When I was growing up, all the boys my age had the same fantasy: We wanted to be Steve Spurrier. Back then, he was the quarterback at the University of Florida. He threw the football like no one we had seen before.
Of the boys I grew up with - Binky, Mark, Danny, Harold and Ronnie - none of us became Steve Spurrier. In fact, none of us grew up to play college football. Like the old Everly Brothers song, we were dreaming our life away.
Fantasies take many forms. I remember having a crush on Julie Andrews and dreaming of her being my girlfriend. The fact that she was 20 years older than me and married did not dawn on me until I was in middle school. In college, I occasionally fantasized I could pass a test without studying. That fantasy turned into a nightmare.
I still have fantasies. I believe I can get a shower, get dressed and get to work in 10 minutes, even though it is an eight-minute drive to work. I believe I can eat whatever I want and not gain weight. I believe as long as the ATM spits out money, I must still have money in the bank. My own false beliefs are why I am skeptical when someone says, "I believe " Belief doesn't count for much unless it is tied to reality.
Some fantasies become addictive escapes. Online gamers experience this. After hours of gaming, re-entry into the real world can be bumpy. The hypnotic trance of an online game gives you the illusion of control. People who have been addicted to porn tell me it is a quick escape from the hard work of a real relationship. In porn, there are no demands except for your credit card number. The power of the quick fix becomes an addiction.
In my conversations with alcoholics, most admit they liked the way alcohol made them feel. It loosened them up. They felt more relaxed, more able to be the life of the party. But they go on to tell me at the end that the good feeling of alcohol wouldn't come anymore. They isolated and drank by themselves. Their escape to fantasy became a controlling addiction.
A man came to see me years ago about his fantasy. It involved leaving his marriage and running away with a co-worker. When I asked him if he was romantically involved with his co-worker, he told me, "No." I believed him. It is easier to deal with a fantasy woman than a real one.
When Satan first tempted Eve, he offered her a fantasy. "God doesn't want you to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If you do, you will be like God!" Some theologians have said this has been humanity's fantasy ever since: We want to be like God. We want to be able to control what is right and wrong. We want pleasure without pain. We want to set the limits for other people.
Every time humanity tries to make the fantasy of being a god reality, we fail. Every time. When we try to redefine what is right and wrong, we run into consequences we did not foresee. When we seek pleasure, we can become pain averse. Comfort, not health, becomes our guide. When we impose judgment on other people, we find ourselves more isolated and alone. Just like Eve and Adam ended up facing reality and were thrown out of the garden, our fantasies of being like God crash into the hard reality that we are not like God and do not have the capacity to be like him.
God does not deal in fantasy. Jesus came to confront the reality of our sin and brokenness. He offers us forgiveness and grace. Sometimes people have a fantasy they can be good enough to earn salvation. A verse in the Bible challenges this: "There is no one righteous, no not one." None of us are that good.
I wonder if Jesus today might be present with the gamer, or the girl glued to her phone, or the guy doing porn, and say to each of them, "It is time to return to reality. It is time for you to realize you need help. I am here to help you, to save you. Step into the light of my grace, and I will carry you."
That is no fantasy. Jesus is the reality of grace.
The Rev. Dr. Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More Articles to Read