John Clark is an author and speechwriter. His first book Who’s Got You? reached #1 in the Amazon Kindle “Fatherhood” category and his new book How to Be a Superman Dad in a Kryptonite World, Even When You Can’t Afford A Decent Cape was just released by Guiding Light Books. He has written hundreds of articles and blogs about Catholic family life and apologetics in such places as Seton Magazine, Catholic Digest, and Homiletic and Pastoral Review. A graduate of Christendom College, John and his wife Lisa have nine children and live in Virginia.
The first-century biographer, Plutarch, relates the following story about how a very young Alexander the Great was introduced to his horse, Bucephalus.
One day, a man presented for sale a magnificent black stallion to Alexander’s father, King Philip II of Macedon, and Philip instructed his men to take the stallion into the field to see if he could be tamed. As Alexander watched the men haplessly struggle to break the beast, he exclaimed: “What an excellent horse do they lose, for want of address and boldness to manage him!” Hearing this, Philip asked his young son if he thought he could do a better job. Not wanting for confidence, Alexander replied, “I could manage this horse better than the others do!” leading all within earshot to laugh uproariously.
They didn’t laugh for long. Alexander’s confidence was based on an insight: He had observed that the stallion was afraid of his own shadow. So Alexander turned the horse toward the sun where the he could not see the movement of his shadow. No longer feeling fear and perhaps sensing that he had finally found a rider who cared for him and understood him, the stallion allowed Alexander to ride him at full gallop. Alexander returned to the stunned men, who promptly broke out in applause for the young boy. Philip’s eyes welled with tears of joy as he recognized greatness in his son at so early an age. Philip told Alexander: "O my son, look thee out a kingdom equal to and worthy of thyself, for Macedonia is too little for thee."
This is a story of a boy and his horse, courage, and perseverance; from a paternal perspective, however, this is a story of a father’s great belief and love for his son. Philip dreams of great lands and kingdoms for his child; even more than that, he deems his son worthy of these great kingdoms. In the end, Macedonia is not enough.
Philip was assuring Alexander that he was worthy of something more; he was also counseling Alexander not to settle for a lesser kingdom. Philip was telling his son that his destiny was to experience those faraway places and lands that his ears and eyes had never imagined.
How wonderful it would be to have a king for a father, who desires a destiny for his children that reaches far beyond the confines and limitations of their little world! Of course, we do have a father like that, but ours is infinitely better. That father is God. To be sure, Philip’s aspirations for his son were materialistic and unvirtuous, and many of Alexander’s greatest victories on the battlefields bore the conceit of viciousness. God, however, desires our true good not only for this world, but desires our fixed gaze on the next. God cautions us not to settle merely for the goods of the material world, but instead to pursue Heavenly glory: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” God wants more for us than the whole world. God loves us so much that He has prepared a great kingdom for us, promising: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”
It is a sad fact of modern man that he often wants to settle for something quite inferior to the Kingdom and all the treasures God wishes to share with him. As C. S. Lewis put it:
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
God wants us to want more. As Lewis explains, God wants us to experience “infinite joy.”
It is said that at the end of his quests and conquests, Alexander the Great sat and sobbed, for he had no more worlds to conquer. Perhaps Alexander sensed that only God could truly fill him. Perhaps he somehow realized that the things of this world—even all the things of this world—are less than God desires for each one of us. God created a wonderful world for all of us, but Our Heavenly Father has told us, in the end, the whole world is not enough.