A number of years ago now, a well-known movie portrayed a situation in which five children were selected to tour a candy factory. The movie was so popular and remained popular that it was remade after quite some time had passed. In both cases, the uniting mechanism was that five children were to be selected based on the possession of a “golden ticket” which was to be found in a candy bar that was available in most markets. The master of the candy factory promised that the five tickets were randomly placed in the candy bars and shipped to unknown locations thereafter. The children who purchased the candy bars containing the golden tickets were then invited to the spectacular candy factory on a certain date. Each child would select an adult chaperone to accompany them on the tour. The setup focused on the efforts and wishes of one particular lad from a poverty-stricken family. Of course the poor lad was fortunate enough to acquire one ticket by purchasing only one candy bar. He and his grandfather were then included in the tour.
A series of object lessons were then encountered which resulted in the surprise that one of the children would become an “heir” to the eccentric confectioner based on quality of character. We knew all through the story that the lad from the poor home was in some way superior to the other children, and we were happy when his character proved adequate to become the heir. In fact the other four children were eliminated, each in a manner that was related to a major character flaw.
In our cinematic presentation, the children were unknown in advance to the confectioner. They randomly selected themselves for inclusion based on the chance event of purchasing one of the five ticket-containing instances of the candy bar out of the millions sold in the relevant time frame. They did not know the confectioner, nor he them.
Most of us approach our Christian lives in the same way. We hope to have a golden ticket when the time comes to settle up. We act as though we believe we can acquire the golden ticket even if we are not sure how to do so. Our religious traditions seem to promote the idea of getting a golden ticket somehow. It is almost as if we believe there are a limited number of admissions (like the five in the movie). We become almost competitive in our quest to be sure we have a golden ticket in time for admission.
Actually though our story is a better one. Every one of us has an invitation. Our price of admission is the acceptance of the invitation. That invitation is molded into our souls when we begin to breathe. The invitation takes the form of an inborn emptiness that can only be filled in one way. Our Father creates each of us in such a way that we hunger for whatever can fill the Father-shaped void placed in us. Often we try to fill that place with something else, but it has only one valid mode of satisfaction. All other forms we find or create to fill the God-place in us can provide only partial success in meeting our need. Our Father will not force Himself on us, but He is the only thing that can fill that void.
He created us. He created me, and He created you. In each instance of that creation, He installed the Father-shaped void that only He can fill. How much more of an invitation do we need? He made us to need the only solution that is available. He did not, after that, start selling tickets to some limited number of “lucky” souls. We all have in equal measure the capacity to be a winner. In fact, there is nothing competitive about the selection. There are no winners; there are only recipients. We do not self-select through what we do and what we acquire. We don’t have to buy the right ticket. We just have to show up by accepting the invitation. There is no limit on the number of us who can “win.” Our Father set this up so that “whosoever believes” is thereby a recipient. Whosoever believes gets one of the unlimited number of golden tickets.
Unlike the cinematic exercise, there are no tricks or traps. All who accept their son-ship become heirs. Our efforts mean little. He already made the efforts that matter. It’s not a contest really – it’s an invitation. We don’t have to find a dollar or earn a dollar so that we can buy a candy bar and hope for the best. We just have to RSVP to the glorious invitation.
By the way, when He created you the invitation was installed in you. None of us were created without the Father-shaped void in us. There is nothing to earn. There is no “luck” involved. Contrary to the teachings of some, God does not deal in luck. He knows exactly what He is doing. There is only the decision to become a son of God. Sons of God have found/accepted that which fills the Father-shaped void. That’s all. For them, this life is not about getting a ticket – it is about loving a Father and learning to emulate Him. That is, after all, the highest human expression of love – to be like Him.