I hate dollar-store-toys. There, I said it. My only dilemma: I have three boys that are crazy about them. I know I can make them smile in wistful excitement with a trip to the Dollar Store and a brand new toy—maybe an airplane, a plastic truck or a rubber bat (the flying kind). But every time we leave the store the toys break into a thousand pieces in about 4.5 seconds. I make an effort to repair them, usually to no avail. The toys soon disappear into the toy-box-abyss, and within hours the toys are a memory.
Soon forgotten forever.
So what I end up providing for my boys is a cheap experience with short-term results. Did I mention I’m a great dad?
This world has a great deal of short-term fulfillments to offer—things that claim to give us what we need, things that boast of the ability to make us who we’re meant to be with three-easy-payments. Cheap imitations of grace lay around every corner and the temptation is always imminent: Get a shoddy replica of redemption for instant gratification at the cost of our own hearts.
Redemption is a precious commodity available in only one place: the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
Everything else is plastic.
The restoration received through Christ is priceless and eternal—nothing shoddy. As the Psalmist says, “O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.” As Christians our lives are meant to subvert the underlying philosophy of the world—a world with a penchant for false redemptive promises—and to present the unfailing love of God as the only lasting means to wholeness. Our hearts long for an authentic redemption—one that never breaks, never wears-out and never fails; a redemption as cogent as the rising sun. But the danger of settling for cheap imitations is always looming.
Like my friend Shawn (not his real name), the temptation to let loose and shop in spiritual-dollar-stores is always an enticing alternative. Shawn always seemed to hang on to his faith by a thread and that thread eventually broke. Somehow, he got turned off to God and let go. Shawn wanted something more certain, something tangible—something easy to hold on to. He was convinced there was something better to be had in the moment, something better than Christ and he was whisked away by the short-lived promises the world had to offer.
I know God’s arms are always open for Shawn, and I pray he will see his cheap imitation for what it is. When Shawn realizes what he’s holding is breaking I hope he turns back to the one true thing. I think we all have friends like this, friends that we don’t really know what to do with besides love and pray for; friends that we just give over to God because we know the path they’re on is unraveling.
I could be in Shawn’s shoes—that could be me—in fact, sometimes that is me. At times, I act out in ways that say, “God, I know better—I know you offer me your Son, but I want something I can see and touch—something now.” It’s only by grace that any of us find God—and hold onto Him.
Satan is out there in full-force working to blind us to every element of God’s grace; trying to get us to settle for replicas of salvation in every moment and around every corner. Satan tries to rid us of everything that can point us to God; like a bitter ex-girlfriend burning all her old boyfriend’s memorabilia, Satan wants to erase every portrait of God’s grace—painting a cruel picture on a hopeless canvas. But God has planted signposts of his grace in numerous places with strokes of grace and robust hues, if we just open our eyes long enough.
Being a follower of Christ means that we do battle everyday to stay true to the work God is doing in our hearts. It’s a kingdom-thing; following Christ into a life-long journey of redemption means that we forsake our desire to embrace what’s seen and exchange it for what is unseen—believing that the grace of God comes with an irreplaceable certainty.
All other attempts at redemption are short-lived; they literally break before we leave the store.