Boomer satisfaction

“Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen reminds us that professional success and personal happiness are two very different things,” says the author. Photo: Kalim
“Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen reminds us that professional success and personal happiness are two very different things,” says the author. Photo: Kalim
Published August 15, 2012

Who was George Reeves? Do you know? Let me give you some hints. When I was a boy growing up in the 1950s, George Reeves was one of my heroes. He was a minor actor who catapulted to fame as a star in one of the most popular programs on television. The opening of each show went like this: Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s Superman!

I loved The Adventures of Superman. Maybe you did, too. I would have gladly traded places with George Reeves. Oh, I knew he was an actor. I knew it was all make-believe. But George Reeves was Superman! He had it all: fame, fortune, and people seeking his autograph. What more could anyone want?

Imagine then, how shocked I was to wake up on a June morning in 1959 and see the newspaper headline: “Superman Kills Himself.” George Reeves had put a bullet to the head. At the time of the shooting, his blood alcohol was 27, well beyond the point of intoxication. In addition, Reeves was taking painkillers for injuries he had sustained in a recent car accident.

If you saw the movie Hollywoodland, you may know there is speculation whether Reeves killed himself or was killed by someone else. Whatever the case, his life was not a happy one.

Let me ask you a question. Are you satisfied with your life? Many people are not. There are married people who aren’t satisfied with being married. There are single people who aren’t satisfied with being single. There are people who are not satisfied with their jobs or income or health or physical appearance. Even billionaires don’t seem very satisfied these days. A number of them have so much security to guard against kidnapping or attack that they become prisoners in their own homes, always afraid, always fearful of some disaster striking them. (1) What an awful way to live!

Professor Clayton Christensen is a Harvard Business School professor who delivered a powerful address to the graduating class in 2010. He developed that address into a book titled, How Will You Measure Your Life? Professor Christensen says that many of his fellow Harvard Business School graduates are wonderfully successful professionally but deeply unhappy personally. At class reunions they admit not enjoying what they are doing for a living. There are numerous divorces and unhappy marriages. One classmate admitted he hadn’t talked to his children in years. Another was on her third marriage. Oddly enough, their personal relationships began to deteriorate as their professional prospects blossomed. (2)

You don’t have to attend the Harvard Business School to sense the truth in what Professor Christensen has observed. Increasingly, many of my own generation, the Baby Boomers, are feeling a deep unease with their lives as they approach retirement. Staid, stable and secure is how many envisioned retirement, but the future for them appears nothing like that. I can list at least seven crises that Boomers are beginning to confront.

There is the crisis of purpose…Physical breakdowns, loss of parents, the surrender of youthful dreams and forced retirements are making Boomers ask, “What else is there?”

There is the crisis of disillusionment…The ideals of the 1960s seem to be unrealized as the world goes from crisis to crisis. Boomers are asking, “Is changing the world even possible or has cynicism won the day?”

There is the crisis of priorities…Consumer culture claims you can have it all, but there are too many choices, too much debt and too little time. “Can anyone really have it all?”

There is the crisis of relationships…”Should anyone say forever?” For Boomers and their children, the answer seems to be no.

There is the crisis of loneliness…Boomers value their freedom and autonomy, but they still seek connection, conversation and community. “Where do you find meaningful relationships in a superficial world?”

There is the crisis of security…Economic uncertainty has led to spiritual anxiety. The goal of a comfortable retirement is becoming more elusive. “What price happiness?”

There is the crisis of spirituality…Organized religion has given way to a nebulous spirituality. Where do you find something rock solid for your life in a world that is falling apart?”

With all these crises coming their way, no wonder Boomers still resonate with that 1960’s song by the Rolling Stones: “I can’t get no satisfaction!”

The good news is that we can get satisfaction. The gospel shows us the way. A large crowd of people had followed Jesus into the wilderness where he proceeded to teach them about the kingdom of God. Time seemed to stand still when these folks were in the presence of Jesus…so that all of a sudden it was late afternoon, every person in the crowd was hungry and the nearest restaurant was miles away.

Feeding the crowd presented a problem. Thanks to the generosity of a boy, the disciples were able to come up with five barley loaves and two fish, by no means enough to satisfy the hunger of such a large crowd. Jesus took the little they gave him, blessed it with his presence, ordered it distributed to the crowd. The bible says that the people “ate as much as they wanted” and “were satisfied.”

