Sunday, January 18, 2015

Reflections On A Happy Life

This is one of the happiest times of my entire life. I can't imagine that life gets much better than it does for me right now. It is just all so wonderful. There are so many good people in my life, and I get the chance to be close to so many of them. I know that what makes me happy will not necessarily make others happy, but it seems worth it to share what is working for me. Surely, there is something of wisdom in my happiness, some wisdom to be learned and to be shared.

Here are some collected thoughts on why I'm so happy right now:

God & Jesus Christ
My relationship with God is good right now. It is not always good, it is not always happy or easy, but it is all those things right now. Jesus is the center of my life, and that helps me make sense of my world, navigate it effectively and feel like what I do matters. My prayers are plentiful and full of feeling and deep experience, I'm meditating to great effect, and I am learning more about scripture and its importance for human life. I experience God everywhere I look, and that makes life all the sweeter. I know that without God, my happiness would not be possible.

My Marriage
Things are good in my marriage right now. My wife and I have our ups and downs, but overall it is good. I can be a very, very hard person to live with, and yet somehow she is able to put up with my garbage. She's an amazing woman and I'm so happy she's the central part of my life, after God. I seem to do her some good, too. I just lover her so much.

Dancing has helped us maintain a dynamic relationship (see my section on "Dancing" below), and our focus on God as the center of our life together has helped us maintain commitment and find meaning even in the mundane. We have a good balance of new and old, of repetition and exploration, and our division of labor is working well. It is so wonderful to have this constant companion on the journey of life.

My Family
My relationship with my father is good right now, and I'm getting to see my mother regularly. I am getting to spend a little more time visiting with my sister, who remains my closest friend outside my wife. I am looking forward to returning to more time with my niece and I am just in a good place with all of my family, save my brother who remains distant from me, sadly.

An Ode To My Friends
Perhaps the biggest part of my high level of contentment is the increased time I have with my friends. I have this large but very tight core community of friends, mostly drawn from my church community. I have this one woman I meet with weekly who has been almost family to me for a long time, and we get to really dig into each other's lives. There are two women who are like my right hand in my ministry, and both are like sisters to me. One helps drive me to my best in my youth ministry, and the other may be the most restful person I know. I have great co-workers, including the best boss I've ever had. One of my co-workers has become a confidant and very important friend, we do a lot for each other and it raises my spirits to be able to work with her. I have another male adult volunteer whose relationship with my youth is vital to my success at my job (see below). And then there are the young adults. This is a group of former youth who now are a part of the young adult group I lead, and they also have become very important people to me personally.

Each of them has grown so much as a person and I get to see a little of my own work in that. I judge the meaningfulness of my actions by their effects on God, not history, but having an effect in this world is like a sacrament to me, it is a visible sign of invisible grace. I get to help these people and that means a lot to me. It is a wonderful opportunity to be involved in the lives of people who actually take advice and grow as people. I have one guy who is almost like an intern for me, and who helps me in the daily activities of my job, when he is down. He's brilliant and we have great conversations that really build me up. I have my godson who might as well be a blood relation. We tell each other almost everything and there is a lot of accountability between us. The same is true of the young lady who was literally the first youth I've ever taught. I rely on her a lot when I need advice on how to help people who are suffering emotional turmoil. There is a young lady who is constantly working on growing ethically and spiritually and who inspires me with her commitment. And there is another young lady who is related to one of the women I mentioned as my 'right hands', she is just joy in a bottle. And then there are two young men who always keep me laughing and who define for me what it means to be a man by their constant pursuit of integrity and character. 

There are more I could not even begin to name. I have friends from the old philosophy group I used to post on that constantly instruct and inspire me. I have my old mentor, the most important and best friend I ever had after God. We still stay in touch and he still teaches me so much, and on and on. Even my pets, my animal friends, are a constant joy in my life.  That I get to be in constant relationship with these people is more than I could possibly imagine. And they help elevate me to heights of fullness of spirit. They are to God's Word what air is to the human voice. God speaks to me through them all and I love them all for it.

My Job
There have been some difficulties in my job over the last year, and that does bring some emotional pain, but even that pain shows that what I do really matters to me. And in the end, these are minor blips in what is overall a rewarding, wonderful, amazing experience. I love every aspect of my job, from working with children to working with teens to working with adults. I get to do what I love, get paid for my passion. The groups are growing and the Bible studies are so satisfying right now. Our conversations are active and lively, and everyone just seems so interested. God is moving through my ministries and people are getting something out of what we are doing. 

I am so glad I discovered dancing, and my wife and I do more and more of it. We've found so many places to dance that we get to spend many hours a week doing it. And we have a wonderful dance instructor. I liked dancing before I met her, but she made me love it. We learn so much from her and she's such a joy and blessings. Having a connection to her, as a friend and teacher means a lot to both of us. Dancing is art. I've never gotten to make art, and I love making art. It is not great art, because I'm not great at it, but it is good art and I love making it. Creativity seems vital to the happiness I am knowing now, both at my job (writing) and dancing. I've never loved physical activity but I love this physical activity and dancing has a powerful effect on my bod and through that my soul.

The Penumbra of Sadness
There is always a shade of sadness to all great happiness. I know it will always be this way. My life may be good and maybe in some crazy way could be better, though I do not see how. But it will change. This moment will not last forever, and to try only leads to sin. It will not always be this easy with God. It has not been in the past, and difficulty on the journey is vital to its fullness. My wife and I will have hard times as all couples do, and even this most constant source of joy will end, someday, sadly. My job may not always be so relational and so I may not have the opportunities to work on these concrete relationships that hold within them such...power. My dance instructor will, I'm sure, some day move on to bigger and better things and we may not always have the financial ability to undertake this wonderful artistic physical activity at the level we do now, though I hope to dance in some capacity for the rest of my life. It remains true that 'everything in this world is on its way to Somewhere Else...everything'. And these wonders each call me, invite me to hold onto them as if they will last forever. Each lunch with one of these wonderful people, each dance with my wife and lesson with my instructor, each prayer and each moment of amazing beauty calls me to eternity and meaning, and fades into another moment, just as good yet also a reminder that each moment of wonder in this world fades into a background of time. Even as new moments are made way for, I know that the passing is just an intimation of that ultimate passing into... for me wonderful mystery, but mystery just the same. And so it must all come back to that first and most important relationship. For only God can vouchsafe that all these happiness and wonder is a genuine invitation and not just a lie to ignore the coming darkness. Life remains "so sad, and so beautiful, and so hard to let go of in the end" (Harvey Pekar). There is a sadness even in great happiness. But faith is the conviction that the happiness and not the sadness gets the final word. 

Some Conclusions
So it all becomes pretty simple... Faith in God, just believing that God is there and God is love.... A life shared in commitment and romantic love.... Being comfortable with vulnerability and so being able to love a great many people, no matter how much it may cost or hurt... Being lucky enough to have the opportunity to live that way at work and at home (time and chance, people, are a big part of this)...Good friends...Learning new things, art and creativity and physical activity....Being thankful for what you do have, and not sweating the small stuff, realizing that you don't need to make a fortune to have the resources you need or even want...Facing life for what it is but having grounds for hope....these are what I have found happiness to be all about. No grand secret, just a little faith, a lot of love, and a little luck. 

I am reminded of the Book of Ecclesiastes. By itself it gives no real grounds for happiness, but seen in the Shadow of the Cross and the Light of the Resurrection, it is the roadmap to fulfilment in this world: 

Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 
Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. 

No comments:

Post a Comment