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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Too Many Pinkie Pies”
This episode (featuring Pinkie Pie cloning herself repeatedly with the results running amok throughout Ponyville) can carry a lot of messages inside it, such as how many “once in a lifetime” opportunities we’ll run into in our lifetime or how there can be too much of a good thing. Yet what ends up being at its heart at the end of it is that in spite of all of the various Pinkies insisting they were the real deal, there was only one who stood out from the others as being the genuine article.
Likewise, in real life, there are many pretenders, substitutes, or distractions, but there’s only one Jesus Christ and that one basic human need for Him.
This wasn’t a lesson I took to heart early on even growing up in a Christian family, and, in this culture, I don’t think many people do. That’s understandable. There is, after all, some weight to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; the concept that says we cannot try to fill certain needs without fulfilling other ones below it first. It’s acknowledged in the New Testament too. James 2:15-16 points out the ridiculousness of trying to wish people spiritually well while leaving them in physical need: “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” The problem is that it’s easy to get too distracted by that. People start to think of the basics of physical needs (food, water, and shelter) and social needs as being the be-all, end-all. And since lots of things can satisfy those, it gives the idea that spirituality/spiritual needs are just made-up constructs by religions that are on the side but not really necessary. In some cases, they’re even considered unnecessary and just distractions or means of control.
While that latter danger does exist out there, and it’s not exclusive to areas outside of Christianity, that’s still not the truth. It was something I understood as I got older. At one point, I was friendless, unemployed, still dependent on my parents, overweight, broke, and feeling about as low as I could possibly feel. I felt like my life was a waste, I had no redeeming qualities, and that nothing I did mattered. I ended up getting to wishing, and I didn’t wish for much. I wished that I would simply have a steady job good enough to move me out of the house to where I wouldn’t be dependent on my parents anymore. I wished I had just one good friend to talk to, not even going so far as a relationship. And I wished that I could finally get my weight under control. I believed all of these things would give me a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. All of them would make me feel I had self-worth and was someone valuable.
And I actually ended up getting my wishes and then some. It took work and time, but now I’m employed full time, moved out, and I have some money stashed away. I have people I can talk to at home and at work. I’ve lost nearly 100 pounds and, for the first time in my entire life, I’m exercising regularly and people are calling me “skinny”. People could argue, and I would agree, I have a lot to be thankful for and a lot of reasons to be proud with myself. And yet I wasn’t. I felt just as bad as I did before I had any of those things. I just found new things to dislike about myself.
I believe there’s a lot of people who think like that in the world, and there’s even more who have far less going for them who feel the same. I learned eventually that I could be a complete success in the secular world and yet still feel the same as if I was broke and meritless. In my case, it was because I was a perfectionist. It didn’t matter how much money I made; I could always make more. It didn’t matter how much healthier I ate or exercised; I could always be better. It didn’t matter how many friends I had; I’d focus on the ones I had lost or driven away. Even with all of my needs satisfied, I still didn’t feel well or complete. I looked around at what I had gained for myself and all I could do was shake my head and say: “Is there nothing more?”
That was my problem. For another it might be someone desperately seeking a relationship in order to feel more lovable, and once they finally get one they find they still don’t love themselves. Another manages to accumulate wealth or status and yet looks around and realizes in a few decades…or as early as tomorrow…they’ll be gone and none of it will have mattered, or can be traded now for more time on Earth. Or someone else can’t feel good about themselves no matter how much they rise above others in terms of position or success. Or another feels the need to take care of everyone around them and yet still fears they aren’t doing good enough or that they’re being cruel by somehow neglecting someone. Or yet another busies themselves about donations and doing good for other people and yet still feels that they aren’t a “good person” or that all of their deeds end up counting for nothing and fail to make up for any bad or evil they may have done. Some of these are good, honest attempts at self-improvement or to become better people, while others are more selfish and self-centered, and others yet lead to even self-destructive behavior. But regardless of motivation or methods, the end result is the same: they all still feel the same way they did before they started.
Whether some of these actions produce good as a byproduct or they end up being cheap imitations such as addictions or hedonism, they’re all cheap attempts to replace the genuine need, which is Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” This is in the analogy of a grape vine. The main vine is what is rooted to the soil. While the branches are what produces the grapes, they don’t unless they are attached to the vine and drawing health and vigor from it. Severed from it, and it withers, browns, and is unable to produce any grapes at all; essentially good for nothing and eventually dying.
Some people take this only at its most important and yet basic value, which is how Jesus’ Sacrifice provides expiation of sins and grants us salvation and eternal life. That’s all true, and it’s the most important part by far, but, as James indicated, it’s not enough. Jesus didn’t come just to give life. In His own words, He said, in John 10:10, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Jesus also desires to make us to grow to completion, maturity, and becoming the best we can be. He desires to satisfy the needs inside us that leave us feeling empty, unloved, and inadequate. He desires to build us up to be more than we thought we could ever be and to do things that we never thought we could do. He desires to make us into the “salt of the earth”; something that is not only good on its own but that literally “brings flavor” to the world around us and makes it better. To get us to look beyond what we are now and what we think we can become and to see something far greater than either.
This is, to me, what humanity’s quintessential spiritual need is. Knowing that there is not only a higher power that is beyond both ourselves and anything around us, but that is actively behind us and guiding us to a higher purpose. A power that wants to leave us not feeling empty and wondering if there’s more for us, but feeling complete and joyful and eager to expand and grow further beyond our own limitations and needs. There is no occupation, exercise routine, drug, act of charity, or anything else that can grant me this feeling and fill this need. There are no substitutes. It’s Lord Jesus Christ.
Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for all the gifts you have given me in my life, and thank you especially for sending the greatest gift of all: your only Son, Jesus Christ. Help me to identify in my life where I have a need for Lord Jesus, and, if I am trying to ‘substitute’ something for Him, help me to recognize this and turn to Him instead. In doing so, let me grow toward becoming more the individual you imagine me to be. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”