In the children’s story, Goldilocks enters the home of Papa, Mama, and Baby Bear uninvited. The Bear family are not at home, and this little girl takes the golden opportunity to make her life as comfortable as possible in their absence. She tries their porridge, their chairs, and even their beds. The porridge was either too hot, too cold, or “just right.” The chairs were either too big, too small, or “just right” (although that one breaks when Goldilocks sits in it). The beds were either too hard, too soft, or “just right.” Upon finding the “just right” bed, Goldilocks falls asleep, comfortable and, apparently, unconcerned. At the end of the story, the Bears return to find their personal space invaded and occupied still. The girl awakens and simply runs for her life; the Bears are left to deal with the aftermath of her search for comfortable.
I am too much like Goldilocks.
Several days a week I try for the perfect shower at my health club. In fact, in part because I want that perfect shower, I shorten my workout by about five minutes to increase the chance that I will land one. You see, fewer than half of the showers in the women’s locker room are Goldilocks worthy. In some stalls, the shower spray is the equivalent of a pressure washer. (One woman told me it had removed her scabs; another said it ripped her skin. I consider it painful.) In contrast, another few are so weak I refer to them as the “eternal” showers, because it take an eternity to get wet, get lathered, and get rinsed.
But a couple are just right. I’ve taken to calling those few showers the “Goldilocks showers.” For a space of less than 10 minutes—after a hard workout and before a hard day of work—I enjoy my creature comforts. I like things being “just right.” This isn’t necessarily wrong, but just like Goldilocks, I can get too comfortable and unconcerned—or I might get too concerned with being comfortable.
When I was a teenager, I attended an evening event with my youth group in the woods behind the church. After a weenie roast and a rousing game of Capture the Flag, we gathered around the campfire for some praise and worship and the youth pastor’s message. He began by challenging us to distance ourselves from the fire in a measure equivalent to our walk with God.
“Are you cold toward the Lord?” he asked. “Then get far enough away from the fire that you don’t feel its heat. Completely on fire for God? Then get as close as you can stand to the fire. Just warm toward Him? Then position yourself to where you feel the warmth of the fire but aren’t hot.”
Perhaps I had heard the Johnny Cash “No Earthly Good” song, because the lyrics “You’re so heavenly minded, you’re no earthly good” came to mind, and I knew I didn’t want that to be that girl. Confidently, I chose to stand where I was simply warm, where the warmth of the campfire was “just right” (and just like me).
Then my youth pastor read aloud the words from Revelation 3:15-16:
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
It was the first time I had heard those verses, and I was horrified to think that God might consider my “just right,” lukewarm self worth spitting out of His mouth. I repented then and there, determined that I would live forevermore on fire for the Lord. Yet, time and time again, I find myself easing away from the heat and becoming spit-worthy.
This morning in church, as my pastor spoke, he shared a video about Pastor Saeed, who is being held captive in an Iranian prison just because he is a man of faith on fire for the Lord. The video features the letter Saeed wrote in February to his wife, after a year in prison. In the letter, the pastor describes his suffering but consistently shares his desire to use every opportunity to be a witness for the love of Christ. In fact, twice in the letter, Saeed refers to his difficulties as “golden opportunities” to either serve others or “to shine the light of Christ in this dark world and to let God use me.”
His “golden opportunities” are no Goldilocks’ experiences. Like Job, Saeed has seen God amid his sufferings and praises Him still. Contrary to the Johnny Cash song, Pastor Saeed demonstrates that being heavenly minded allows him to be “earthly good”—even in the middle of intense suffering.
As Saeed focuses on God’s glory, he is strengthened and made able to withstand the horrors of his situation and, what’s more, turn them into “golden opportunities” to reach others for Christ by his example, his joy, and his love.
Too often, in true Goldilocks fashion, I look at the trials that seem too hot, the tasks that are too big, and the roles that appear too hard, and I look for a source of comfort or a way out. Instead of focusing on God and trusting He can bring me through, I look at those trials, those tasks, those roles—and I long for those “just right” moments of comfort. Yet, I know that those discomforts—those episodes in life that I can’t handle on my own—drive me to focus on God in a way that those Goldilocks moments don’t. And, as the Apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:10:
That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
When I am uncomfortable, I get it right by focusing on my true comforter, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Goldilocks got it “just wrong.”