This miracle is not about Jesus becoming a bread king, as John’s Gospel makes clear. For soon after the miracle, the people approach Jesus and say, “Sir, give us this bread always.” And Jesus, knowing full well they had gotten the meaning of the miracle all wrong, says to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Jesus is here saying that he wants to satisfy our deepest need-satisfy us in a way that nothing else in the world can do.

One of the most insightful journalists of the 20th century was Malcolm Muggeridge. He was a man who sampled almost everything, a spiritual epicurean desperately trying to find fulfillment in life. But nothing satisfied. Nothing. Nothing, that is, until in his faltering years he at last decided that Jesus alone could meet his deepest need-not intellectual pursuits or world travel or status or riches or literary prizes.

All that led to the title of his autobiography: Chronicles of Wasted Time. His life only took on real joy and meaning when he accepted Jesus into his life. In his book, he writes: “Human beings are peculiar in that they avidly pursue ends they know will bring them no satisfaction; gorge themselves with food which cannot nourish and with pleasures which cannot please. I am a prize example.”

How sad that countless people grope desperately for satisfaction in every place but the right place. Oprah Winfrey once remarked, “God did not create me to own a couple of BMW’s and a television studio! You come to the planet for a spiritual meaning, not for the things we are told we have come for.”

Yes, Oprah, you’ve got it! And that spiritual meaning is found in Jesus.

One of the most exciting football games last year was between the Denver Broncos and the New York Jets. The Jets were leading for the first three quarters, but in the last quarter something sparked in quarterback Tim Tebow that led him to throw one completed pass after another, leading his team to an almost miraculous victory. The crowd was ecstatic. A sportscaster said to Tebow, “Tim, this has to be the greatest moment of your life.” Without hesitation, a smiling Tebow replied, “Actually not. That was the moment I asked Jesus Christ into my life.”

Tim Tebow got it right. At some point in his career, the crowds are going to stop cheering, the football victories are going to stop happening and the celebrations will cease. It’s amazing how fast “superstars” become “has-beens” in our culture. Stop performing and the crowds stop cheering. Soon enough the crowds move on to the next superstar and you’re history. It takes a wise person to know that no one stays a superstar forever. But it takes an even wiser person to know that in Jesus our life is always meaningful, purposeful and significant.

Let me tell you about a woman who thought of herself as a real loser. Married at 14, mother of a child at 15, deserted by her husband at 16, and divorced at 17. She suffered a breakdown at 22, was married again at 24 and divorced again at 33 . Her second child was severely retarded and died two years later. She and her third husband adopted three children. Two of them died within the next 10 years: one in a bus crash; and the other in a tragic mishap in Germany. Yet this woman began to write books and inspire millions with her courage, faith and perseverance. Her writing reflected an amazing toughness of spirit, a strong trust in God and a deep love for Jesus. In spite of all the ups and downs in her life, Dale Evans Rogers never tired of saying, “God is always good!”

How did this loser turn her life around and become a winner? Listen as she sums it up: “He [Jesus] brought me safely through, to the resurrection of a new life, filled with love, service, hope, and Christian peace, the peace that passes all understanding.” (3)

The life and death of George Reeves says that fame and fortune don’t ultimately satisfy. Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen reminds us that professional success and personal happiness are two very different things. The wit and wisdom of Malcolm Muggeridge says that you can’t rationalize your way out of meaninglessness. Oprah Winfrey says that “things” don’t ultimately satisfy. Tim Tebow says that you can’t rely on sports victories to bring you contentment. As Dale Evans Rogers discovered, there is only one person who can satisfy the deepest desires of your heart and that is Jesus. Whatever the hunger in your heart, Jesus is your ultimate source of satisfaction.

Today, as you approach the communion rail to receive the bread and wine of Christ’s body and blood, why not reach out to Jesus, invite him into your life, and let him satisfy the deepest desires of your heart.

Accept no substitutes. Jesus is the only way to a life worth living.


The Rev. Dr. Gary Nicolosi is the rector of Saint James Westminster Anglican Church in London, Ont.

Text – John 6:1-21


1. “Billionaire Battle Plans” in Forbes, November 21, 2011, 24

2. Clayton M. Christensen, How Will You Measure Your Life? (Harper Collins, 2012) 2

3. Dale Evans Rogers, Angel Unaware: A Touching Story of Love and Loss (Kindle Edition, 2004)




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