Oh, how fleeting our happiness can be! It seems as though lately I have been bombarded by the idea that nothing in this life can truly satisfy us. No person, job, condo, vacation, clothing item, accessory, toy, can ever cause us to be completely happy. For a little over a year I’ve been praying for a job and simultaneously living in a state of minor terror. When September rolled around and I wasn’t working, I was shocked and fearful. As the year went on, I went through varying degrees of fear but deep down I told myself that once I had landed a job– all of my problems would be solved. I believed that true happiness would be found in gainful employment.
And so, one day in early March, I received word that I had indeed gotten myself a job! I was ecstatic! I was thankful! I could see God working in the details that made this happen for me! I was finally able to sleep at night and wake up in the early morning hours without worrying myself into a dark hole.
BUT – that happiness rather quickly disappeared and my worry for a job was way-too-quickly replaced with my desire for a really great boyfriend. It had only been a couple of days! My employment dream had come true. The key to my supposed happiness had been given to me and I so quickly forgot. I figured I had at least a couple of weeks before I was yearning for something else to make me more satisfied but no.. we are strange creatures that way.
I know that should I ever meet a tall, bold.. wait that’s my coffee order.. but should I ever meet the right man, I will be happy but then inevitably I will be wanting for something else. We are never satisfied. I feel like such a brat but I also recognize that this is what C.S. Lewis was talking about.. this is the very “desire that nothing in this world can satisfy” and the indication that “we were made for another world“. Or as Paul David Tripp wrote in his book New Morning Mercies: “Of course you haven’t been fulfilled in this world. It’s a sign that you have been designed for a world to come.”
So I will continue to be thankful that God has blessed me with a job and when I feel that annoying longing for something new, I will tell myself that this is just a symptom of the human condition. Sure, those things may bring some happiness but they will not stop me from wanting more. Only God can satisfy our hearts and only He can bring us to a place where all of our yearnings and desires will be completely met.
Lately, I have become rather convicted about my time and how possessive I am of it. Part of this perhaps comes from being a single woman, living alone. (Don’t cry for me Argentina) Part of it comes from being in a ‘people’ job all day. Part of it comes from the ongoing battle between my inner introvert and extrovert. Part of it comes from being so darn tired all the time and lots of it comes from being selfish.
I love hanging out with friends but I also love the freedom of free time. I love when I realize that I can just go home in the evening and relax. I love the thought of a free Saturday. However, when something comes up and takes that free time away from me, I grow resentful.
I was reading in The Screwtape Letters about how one of the easiest ways for a Christian to become irritated is for him to believe that time belongs to him and therefore the world is operating on his clock. He therefore becomes angered by people stealing his time and frustrated when someone interrupts what he thought was going to be a quiet evening. That really struck home.
As with most convicting messages, I was reading a few other things this week that continued to expose this idea and show me that really… my time is not my own. I must not grow resentful of people who take it up or need it. I must look at each day as an opportunity to serve God and others. If I do have some free time, sure, enjoy the heck out of it, but if suddenly it seems that I am required to address something unexpected, then believe that God has this all worked out. The Author of Time, needs me to be flexible and I need to be openminded.
So yes, I still plan on enjoying my free time but I’m going to work on loosening the grip I have on it. I also need to work on paying close attention to my attitude when something “comes up” that changes my original plan. My time is not my own… even though sometimes I’d really like it to be!
This post was supposed to be a more trivial one about running and relaxing. Originally I was going to write about the time I spent at a cottage and how each morning I liked to “torture” myself a bit (a hilly run followed by a dip in the lake) all in the name of taking the rest of the day off in the most delightful guilt-free kinda way. You see, I’m very good at relaxing but we can talk about that another time. Anyway I was going to write about the idea of needing to experience the pain in order to enjoy the pleasure later and how great pleasure feels when you went through a bit of pain prior. I had drafted out something about the idea of putting yourself through something bad to enjoy something good. It was pretty decent actually but as time went on and I didn’t press the Publish button, I started to think a little differently.
You see, in a few days I will be heading back to Japan after 9+ weeks in Canada. It hasn’t been an easy summer but it has been so good to be home. In taking things one-day-at-a-time, I have learned so much about valuing moments and really living in them. I have learned that pain is temporary, tears come and go as does laughter. I have learned that through tears there is joy. I have become increasingly aware of the link and co-existence of joy and pain.
I have learned that to experience pain or hurt or sadness does not mean that I’m doing something wrong or being punished or missing a part of life, it means that I’m living. It means that I’m loving. It means that I’m able to be joyful and I’m able to be sad and so I am able to experience what it really means to be alive. It’s not always great but it’s life.
I read a lot of C.S. Lewis this summer and he so clearly understands the link between joy and pain and between bravery and fear and hope and despair and how all of these human emotions are coursing through our veins and making us alive. There is that great line from the film Shadowlands where, in discussing her upcoming death, Lewis’ wife says: “The pain then, is part of the happiness now. That’s the deal.” And not only was that a highly emotional cinematic moment but there is truth in seeing that pain and happiness and joy are so completely connected. We can be happy even when we know that sadness is coming. We can experience pain and yet search for joy and there always is some, even if it takes some searching to find it. That’s the deal.
Back in January I was reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts and copied this quote in my journal:
“Joy and pain, they are but two arteries of the one heart that pumps through all those who don’t numb themselves to really living.” She gets it. She knows the deal.
And so, as I think about a summer that was filled with laughter and tears, I think about the pain that most likely does lie ahead of us, I remember that it’s all part of being alive and living.
Sometimes I get so overwhelmed with life. It’s tiring and confusing and hard.
