I once enjoyed a hike in the vast Arabian Desert. I had never seen so much sand. Everywhere I looked there was sand, punctuated here and there by a wisp of vegetation or a passing camel or two. I watched a caravan of jeeps, and for some time they appeared to be maneuvering on the sand as surely as one might drive on a concrete highway. But then one of the jeeps suddenly began to sink in the sand, and within a few feet it was buried well past its axles and partway up the doors. Although it had a powerful engine, the wheels could only spin, leaving the jeep quite immobilized.
On many occasions I have observed people behave much as the jeeps I observed. In the absence of Real Love, the only happiness we know is what we can obtain from our sources of Imitation Love, and if we can manage to earn enough acceptance, praise, power, sex, and so on, we can actually achieve some measure of satisfaction. In those moments, everything seems to go quite well, as with the initial progress of the jeeps on the sand.
But Imitation Love is undependable. Its effects wear off. The trading of it inevitably becomes unfair. And then the road on which we are traveling, the road we thought was firm and reliable, crumbles beneath our feet, and we are hopelessly mired, spinning our tires in the sand.
The greatest danger of Imitation Love may be that from time to time it actually does appear to work. It does provide moments of brief satisfaction, and if we don’t know any better, we believe that in those moments we have found “happiness.” But it never lasts, and when Imitation Love fails us, the disappointment is enormous.
What’s the solution? What can we do to create a dependable road from the sand? Nothing. We can’t dependably drive on sand, nor can we build houses on a foundation of it. Similarly, we can’t depend on Imitation Love for the happiness in our lives. We have to get off the sand entirely and find the Real Love that must form the foundation of any lasting joy.