Book of Wishes: The reason we long for more

December 12, 2017

It arrived every November, wrapped in cellophane, its pages filled with new possibilities. On the cover, a dreamy holiday image, pulling your heart into the season and beckoning you to indulge in hours of wish making.

It’s hard to overestimate the sheer joy the Sears Wish Book brought to my young heart. Before Amazon and Apple. Before Walmart and Black Friday. Before Facebook and Google. Every year, I waited with anticipation and longing for the day this catalog would come.

A savvy wisher would ignore the advice on the front page, which warned shoppers against skipping to other sections and “missing out” on possible gems like Garfield piggy banks, board games, and Chicago Bears pajamas nestled among the cheesy sweaters, cheap jewelry, and knife sets. The gems, every child knew, were found in only one place—the toy section.

Full immersion in the Wish Book took days, not hours. A young boy had to read every caption and organize his desires. There was the practical, low-hanging fruit, ripe for the Christmas stocking: Matchbox cars, classic books, a mini Etch A Sketch. Carefully dog-earing other pages would alert parents and prepare them to consider more valuable gifts like the new Lego gas station, a baseball card collector set, a Talking Computron.

I would never have admitted this at the time, of course, but looking back on those days, it’s obvious: The anticipation surpassed even the pleasure of seeing Christmas gifts under the tree. What I realize now is, hidden in that longing there’s an innate yearning for something better—some lasting pleasure or sense of completion. Something that can’t be found in plastic and cellophane, but in the perfectly satisfying companionship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We long for better things because we instinctively know we were created to enjoy our life—to experience beauty, truth, and goodness as gifts of a loving Father. Yet every chase that ends in something tangible during this lifetime ultimately arrives at a less-than-satisfying conclusion. As Christians, we know that this longing—echoed in the soundtracks of our age, in the sentimental yarns we tell every Christmas, and in the constant grasping for the elusive next thing—is really a longing for God Himself.

The Bible, with its call to Spirit-filled endurance and constant warnings of suffering, is not a Wish Book. And yet in many ways, it sort of is—in how it rebukes our dreams and desires. The problem is not that we dream; it’s that we dream poorly. It’s not that we have wishes, but that our wishes are too small. Nor is it that we long for “what’s next” or “what’s better”; it’s that we can’t fathom the fullness of what’s truly next or better for those who love God and, as Romans 8:28 says, “are called according to His purpose.”

So go ahead and wish. Just remember, when God answers your desires, He may have something different in mind—something that may include hardship. But what He offers is a gift of greater beauty or wonder than you could ever ask or think.

This was originally published by In Touch Magazine.