This morning as I was piling out of the train among what felt like thousands of Japanese people I thought to myself.. “I just have to get through it.” And no, that’s definitely not a life-sucks-throw-in-the-towel idea but rather an I’m-so-sick-of-all-this-being-in-the-world-stuff.. I’m so frustrated by my sin and stupidity. I’m frustrated with the evil I see in the world. I’m frustrated by the fact that I can be in a good place all morning and then some random thought flies into my brain and I’m back to zero.
Being human is hard.
Brooke Fraser sings that song based on a C.S.Lewis quote about how “I was made for another world…” It has been stuck in my head. We aren’t supposed to be at home here. I keep reading things about this idea: being made for eternity. It’s only recently that I’ve identified a longing in me that hasn’t been present before. A longing for a different place. A longing to relax in the eternal presence of God.
It’s only recently that I have started really wanting that. It’s only recently that my eyes have been opened to the idea that I don’t actually belong here. I was created for a different place. Nothing on this planet was meant to satisfy me.
But it’s a tricky balance right? I mean there is the whole, let’s make the most of this opportunity, we only have one life to live etc etc and we should live purposefully and wisely and enthusiastically and cheerfully, giving each day all we’ve got. But at the same time, we need to remember that this is all so very temporary.
And so we can think two ways about this. First of all, it doesn’t matter if all our earthly desires don’t come true. It doesn’t really matter where I live, who I live with, where I travel to. I remember moping about being single once and thinking, “so what, it’s another 50-60 years… it’s not a big deal” and in the light of eternity, it isn’t. Sure, I might get sad and lonely and frustrated but if I know that eternity with God is waiting for me, surely I can handle a few more Valentine’s Days alone. The fact is, whatever I want and desire on this earth, will not satisfy me completely. I am not to be satisfied until I am resting in the presence of God. So whether it’s a desire for a man or a macbook, it won’t necessarily provide any lasting happiness in itself. I don’t mean to be trite here and I in no means mean to say that I’m 100% happy to be single (I’m working on it but it’s a process) but what I’m trying to say is that surely we can endure what we’re called to endure on this temporary planet.
And not just endure but we should really be called into action and service and do all we can for God. I’m reading David Platt’s second book, yes, I fear I’ve become a bit of a groupie, which deals with how living for Christ, really does mean a dying to self, a willingness to forsake everything in our paths to follow Him. That’s a big thing.
And so I try to put this all together in my head.. the fact that I’m frustrated with life sometimes, that I can be easily disappointed, that I’m worried about the future.. and then I try to add onto it the idea that this life is temporary and at any moment I could end up leaving this earth and stand before God, I add onto that, the idea that everything I’m doing now counts. I try to remember that God has a plan and a purpose and so what if I’m not totally comfortable with the way things go.. I’m called to follow Him and obey Him and at the end, I get to be with Him forever. That’s pretty cool.
And so I take those moments of frustration and feeling unsettled and longing for eternity and I remind myself and comfort myself with the idea that I’m here now and only for a while and so I should do all I can with the time I’m given.
Something amazing awaits me and I can hold onto that hope while I get busy down here.
A former student of mine posted this quote on facebook the other day. It’s definitely worth thinking about. Pretty much everything C.S.Lewis ever wrote is worth musing over. “People get from books that idea that if you have married the right person you may expect to go on ‘being in love’ for ever. As a […]
I fell in love with the soundtrack to Les Miserables years and years ago. I think I was about 11 or 12 years old and would listen to it over and over and over again. I remember I used to clean my room to it. Yep, a general room cleaning took the entire musical.. I was a messy child. I remember going to see it for the first time when I was 14 and being completely blown away, tears streaming down my face and feeling so completely affected by the musical. Later, I saw it in the West End several times and continued to be shaken and impressed and affected each time I saw it. So of course when I heard that they were making a film version, I immediately declared that it would become my new favourite movie and counted down the days until I could see it in the cinema.
When I saw it for the first time, I wasn’t completely impressed but I think it just took me back a bit. I was impressed by how they filmed it and the whole thing in general, but growing up hearing Colm Wilkinson as Jean Valjean, it took a while to adjust to Hugh. And going from the stage to the screen has its own difficulties.. so for whatever reason I wasn’t totally gripped the first time BUT I went again this weekend with some friends who had not seen it and I fell in love with it again.
As I sat in my seat, feeling all those feelings well up inside me again I started to think about why it is so powerful! I know there has been a lot of talk about Les Mis and the story and the spiritual significance as of late. Yes, it’s a story of forgiveness. Yes, it speaks volumes about life and love and purpose. I think I was struck by the fact that it so clearly shows humanity. It shows our flaws and emphasizes the importance of living life well. I also think that it reiterates our desire to be part of something bigger. Our desire for revolution. Our desire for acceptance. Our desire to fight for what’s right.
But while it shows us such big things it also depicts the fact that life doesn’t always turn out the way we want it to. Poor Fantine is testament to that. Life doesn’t always work out the way we imagine… or dreamed.
I am always moved by the last scene as Jean Valjean sits at the end of his life, he has those who have gone on ahead singing him to heaven and we see that he is a man who loved and did what he could and really did live his life well. He can leave his pain and hurt and grief behind him and find ultimate freedom and eternal rest. He made it to the end and was told “well done”. Isn’t that the ultimate goal?
As CS Lewis writes “we read to know we are not alone”.. I believe that Les Miserables is the film version of that idea.. We watch it and we realize that when it comes to our human struggles, desire for love and forgiveness and need to belong to a bigger cause, we are definitely not alone.