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Lara Patangan contemplates the human tendency to seek to fill our hopes with the material rather than the eternal.

I’ve always liked to shop. The artfully arranged displays, colors folded into precise geometric shapes, and assortment of curated merchandise make me feel hopeful. Hope that I could be more attractive. Hope that I would be enough. Hope that having something was the same as having it all together. Unlike the price tag, the promise of such things wasn’t explicit. It was in the garments hung in rainbow-colored order, the soft lighting, scent of a lit candle, and melodic music that lulled me into thinking I wasn’t just purchasing a shirt but an assurance of a better life.

It’s as if my potential couldn’t be fulfilled until I owned the right things. Shopping was like being sent to wardrobe for a starring role in life—exciting, full of promise, and redemptive. It was an escape from whoever I was for a chance to discover who I could be. And, clearly, who I could be was better.

Intellectually, I know this falls somewhere between silly and sad. We come into the world with nakedness and nothing. Yet, still, our inherent value compels someone to pick us up and hold us close. As babies, we don’t care how we look or what we wear. We don’t question our worth. We know we matter.

I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. (Psalm 139:14)


We have this instinct that tells us we deserve nourishment, warmth, and love. We demand these things with cries, cooing smiles, and outstretched arms. For most of us, our needs were met. We were loved and we were enough.


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All of the assurance we ever need comes from the Cross. #catholicmom

I don’t know how we are born with such a knowing only for it to get all twisty and tangled. I just know for most of us, it gets twisty and tangled. What was once smooth becomes matted into muddled thinking of what constitutes value. The prettiest clothes, the right weight, the tidy house, the well-behaved children, the doting spouse, the big paycheck, the esteemed title, all become measures offering the same distorted reflection of value as a fun-house mirror.


smiling woman in sunglasses holding shopping bags


If we aren’t careful, we confuse who we are with our intellect, possessions, or worldly recognition. We consider our constructs more than the constancy of our soul’s predetermined and unalterable value. I suppose in life’s messiness, in all that remains unmet, we seek out instead of seeking Him. As challenging as it may be sometimes to find the perfect pair of jeans, that can still seem less ambitious than finding this elusive God of ours. Yet, happiness has never been in the having; knowing has never been in the intellect; God will never be in the material and love will never be owned.

All of the assurance we ever need comes from the Cross. Unlike the best outfits, it’s been there all along. All we have to do is put it on.

Copyright 2022 Lara Patangan
Image: Canva Pro