I continue to muse about “happiness” this morning as I sit here like many across the Eastern seaboard, somewhat anxious for hurricane Irene to pass. My inner dialogue is being fed by a book (thus the title of this entry) recently released by Michael Thompson. Michael and his wife Robin are the founders and directors of Zoweh Ministries in the Chapel Hill/Durham area of North Carolina.
Chapter four of his book seems the real launching place of his message, with a lead quote by C.S. Lewis, taken from The Problem of Pain: “The place for which He (the Creator) designs them (us the created) in His scheme of things is the place they are made for. When they reach it…their nature is fulfilled and their happiness attained: a broken bone in the universe has been set, the anguish is over. When we want to be something other than the thing God wants us to be, we must be wanting what in fact, will not make us happy.”
I am quite certain, given the vast writings of C.S Lewis, and his creative ability to communicate the realities of another world, happiness to him, may have been somewhat different than defined by the average American.
Reading Thompson’s book so parallels with where I am in my own edits of Judah: The Journey to Delight. Just what is happy? Is it what we sometimes equate with good food, family, friends or even abundance? The pursuit of happiness is recorded as one of our unalienable Rights in the Preamble of our Declaration of Independence, a document signed by not all Christians; one more sign that all men and women long for an “other world” than their average day; a world and a life for which we were all designed.
The divisions of my recent manuscript attempt to describe my own journey; often wanting, if not warring while waiting for that place of entry to “alive.” There has forever been a longing in my heart; one I find present also in the lives of most “prisoners of hope”; a longing that seems to consume our lives in search of its remedy. The Bible affirms that all creation longs; even groans according to Romans 8:22, “waiting for the adoption…the redemption of our body.” We know we were created for greatness, yet all seem somewhat lost in the journey.
Thompson, references what we too often equate with a life lost, “he stopped breathing.”
“The loss I’m discussing here is worse. This is the loss of Life that leaves us lost in life. Oh, we’re still breathing. We may even have a healthy heart rate, low cholesterol, clear lungs, perfect vision and an acute sense of hearing. But we are not alive….There is a huge difference between surviving and being fully alive.”1
Many people will tell you they are happy, but few lives demonstrate a command of their space or a life impact that parallels the One sent to model fully alive. Jesus Christ literally transformed the world around him as a young man of only 33 years. Until late, even calendars revolved around His life! Yet, Jesus Christ spoke little of happiness.
Okay, here we go…many of my readers have grown accustomed (maybe groan would be an appropriate use of language) to the hard edge of my writing and anticipated this transition. Just stay with me.
My writing stems from a personal bent toward processing out loud. Of course when I write, the reader is not with me, and may not sense the joy I receive as I anticipate the “other world-ness” for which I am made; and nearing the age of 63, am aging toward. As well, the more my heart grasps the reality of that world, my spirit realizes that it is not a far off place, but a parallel world that intersects this present; perhaps a far bigger place, which I will one day step fully into. Maybe it’s not a place, as we have assigned to the language of “heaven” but a space; a presence; a “real”, more tangible than Earth’s matter?
This writer is no longer in search of “happiness” within this world alone; but instead, my joy comes in my pursuit of another world as well. Possibly even as Thompson’s book explains, “the life and love that is looking for you.” In fact, the agony of my present time is that no one explained to me earlier that these two worlds could intersect; that Jesus came to bring life and open a door to the Kingdom now; though a day will come, when both worlds will become one.
Jesus was no sage when He shared His “Holy words, long preserved for our walk in this world” (penned by Lynn DeShazo in Ancient Words and sung by Michael W. Smith); these ancient words from this young man, Jesus (I am fascinated of late by His youth) were later scribed by the men and women whose hearts He had captured through His being fully alive. At a mere 30 years old, His wisdom stunned even the priests and lawyers of that day, some shared before He reached His early teens. If I can be light, He was less than a party animal, as He entered the threshold of His early ministry; though He was able to intercede, when a wedding party ran low on wine! Was His message “Don’t worry, be happy?” I think not, but rather, “I have meat (wine) that you know not of.”
This son of Mary, grasped the realities of life well before the average young man; and soon became consumed by a passion to share His God-news with others. Yes, a message for certain of “don’t worry”, but seldom “be happy.” Rather, wake up and become fully alive; not feasting on bread and wine alone, but “by every word that proceeds from the Father.” “Listen, as the Father speaks life to you”, may be a good paraphrase.
This young man seemed to know so much for His age, commanded so much authority; men would later give their lives just to be in His presence. “Didn’t our hearts burn within in us?” spoke the men on the road to Emmaus. Yes, at 63 years of age, my heart still burns in the presence of this young man, who now has lived beyond 2000 years. My body groans not for happiness, for my years have assured me, that at best, that pursuit is fleeting; happiness is the full awareness of the Kingdom among us; dreams of a day when I will be like Him…absent from the body but fully alive.
For now, it seems I must settle for fully engaged; though often sensing the sheer joy of serving others, as Christ indeed has done. It is in these now less than rare God moments of selfless service, often far above my own skill set and personal experience, that I sense His divine empowerment; the presence of the spirit of this 33 year old God-man.
Not only is my hope revived for the generations that follow me, but I become more deeply aware that this world, even on a good day, is not all there is!
1 Michael Thompson, Search and Rescue, “The Life and Love That Is Looking For You”. Heart and Life Publishers, 2011, p.84.