False Happiness

What then can God do in our interests but make our own life less agreeable to us and take away the plausible source of false happiness?

–C.S. Lewis

Read it a couple times and think about it before you continue.

What else can He do to draw us closer to him?

I’ll be honest, I don’t really like the way this convicts me. I don’t really want to have my sources of “happiness” and “comfort” and “relief” taken from me for my own good. That just seems downright silly.

But the more I sit and consider it, the more I see that this is the light at the end of my tunnel, not whatever I’m using at the moment to distract/comfort myself.

Things That Provide False Happiness:

-Relationships that are driven by lust, not love
-“Love” that is without commitment or trust
-Comparing one’s self to others in order to feel superior / Gossip
-Retail Therapy (so guilty here)
-Conforming to society’s standards (ie. Keeping up with the Joneses syndrome)
-Food / Drugs / Alcohol
-Escapism
The list goes on…

It’s so easy to take advantage of these avenues to “happiness.” and in the moment, they work really well. Sex feels good. Wearing new clothes feels like a self-esteem booster. Getting shiny, new, brag-worthy things is exciting. Being drunk is fun.

Those feelings don’t last. They each have their own particular brand of hangover that leaves you going back for more to make reality go away again.

Doesn’t it make sense for God to take those opportunities away from us when we can’t stop ourselves? Don’t I hide the scissors from Eva when she cuts her finger even though she loves shredding paper?

Eva had a fever yesterday and I had to miss going out with friends for dinner. Things have been rocky all around for me (job, relationships, parenting, emotions) this week and I was so looking forward to the chance to unwind and socialize. I “needed” it. And even this afternoon, I’m still a little resentful I couldn’t go.

Is it really that a big a deal to never go out on the weekends anymore? No. Would I rather be out than at home being a responsible mother? Heck no. But basically since I wrote the “When No Means Yes” post, I have been scraping the bottom of my hope barrel. And I’ve spent more time today getting cranky at God about it than I have all week.

He took away my stress relief so I took my stress to Him.

Yeah… Shoulda seen that coming, right?

This is by far the hardest thing about following Christ for me. I really like God and I really like Jesus…but I also really like being in control. I try to operate under a “let’s see what I can handle and then you can help me with the rest” approach. Yeah, that sounds more like a group project strategy than how I want God working in my life.

I know I am being challenged to hand over that control, to take a bigger leap of faith than I ever have before. I hear it in my heart; I feel it in my gut. Even becoming a mother, there was so much I could do to prepare: read books, save money, stock up on diapers, plan… I don’t know what I am preparing for right now. That makes me nervous, people! I don’t like not knowing! (You can visualize me stomping my foot on the ground here. Yes, Eva does get her sassiness honestly.)

When it’s all said and done, no matter what God asks of me, whatever sacrifices are required, however painful it is to get past all my willfulness (and it will be painful), the result will inevitably be joy.

Look what he gave me in Eva. Look how wonderful my friends are. Look at the great church we just found. Look back on all those times of provision and blessing. And look at the burden I still make Jesus carry for me.

That’s my real happines; God loves me anyway. Most days, I forget or muddle through passably. Too many days, I do everything my way. Some days, I even blatantly rebel. But that happiness is available every moment of every day.

What does it take to choose it every day?

Not faith, something much more difficult (and scary):

Discipline.

But I didn’t get enough sleep to deal with that too, so I’ll stop here. We’ll save that for a sunny day…

Thanks for walking with me today.

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J.O.Y.

Eva’s father sent me a text message yesterday (which I will paraphrase to spare you from his spelling and texting abbreviations) that said, “I know you are mad at me, but I’ve been having a lot of personal issues lately. If I’m not loving myself, I can’t love or help anyone else.”

(Lately meaning “since the 90’s.”)

To which I replied, “That’s interesting because I make sure Eva is taken care of BEFORE I do anything for myself. Glad I’m the one providing for her.”

As much as I know being angry is unproductive and destructive, he makes my blood burn like fire (NOT in the good way!)

In what world do parents take care of themselves first? Seriously? Pretty sure the premise of having children is taking care of them as if they are your own flesh and blood…

Right?

Parents, would you ever eat if your child had none? Would you ever worry about having new clothes if theirs didn’t fit? Would you ever buy yourself something that would prevent you from providing for them?

No. No. No.

Unfortunately, our society actually encourages us to believe that we are worthless to others unless we feel happy and fulfilled. Get all those THINGS and do EVERYTHING you want so you feel better; only happy people contribute! Guess what? THAT’S BACKWARDS. Any good mother will tell you that there are nights she does not want to make/drive through and pick up dinner–but she does it. There are mornings she does not want to get out of bed–but she does it. At one point, we all thought that we weren’t going to make it through the first year alive and/or sane. (I’m still not sure my sanity is what it once was. Sleep deprivation is a killer.) Even for people without children, do you believe that you can’t make a difference if you’re having a bad day?

Eva is my reason. I power through the bad days because even when she is making me crazy (which is way more frequentlysince she turned 4) I love her more than free time, more than disposable income, more than going out with the girls, and more than doing what I want.

I’m not saying all parents should be martyrs to their children, we’re still individuals with needs too, I’m saying that the idea you can’t contribute if life gets hard is just wrong.

The past couple weeks have been really hard for me. As I mentioned in my last post, we are entering a season of change. I don’t know where exactly we’re going but it’s somewhere new. The not knowing stresses me out. My job stresses me out. My personal life stresses me out. And when Eva has a bad day or a temper tantrum, I feel like a bad mother. Which stresses me out. It’s not easy putting a stubborn, willful, cantankerous little girl first. The thanks we receive as parents are hugs, kisses, and the occasional unexpected sweetness. I’m still holding on to Eva telling me I am the best mommy ever from MONTHS AGO to get me through this phase with her. But I would rather die than know I was constantly shorting her to make myself feel better.

At the end of the day, we all need to remember that we can find joy in sacrifices. Maybe not immediately, and certainly not if it is a sacrifice made in resentment, but eventually the reward of joy will come back to find you.

A kitschy song from bible camp is playing in my head now about putting others first.

J is for Jesus / O is for others / Y is for you and you and you.

That is our hierarchy of priorities right there. And during this Easter weekend, when many of us are reflecting on a world-altering sacrifice, I hope I can set my stresses aside, lift up my daughter, my family and my friends and be thankful I have the opportunity to sacrifice for the ones I love. Where would I be if He hadn’t sacrificed for me?

Hope your day is filled with joy.