I did it. I won a 4th national championship, along with breaking the NCAA record for rushing and receiving yards and TD's. I led a no name school to be the greatest dynasty of the modern era of college football. The first player to win 4 heismans. I was on top of the world. Then I shut the Playstation 2 off, and reality floods my consciousness.
I never was athletic, in fact most of the time I was picked in the bottom half of the class during gym class. I never played football, except for the occasional pick-up game, but for some reason I was drawn to the video game version. The game was fun enough as I played as my favorite team, but the real appeal came when I saw there was a create-a-player option. Zack Gugenheim, star running back, 6'2" and 227 pounds. I was the fastest player with the best hands, I even had the skills to play multiple positions with unending endurance.
Forget the fact that I was only 5'9" and 215 lbs in High School (and none of that was muscle, mind you). Or that while I can catch relatively well, I'm never going to be mistaken for Jerry Rice or Calvin Johnson. And fast? Well... let's not go there. Yet there was an overwhelming pull for me to see myself as a new and improved person. It didn't just happen with football games. In fact, any game with a "Create-a-player" was subject to my fantasy. I remember when I owned a wrestling video game, I suddenly became 7 feet tall doing flips off a turnbuckle, raising the World Heavyweight title over my head. Even outside the video gaming world, my fantasies ran wild about my "greatness."
(Disclaimer: I'm not saying video games are inherently evil... although I might argue that we probably spend more time playing them than we should)
In my mind, I was skilled in martial arts, could use a gun, kill zombies, unnamed or named henchmen, vampires (even ones that sparkle), survive the hunger games or whatever else anybody could throw at me. I was Batman with Superman's powers. But here was the key... everybody knew how gifted I was in the dreams and fantasies. I was the hero. I was on top.
And yet... when I come back to reality... it comes to a screeching halt. Suddenly, I see the man I'm ashamed to be. In high school, I was the fat annoying kid that tried to make his mark, but often was just ignored or made fun of (I overdramatized it in my mind). In college, I felt like I could reinvent myself, prove that I was all that. When I became a Christian, it crossed over into spiritual things as well. Now, it's about how I can lead so many people to Christ through worship leading, preaching, discipleships, etc. "If I can say the right thing, or sing a song in just in the right way, or preach more skillfully and share a hidden gem that nobody saw before, I would have tremendous impact, and everyone would love me!"
Have you ever been there? Maybe you're not like me. Maybe you think I'm weird. Or maybe, you're like me in one simple way... you have a desire to be loved, and you'll do anything to feel it. A desire to feel special, or to be seen as great. I often ask the question, "What is driving these dreams? Why do I often find myself fantasizing of being special?"
Honestly, I think the answer lies in unbelief. I don't want to believe that I'm worse than I can imagine, so I look to these dreams to suppress the truth about myself. (Romans 1:18). Not only that, but I suppress the truth about this current world, which is nothing to write home about either. In one sense, God created this place to be amazing, but the curse of sin is ravaging it. There's pain, sickness, depression, and death. The reality of this life is awful. 100% of humans die. That's morbid, and honestly, it has often kept me up at night.
And yet, the problem with not believing the truth about this life is the fact that the next life is SO MUCH BETTER! Check this out: "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.'" (Revelation 21:1-4)
God is going to dwell with me, and I will be His. For every tear I've shed, He will wipe it away. And the pain, the suffering, the sin and shame that have plagued me, and that I will continue to struggle with will be GONE! This is so much better than pretending to be great... because I can worship someone who is great and someone who WILL redeem and WILL rescue and WILL have justice and HAS PROVED HIS LOVE by dying on the cross so that I can live forever with Him.
I no longer need people's approval in my mind. I don't need to have anything to offer. I don't need to escape the realities of this life... because God has all ready prepared a perfect escape for me. The best part is... He's there with me. Heaven is where we will dwell, with the one who is our refuge.
"For me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works." (Psalm 73:28)
One day, if we're in Christ, we'll be in our perfect escape. We are His Beloved! Look towards heaven, and escape the false escapes that easily entangle us. When we fail, we can repent and long to be with Jesus for eternity.
In His Grace,
PS: This song fits so well. "You Hold Me Now" by Hillsong