92941_000_015Delayed gratification isn’t just trading a piece of cake now for a piece of cake later. You’re going for the whole bakery.
We once had a Persian cat named Arthur. One day our nine-year-old daughter asked, “Dad, do you think Arthur knows he’s a cat?”
I answered, “Well, I don’t really think Arthur knows he’s a cat. All he knows for sure is that it is very nice when you live with someone who will love you and feed you and keep you warm.”
Actually, I know quite a few people who think that very same thing—their highest hope is just to have someone love them and feed them and keep them warm. To them, as to Arthur, that’s what it means to be “satisfied.”
But people are different from cats—cats literally don’t even know which day it is. Some of our basic needs—such as hunger, thirst, and sleep—are much like those of animals, and we must fill those needs before we can pursue our higher nature beyond the animal level. Yet our unique power to reason includes a sense of time that gives us longer memories and a sense of future consequences. We actually find the very meaning of our lives with reference to our past and our future.
Now I know that it is hard to think about the future when you’re young. It is hard for teenagers to think past the next meal. Many parents think their teenagers can’t even think until the next meal, given their appetite for junk food. A BYU teacher named Steven Walker once expressed the teenager’s sense of the future in this way: “In my high school days, we used to say: ‘Like there’s no tomorrow.’ We used that phrase for virtually every verbal occasion, but mainly it meant intense; a singer who sang ‘like there’s no tomorrow’ sang with her [whole] soul; a football halfback who ran ‘like there’s no tomorrow’ ran his heart out.”
A popular song of that same era was built on this phrase. I can still remember the words and the dark-haired girl my memory associates with the song: “There’s no tomorrow, when love is new. There’s no tomorrow, for lovers true. So kiss me and hold me tight. There’s no tomorrow. There’s just tonight.”
The problem is, we know there’s a tomorrow.
Thank God there is tomorrow.
Tomorrow, like today, is everlastingly a part of life. And because there is tomorrow, all our yesterdays have meaning and purpose. If you hold someone tight whom you really love, the last thing you want is no tomorrow. A shallow, impulsive infatuation that wants to shut out tomorrow is but a tiny flicker compared to the roaring blaze of a genuine relationship of loving commitment built to last forever. I promise you that tomorrow is worth waiting for.
On a Sesame Street program one day, Cookie Monster won a quiz show. He was given his choice among three possible prizes: a $200,000 dream home next month; a $20,000 new car next week; or … a cookie, right now. As you might expect, he chose the cookie.
Now there is nothing wrong with a good cookie. The problem is not that the cookie is bad, but that its satisfaction cannot last. A cookie is like a big piece of cake—you can’t eat it and have it too. Remember Jacob’s words: “Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness” (2 Ne. 9:51).
There is an enormous difference between fleeting, temporary pleasures and long-term, soul-stirring satisfactions. Yet Satan constantly deludes us into believing that the cookie is more valuable than the dream home, mostly because we can have it right now. It is a “cheap thrill.” That manipulation is tragically ironic, because the adversary “seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (2 Ne. 2:27).
The point is not that cheap thrills should not satisfy, or might not satisfy, but that they cannot really satisfy. Not that worldly gratifications are too satisfying, but that they are not satisfying enough.
In the Prophet Joseph’s words, “The nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker and is caught up to dwell with Him” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 51). I believe the Prophet spoke here about humankind’s highest source of joy, which includes belonging eternally to both our loved ones and to God.
We know from nearly universal human experience that enduring love between a man and a woman approaches the highest form of mortal fulfillment. When we have paid the high price of patient preparation, self-discipline, and an irrevocable commitment to another person’s happiness, we may taste the sweet joy of human love. To be encircled about eternally in the arms of such love is to fulfill our deepest longing for security and meaning. That form of love awaits those who enter the highest degree of celestial life; in fact, such love distinguishes that life from all lesser rewards.
There is another, comparable source of fulfillment to be found in our relationship with the Lord, captured in the idea of the atonement—the “at-one-ment” of Jesus Christ. When we have faithfully endured the mortal experience, this wondrous gift allows us to become truly “at one” with him, just as he is at one with his father. The scriptures are full of references to marriage symbols between the Lord and his people, expressing this oneness with God in a spiritual sense of “belonging,” just as family members belong to one another. Thus did King Benjamin express the hope “that Christ … may seal you his” (Mosiah 5:15). There is no human yearning, no mortal satisfaction that can compare with being welcomed into the arms of the Atoning One in that day when we once more enter his presence.
Many of us have tasted the stirrings of pure and disciplined romantic love enough to yearn for it eternally. I also believe that many of us have tasted the pure and disciplined spirit of the Lord enough to yearn for it eternally.
Does the Lord want us to be satisfied? Yes. Thank God there is tomorrow.