I'm not a big Dr Phil fan. I think I watched five minutes of him on Oprah once. So forgive me if I get some of this wrong. But even though I don't watch much Dr Phil, I do know there's a saying he's very fond of. 'How is that working for you?' As he's the 'relationship guru', I'm fairly sure he uses it to discuss people's behaviours in terms of the relationships in their lives. So you yell at your kid every time he does the wrong thing. How is that working for you? You ignore your wife every time she cries. How is that working for you? Something like that, I suppose.
I don't like Dr Phil too much, but I like the line. It's a good way to show people that what they are doing just isn't working. And once you realise it's not working, you're open to the possibility of doing something new.
Well, this isn't about relationships. But it's also a good line to use about the things we do to try and feel fulfilled, happy and important.
So you buy a new dress every time you want to feel special. How is that working for you? So you're working long hours to pay off a mortgage for a house you see only at night. How is that working for you? So you go shopping to take your mind off your depression. How is that working for you? So you're spending less time with your children, but buying them heaps of presents to compensate for it. How is that working for you? So you feel unattractive, but you're spending a fortune on wrinkle creams, make-up and exercise machines. How is that working for you?
The truth is it's not working for us. We've been told that buying products will make us happier and solve our problems. But it just doesn't work. No matter what we buy or what we own, we're still left wanting more. Trying to find fulfilment in consumer products is like searching for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. No matter how far you travel, you still have further to go.
That's because there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow - or the end of a clearance sale queue.
I believe there is a yearning deep in the heart of all of us. And I believe that that yearning is often used to sell more products. Advertisements play on our fears, our insecurities, our sense of powerless and meaningless - and that yearning for something. Often we don't know what that something is. So we see an advertisement and we think, maybe, if I just bought that one thing, that yearning would disappear. But it never does. Because that yearning was never meant to be satisfied through stuff.
In my opinion, that yearning is for God. And I also believe that that yearning never completely disappears. No matter what we have, no matter what we do, we live with the yearning. Like Creation, we are groaning as we wait for our redemption. Only we have twisted our eager expectation for God into an eager expectation for the next new product on the market. We are trying to stop our groaning by buying so many things that we hurt the Creation that is groaning with us.
Humans and Creation are in a relationship, whether we like it or not. It's a pity Human and Creation can't go and see the relationship guru, Dr Phil, together. They would tell Dr Phil all their problems, about how they're both groaning, waiting in eager anticipation for liberation and redemption.
Creation would then complain about Human, saying, 'I'm groaning too, but I also have to suffer because he takes his groaning out on me.'
Dr Phil would turn to Human and say, 'Is this true?'
Human would say, 'Well I need to do something to try and stop this feeling inside me. The only way I know how to cope with this is to buy lots of stuff.'
And then Dr Phil says, 'And how is that working for you?'
And if Human answers honestly, he would be forced to say, 'Not very well at all.'