Before I begin, I have to tell you a story. Otherwise nothing will make sense. It’s actually a story that a friend of mine in my church’s Quarter Life small group told us last week. I thought it was such a smart, wise story that I wanted to share with you all and then get your thoughts.
My friend is a counselor here in New York, and last year he was working with a 14-year-old girl who was incredibly troubled and angry. I don’t have the details, but she is just angry all the time. She skips school, talks back to her parents, everything. One thing that this girl really wanted was a kitten. Her mother wouldn’t give one to her (presumably because this girl is irresponsible) and so the girl was incredibly angry about that. She even had a temper tantrum for a whole weekend because she wouldn’t get a kitten. The girl was insistent that if she would only have this kitten, then her entire life would be better, so why wouldn’t her mother give her a kitten? My friend said to this girl, “With everything you’ve given up and all the stress you’ve gone through to get this kitten, this must be one magical kitten! This kitten must possesses some kind of magical power to make your life better.” He, of course, was using hyperbole to show the girl that the idea that the kitten would solve everything, but the girl didn’t fall for it. She still wants the kitten.
As part of our small group last week, we talked about our own magical kittens. What do you believe would make your life so much better if you only had it? That’s your magical kitten. And believe me, it’s probably not so magical.
I think most of us realize that there is no singular goal that will make us “complete” or happy, but damn it if we don’t hold on to some magical kittens of our own! Whether it’s a relationship, a baby, a better job, more money, a nicer house, a newer car… whatever. I think we are all like this 14-year-old who just hold onto this idea that if we could just have a kitten, all would be right in the world.
I have a few magical kittens, some I’ll share, and some I won’t. I think the magical kitten I’ve had for awhile now is the idea that I will be happier if I could just lose weight. I’m not alone in this thinking — and Amy wrote a wonderful post about it last week. I think for a lot of people, the idea that if you looked different meant that you would not only be different, you’d be better.
Moving to the East Coast used to be a magical kitten. When I was in college, I was desperate to get out and see the world. Move out of Oregon and live the big life in the Big City. I was convinced that if I moved away from home, I could “re-do” myself when I landed. I would no longer be the shy, awkward, “what the heck do I say in a large group of people?” kind of girl. I’d be a cool, confident, charismatic girl. Yeah, that didn’t really happen just because I changed time zones.
This conversation actually grew out of a video that we watched for our discussion, a short five minute video by Pastor Rob Bell. In the video, he shared a story about how his two-year-old son really wanted some cheap, badly made toy that they came across at the mall. Meanwhile, Rob knew that they were about to go buy a kickball (a much better, nicer toy) across the street. His son was so mad that he couldn’t have the toy. The little boy wailed, “But I neeeeeeed it.” Meanwhile, he had no idea the awesomeness that awaited him.
I think that often times we hold onto our magical kittens because they make us feel safe. They feel like they give us purpose and direction, even when they might be leading us down a bad path. The 14-year-old girl was so obsessed with a kitten that she didn’t realize how unrealistic her expectations were. She didn’t really need the kitten, she just wanted it.
How many magical kittens do we have in our own life? How many things have we convinced ourselves that we need? That if we only had it, life would be the best life that ever could be?
Obviously, Pastor Rob is making the case for Christ being the only thing that we need in life, and that His plans are better than any magical kittens we could want. But I think this works for anyone, spiritual or not. I think we all hold on to these magical kittens that are serving us, aren’t necessary, and actually probably aren’t very good. Or even if they are good (like losing weight), they can lead to unintended consequences like poor body image and low self-esteem. Having dreams and goals are good, but we should remember that they are only part of who we are. Our accomplishments and possessions — or lack thereof — are not who we are.
If you feel like sharing, what’s your magical kitten?