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Happiness is…by Gayle Haagensen
As I looked in the mirror this morning, I saw my mother. I have become her in so many ways. Undeniably, most of us do. Not only do I look like her, I think like her in many areas. I got up early, headed for the microwave, made my coffee, grabbed a nutritional bar and proceeded to begin my morning time with the Lord. How often did I see my mother do the same, minus the nutritional bar?
One of the things she did so often after I was grown was send me articles or tell me to watch a program to benefit me in some way. Most of the time I was too busy, too self-absorbed or thought she was obsessed with trying to tell me what to do. Now that I am in her shoes, things look completely different. Once you are a mother, you are always a mother.
I used to think about how glad I would be when my children were raised, so that I wouldn’t have to worry so much about them. This is definitely an LOL (laugh out loud) moment and anyone who has raised children gets it.
Now, I don’t want to depress any of you in the throes of child rearing, but the cold hard facts are…you will never stop wanting the best for your children. Note, I did not say “worry’ because worry is futile and does no one any good. But, as most I wanted them to “be happy”.
How many times have you asked your child, “Did you have fun?” upon his or her returning from an activity? We all want our children’s experiences to be “happy” and in our culture “happiness” is the optimal goal. Sadly, most people miss true happiness. It is seemingly an unattainable state for so many.
Although I had been preaching “be happy” to my children and their families, it wasn’t until I lost some things I held dear to me that I discovered true happiness. I also realized that I had not done enough to help them understand it. Now before you think I am beating myself up over my failures and theirs, let me assure you, I am not. I’ve already dealt with that, and have come to an understanding that we do the best we can as parents based upon our culture, knowledge, and how we were parented. And, the old adage “experience is the best teacher” is true for all of us. Until you feel the pain…there is no gain!
This morning as I sat in my comfortable chair with mixed thoughts of God’s goodness and leaving tomorrow for a 7-day vacation with 9 of my family members (and all that might entail), I saw two scriptures that blasted me right between the eyes on “happiness”.
One was on the front of my journal, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 (NIV) I thought about my desires. What are they? Safety, good health and sweet dispositions for the next week was one and reconciliation for family members was another, but then I wrote this in my journal: “The more I study, the more I want to know you Lord, and that becomes the desire of my heart.”
A few minutes later I got up to give attention to something else in another room. I saw a Bible lying on the counter. I opened it, and read this: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” Matthew 14:24-2 (NIV) I never did like that one much because of the words, “must deny himself”. I’m good at “denial” but not “denying” if you get my drift.
Then, I read the following commentary on these verses by Catherine Marshall:
“I believe the secret of happiness lies imbedded in those words, painful though they appear to be. How else to explain radiant people like the young man who sat in our living room and described how his six-year old boy had died in his arms from leukemia. Today this man finds fulfillment in giving himself totally to helping college students. Or the woman I visited recently whose husband had turned out to be a homosexual and demanded a divorce. Some years later, this woman also lost her eyesight. Yet she is a cheerful, loving person, fully self-supporting.
You might say that such people almost have a right to be unhappy. That they are not lies in the way they spend themselves for others.
I have observed that when any of us embarks on the pursuit of happiness for ourselves, it eludes us. Often I’ve asked myself why. It must be because happiness comes to us only as a dividend. When we become absorbed in something demanding and worthwhile above and beyond ourselves, happiness seems to be there as a by-product of the self-giving.”
Back to the first scripture: Happiness comes from giving of oneself…first wholly to God and then to others, which takes denying oneself (the second scripture). Imagine that, both scriptures lead to the greatest command… “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:26-28 (NIV)
Therein lies true happiness.
And, yes, I will probably send this article to my children to hopefully impart some of my aged wisdom. Maybe it will save them some pain…then again, probably not.
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