[Spoiler Alert: this article contains spoilers for episode three from Tales From the Loop]
Chasing After the Wind
“That moment. That wonderful feeling of excitement. Why does it always pass? Even when you know it’s special right then and there, it still ends. Why can’t we stay in that moment? That feeling? Why can’t it last forever like we wish it could?”
These are the opening lines of Tales From the Loop episode three, spoken by a teenage girl named May, who is in the midst of a relationship that has lost its excitement. Those special moments, those wonderful feelings that she once experienced have passed; and with them, May’s happiness has faded. She must wrestle with the fact that those special moments do not last, that happiness is fleeting. She is, in short, confronted with the nature of reality.
I am reminded of the wisdom of Solomon-like figure in that moody book, Ecclesiastes. In chapter two, the writer reflects on the nature of pleasure (see Ecclesiastes 2:1-11). As the king, he had it all—wealth, power, sex, houses, wine, servants. And yet, it wasn’t enough. The writer describes his pursuit of pleasure as “chasing after the wind,” and eventually it was all “meaningless.”
So it is with us. Whether it be in possessions or with people, those moments of satisfaction, pleasure, and excitement do not last. They do not ultimately satisfy. The flutter in your stomach when you fall in love, the pride you feel when you accomplish something meaningful, the excitement you revel in when someone praises you, the happiness you experience when you are spending time with a good friend—good as these moments of pleasure are, they will pass.
Sometimes relationships fall apart or lose their excitement. No matter how successful you are, eventually you run up against failure. Those you love will one day die, leaving you without the joy of their company. Life is fleeting, time is short. And so it is that many people live their lives in pursuit of the next pleasure, the next thing that will satisfy them for a moment, but it won’t last. Time keeps ticking on. Eventually we will all die and the pleasures of this life will pass. This is the nature of reality.
But what if we could change reality? What if we could stop time? What if we could capture those moments of excitement and make them last forever? This is exactly what May tries to do when she discovers an object in the lake that allows her to stop time.
In an effort to capture that feeling of excitement with her new boyfriend Ethan, May tries to make that moment last forever. With the world to themselves, May and Ethan are free to do whatever they want, and they indulge this pleasure for at least a month. But when the machine breaks, leaving them stuck in the world alone, they realize that having the world to themselves is not enough. Their relationship quickly disintegrates as the selfishness of both is revealed. Ethan eventually removes his bracelet, returning him to the world frozen in time.
Though May eventually finds a way to turn the machine back on, allowing everything to go back to normal, her relationship with Ethan is in shambles, never to be repaired. Like the king in Ecclesiastes who tried everything, having Ethan and the world to herself wasn’t enough. The story ends tragically, with both May and Ethan broken and alone.
The Root of All Evil
The key line comes when May tells her father that a breakup with her boyfriend is imminent. He responds, “sometimes things are special because they don’t last.” Indeed, these moments were not meant to last. There is nothing wrong with the feeling of excitement or moments of pleasure. In fact, these are gifts from God. But these moments are not to be held onto or grasped. Just like May and Solomon, our own grasping after pleasure can lead us down dark and damaging roads instead of to the thankful enjoyment of that pleasure.
C. S. Lewis reflected on the nature of pleasure in his book Perelandra: “This itch to have things over again, as if life were a film that could be unrolled twice or even made to work backward . . . was it possibly the root of all evil?”¹ What Lewis is getting at is that our grasping after pleasure is to mistake the gift for the giver. Instead of enjoying pleasure as God’s gift, we make it God. However, our desires for pleasure are meant to point beyond themselves. They are meant to point us to the only One who can truly satisfy them—God. Only in relationship with our Creator and Father God can our longings be truly satisfied.
Only when we know God as Father can we see life’s pleasures for what they are—gifts of a loving God to be enjoyed in gratitude and praise. Those moments of pleasure are not meant to be hoarded, but to remind us of the God who can satisfy us. Life then, is not about capturing a specific moment, but living to the fullest in each moment. But what does that look like?
Living to the Fullest
In one version of the secularist narrative, living to the fullest in each moment might mean little more than self-indulgence. This is not to say that all secularists are self-indulgent people who live only for their own pleasure. It is to say that a secular worldview does not provide a foundation for living a life that is others-directed.² May was only doing what made sense within this worldview. Life is short. Since this world is all there is, we must get all we can now.
Ultimately, May’s desire to hold onto the moment with her boyfriend was not motivated by her love for him as much as by her selfishness and fear of being alone. Both May and Ethan were self-centered. This is tragically revealed in the quick demise of their relationship as soon as the machine breaks.
In the Christian worldview, living to the fullest in each moment means learning to enjoy the pleasures that God gives to us, but not grasping after them for our own self-indulgence. As Christians, we know that every good gift is from God (James 1:17). The answer to self-indulgence is not to abandon the pleasures of this life, as though being a Christian were all a matter of otherworldly spirituality. Rather, it is learning to enjoy those gifts without mistaking them for the Ultimate Thing. Sometimes we will be called to lay down our desires or to sacrifice those pleasures, but that does not make them bad in themselves.
Living to the fullest in each moment also means living for others. As Christians, our gaze should not be directed inwards at how much pleasure we can have or how many experiences we can generate. Instead, we ought to look outward in love toward others—seeking their benefit before our own (Philippians 2:3). This love for the other ought to be the defining mark of the Christian community (John 13:35).
Love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, not something that we generate on our own. Just like pleasure is a gift from God, so too with the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Only when we receive pleasures as God’s gifts can we enjoy them for what they are. Only when we receive God’s love for us as a gift can we then look outward and love others without fear or selfishness.
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