This is part one of a multi-part series on what lies at the root of our pursuit for pleasure and where to find real happiness.
I'm a sucker for the occasional B-movie escapism. Replete with a low budget, merciless dialogue and undefined story arc, these flicks are sometimes just plain entertaining. Enter Anaconda.
As only 1997 could deliver, the film chronicles a documentary crew headed into the jungle to shoot footage on a mysterious Indian tribe. On their way, they pick up a stranded man who subsequently takes the team hostage on his quest to capture the world's largest -- and deadliest -- snake. A record-breaking Green Anaconda. Enter really awful CGI.
Let me tell you the thrust of the storyline in one sentence (sorry, mild spoiler): individuals scanning the crest of the river to determine where the anaconda might be. You can imagine the discourse: "Is that it?" "Did you see that?" "I think I heard something." "Watch out, I see it coming!" One and half brutal hours of, yes, looking for a snake.
I've been thinking lately about the ways we pursue happiness, pleasure, comfort and for some reason, my warped mind thought of Anaconda. Let me tell you why.
Though most of us wouldn't necessarily articulate it this way, we stroll through our human existence, looking for something to deeply satisfy us. If we were to pull back the curtain on our hearts, we would find our time, energy, attention, and even our money, is devoted to a quest of self-assurance and self-significance.
We want to be loved. We want to belong. We want to make a difference. We want to feel important. And we'll do whatever it takes to get those things.
If it means controlling people to get our way, we'll fiercely stay out in front of anything that might catch us off guard. If it means scaring people into getting what we want, we'll yell and make it happen. If it means attacking, condemning, and blaming others in order to be right, we will go on the offensive.
Control, anger, blame. These are just a few things that lie at the surface of a greater hunt in our lives. Much like the documentary crew looking for the anaconda by observing what lies at the crest of the river, most of the fruit of our self-salvation projects are also found at the top-level.
Want happiness? It's important to identify what is at the surface of our hopes and desires. In order for us to find real satisfaction, we must begin at this starting point. We need to ask, ""Is that it?" "Did you see that?" "I think I heard something." "Watch out, I see it coming!" The Bible calls this detecting our idols (1 Corinthians 10:14) -- but today, we are mainly talking about unearthing our surface idols.
Surface idols would be things we more easily recognize because they're on the surface. Pastor and author Tim Keller says that one way you can identify your surface idols is by looking at your most uncontrollable emotions:
"Just like a fisherman looking for fish knows to go where the water is rolling, look for your idols at the bottom of your most painful emotions, especially those that never seem to lift and that drive you to do things you know are wrong ... when you 'pull your emotions up by the root,' as it were, you will often find your idols clinging to them."
You could also call these branch idols. They're on the branches and you can see them but they're not the ones at the root that are actually growing the branches. But before we can get to the root, we have to do the hard work of heart inventory for what lies on the surface.
From the book, Gospel Transformation, here are some things to consider as you excavate for your surface idols:
Respect: People must listen to me. They must give me their undivided attention. They must not look away when I speak to them.
Order: I control my world. Things must be ordered. Things must not break down or mess up. People must not mess around with me or catch me off guard.
Judging: I have the right to judge others, especially externals, because I cannot see into the heart. I judge their shortcomings and sin. I compare myself favorably to them.
Dominance: I speak and it is done. If things are not accomplished immediately, I am angry or defeated.
Reverence: People must defer to me -- including other drivers on the road. People must not bump into me on the street. They must knock before coming into my office. I must be the center of my family life, my job, or my church.
Obedience: People must submit to me -- especially my children.
Admiration: I glorify myself. I am all-knowing and all-wise. I look down on others' mistakes. My opinions are all-wise and correct.
Pleasure: I do whatever pleases me. TV, food, sex, shopping, entertainment, videos, computer games, vacations.
Appearances: I have to look holy. I have to appear perfect. I must be healthy.
Independence: I am accountable to no one. If you call me to account for something, I get mad or raid the fridge.
Competitive: I must take it to the top. I must win -- job, sports, computer games. I aim for the top and tread over anyone to get there.
What are your surface idols? Look at where the water is rolling on the crest of your heart and you will locate them.
Next time, we will look at how we can't stop at only identifying our surface idols if we want to find true significance and happiness. To find real peace and contentment in life, there is something that lurks beneath the surface that we must address. And it's not an anaconda.
Send all comments and feedback regarding Above and Beyond to
Share this article: