The Savior taught in Luke 12:15, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”
The film is about Jack Campbell, a hotshot executive in New York City who has something of a Dickensian experience during Christmas when he wakes up in bed with a wife—a former girlfriend he abandoned years ago in pursuit of success—and two children in suburbia. Throughout the movie, Jack, now working at a tire shop, is shown the life he gave up—the simple, happy, loving life—in order to achieve what he thought were his most important goals. The experience for Jack, in the end, is still a glimpse, not an actual change, and as he (spoiler alert after 17 years!) eventually wakes up alone again in his New York apartment, Jack vows to find his forgotten ex and change the life he does have, for his focus is no longer on the swanky goods, the fast car, and even faster women. It’s on those things which are long-lasting and matter most.
I first watched The Family Man when I was only a few years out of college, and I had taken a job as a consultant and was working long hours and even longer weeks, plowing through holidays, living out of a travel bag in some hotel, and regularly working out of a conference room in some downtown building. I remember distinctly the night I sat looking out a window around 1 am, alone and crunching a spreadsheet on my laptop. I realized this couldn’t be how I spent my life. I was making more money than I’d ever thought I was capable (I had modest aspirations leaving college), but I had a moment of clarity where I knew I wasn’t happy.
Like Jack, I got a bit of a glimpse, too. I quickly developed a sense of what I was becoming as a 26-year-old, and was shocked that the big things in my life—the audacious goals I was sacrificing everything else to achieve—were not only decreasing my happiness, but they were only kicking it further down the lane.
It took me a few years to figure out how to construct a life that focused on more eternal things. I still had room for goals fed by ambition and drive and desire and passion, but I stopped looking to them to fulfill me and bring me happiness, realizing that my relationships with family and God were the only things that would bring me true joy.
The Lord is funny that way – you almost don’t notice when He’s not there because so much other stuff is quick to fill your life and keep you busy. If you don’t get a glimpse of what you’re really trading everything for now and then, you might burn through an entire life before you realize you missed it.
This Christmas, I hope you pause to reflect, to look at your life—the one you’re living and the one you can be living—and I hope you choose the one that has space for a relationship with the Savior, with your family, with yourself, and you find that happiness that we all crave.