“Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK. You are OK.”
Don Draper has it all.
Wife, kids, job, house and a nice car. He works in advertising bringing people happiness in the shape of a product. He has a nice suit, slick hair and poetic words that drip from his tongue.
Everyone wants to be Don Draper.
But cracks begin to show. The layers begin to strip off and you start to see that this happiness is a shell. You find out quickly in the show Mad Men, that Don draper is extremely unhappy, living a lie on many levels and trying to sell people an empty happiness, a happiness that leaves you feeling cold.
But he does what we all do. He reflects our human propensity to hide. To cover up and plunge ourselves in a hole. To find fig leaves large enough to cover our shame and our longing.
We ache, sensing that there is something wrong and so we go on a rampage to fill the gap. We seek temporary happiness to gloss us over, sucking in the lies of the adverts that promise us that a certain product will make us feel better, make us feel complete and as Don says whatever it is to “scream with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK. You are OK.”
You are OK, right? Why then, is there always that sense of feeling vacant? After a shopping spree or a night drinking or going from one partner to another, there is a void that keeps tickling the edge of your conscience.
There must be more than this, right?
In John’s Gospel we meet a woman. She is collecting water in the middle of the day from a well where Jesus starts to talk to her and her story begins to unfold.
She was going from one man to another, not really finding happiness. Searching but not finding. Resulting in being an outcast, collecting water at the hottest part of the day and being alone.
Jesus knew the cycle she was in and offered her something better:
“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)
Jesus says he offers something better than what the world offers. The world offers empty promises, shells and shadows of truth.
Jesus offers the real thing and gives it freely. He gives himself freely and says that if you take this offer, you will never be thirsty again. He is the fountain in the wilderness.
Don Draper sells a lie and he knows it. He wraps himself in affairs and nice suits, but we see glimpses of a man who is deeply unhappy and unsatisfied. That is what the world can offer. Shells and suits. Flings and broken wells.
But Jesus offers life and belonging. Redemption and family. Hope and living water.
The woman at the well was seeking this and took it.
Don Draper desperately needs this but doesn’t take it.
But what about us? What will we do?