great many people do not think they have what they really want…or need.

I have a friend who likes to say, “Enough is a moving target.” When do we have enough? Enough money? Enough love? Enough time? Enough influence? Enough respect? Enough of whatever we think we need to be happier. Maybe we got that new job or bought that car we had been waiting for. Perhaps we found a relationship that was exactly what we sought for so long or settled into a life we thought we always wanted. Maybe we got that advanced degree or finally moved away from parents and now live on our own.

We should be happy, right? And for a while, we are. But how often do we eventually discover that the shine is gone, that somehow we don’t seem to have enough? What changed? Chances are, we are victims of the phenomenon that “enough is a moving target.”

The job no longer satisfies. The relationship no longer fulfills like we had expected. All those things we had for so long thought would bring lasting contentment just don’t seem to be enough because somebody moved the target.

And here’s the truth: our age is characterized by the ABILITY to get what we want, and the INABILITY to want what we’ve got. Our age is characterized by discontentment.

In 1988, one woman won twenty-two million dollars in her state lottery. Her family and friends gathered around her. Television lights blazed. Even the network news showed up. She was ecstatic. “This is the happiest day of my life!” she announced.

And you know the rest of the story. A mere five years later she was shown again on television shaking her head in disbelief. In no time at all she went through a divorce, the alienation of her children and a financial investment that turned sour. A judge garnished her lottery winnings for the rest of her life. The closing scene showed the woman sitting on the steps of an apartment building in utter despair.

She had won $22 million. Not that it should have made her happy, but it certainly was not enough to save her from unhappiness.

Don’t hear me say that happiness comes from material possessions. I don’t believe it for a minute. You already know that the most important things in life are probably not things at all. But happiness, at least in part, does come from a deep appreciation of what we already have, both material and immaterial. It’s never about getting what we want – somebody keeps moving that target. It’s about appreciating whatever it is we have.

You probably have the ability to get what you want. And you likely have everything you need to be completely satisfied. But do you also have the ability to want what you’ve got?

That just may be one of the most important questions you will ever answer.

And so, we pray: Father, my happiness is not found in the things I possess… for I possess very little. I don’t long for that bright red sports car or that home over near the country club. Those may be nice, but they will not make me happy. I have found my happiness is found in my family and in the assurance that you, O God, walk with me every step of my journey. Keep walking with me and holding my hand. Amen.

Grace and Peace

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