I sat amazed as I listened to his words. They probably didn’t cause most people to bat an eyelash, but as NFL Quarterback Tom Brady was being interviewed on 60 Minutes back in 2005, his admission was one of the most sobering revelations I had ever come across in recent times (to see the clip on YouTube, click here). After talking about his family, about his successes as a professional Quarterback, about his life in general, Brady asked a rhetorical question that was frightening in its sincerity. “Why do I have three Super Bowl rings,” he asked the interviewer, “and still think there’s something greater out there for me?” He continued, “I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, ‘Hey, man, this is what is.’ I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think: ‘God, it’s got to be more than this.’ I mean this can’t be what it’s all cracked up to be.”
And there it was: the plain, alarming truth. After just winning his third Super Bowl in his fifth year in professional football, probably the last thing anyone would expect Tom Brady—rich, famous, beautiful Tom Brady—to say, is: “God, it’s got to be more than this.” The admission wouldn’t have been so startling if it hadn’t come from a poster child for what life is supposed to be about. Money. Fame. Fortune. Success.
And yet, “It’s got to be more than this.”
Brady isn’t alone, of course. Truth be told, if we were to all be honest with ourselves, we might be brave enough to admit that many of the things we believed would bring us fulfillment actually left us feeling empty. We have found, over and over again, that the saying is startlingly true: all that glitters is not gold.
And, the thing is, it’s even the little stuff that we can get conned into thinking will really give us satisfaction. As the Christmas season starts in full force, my mind turns to when I was a boy and the anticipation that mounted as I longed for Christmas morning, when I would be able to open up all the presents I was sure I would be getting. I was hardly able to sleep a wink the night before. Visions of hockey skates, football jerseys, and walkie-talkies danced in my head. My life would be full of exuberance as I reveled in the joy of the gifts I would receive.
But inevitably, after the last present was opened and played with, my mind always turned to this simple yet poignant thought, “Now what?”
Of course, this is a very elementary anecdote, but I have found that this trend has been repeated time and again on a much grander scale in my life. After the toy has been procured, the book published, the congratulations received, there is always a feeling of emptiness that surely follows if I invest all my hopes in that which is temporary.
The observation I am sharing is nothing revolutionary. Most worldviews have picked up on the idea and capitalized on this search for meaning that is endemic to the human heart. Thus, C.S. Lewis, in his classic, Mere Christianity, shared this telling reflection: “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world” (Mere Christianity, pp. 136, 137).
Obviously, I write from a Christian perspective and, though I have admittedly never tried the other religions or philosophies of the world, I have found that the Bible offers a most satisfying explanation and solution to this longing for “another world” that resides in our hearts. One such explanation was presented by the God of Israel through the prophet Jeremiah. Writing to a people in exile, God boldly proclaimed, “For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land; I will build them, and not pull them down, and I will plant them, and not pluck them up. Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24:6, 7).
What catches my eye, in particular, is the promise from God that He would give His people a “heart to know” Him. This is because, in the original Hebrew of the passage, the whole passage is actually written in the past tense. Thus, a more literal translation would be God saying that He has already given His people a heart to know Him—which seems to be an accurate reflection of what we know to be true deep down within our hearts: we long to know the transcendent. We long to encounter deeper meaning that goes beyond the here-and-now.
But the word “know” gives us further insight. As anyone who has even an elementary understanding of Hebrew can attest to, the Hebrew word for “know” (yada) goes beyond a mere intellectual knowledge. It is a deeply intimate and personal knowledge where two people are heart-to-heart (see Genesis 4:1 as one example). And it is the type of knowledge that separates Christianity (and, obviously, Judaism) from other religions, where one’s interaction with his or her god or gods is always at arms-length and always in a master-servant dynamic. And such encounters, I would propose, are not enough to satisfy our longings.
The God of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible, fortunately, is not satisfied with this type of interaction. He wants full heart-to-heart relationship. And He has placed this same longing in our hearts as He continuously seeks to draw us to Himself (see Jeremiah 31:3).
I just wish Tom Brady could understand this!
To read more on this idea, as well as others related to it, check out my latest book Pursued by a Relentless God.