Posts tagged Happiness

Marriage Monday: People Are Like Grits

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HappinessMajority of the time, when a person is unhappy, it is often traceable to a difficulty within a relationship. Whether it is a marital conflict, trouble with the kids, or a rift in a friendship, our happiest and saddest moments in life revolve around our relationships.

I am reminded of a story that John Ortberg tells about having breakfast with a friend. His friend was from Michigan and not well acquainted with southern quinine. So as they sit together, his comrade notices grits on the menu. He then inquires of the waitress, “Ma’am, what’s a grit?” And the waitress replied, “Honey, they don’t come by themselves.”  It is the same with us. “We don’t come by ourselves.” We are people in the midst of community. But, at times, we forget how chiefly important the relational aspect of our lives is.

We will never be happier than our relationships. Life offers many other pleasures, but if our relationships are in a bad place, our lives are in a bad place. We may attain a wealth of material possessions or achieve our highest aspirations, but all that life offers ultimately rings hollow if done so in isolation.

All of this is intuitive. We know how important our relationships are, but so often our lives become disconnected from what our minds and hearts know to be true. We affirm the idea that our families and friends are the upmost priority, but we easily allow our relationships to become out of sort. We become good at serving our spouse, kids, family, and friends our sloppy leftovers of time.

Life is busy. Schedules get overbooked. There are millions of things that vie for our time and attention. I am increasingly learning, however, that life will supply me with plenty of things to fill any amount of empty time I have. So often, we assume that time we have with those we love most is expendable. We overbook and overfill our lives at the expense of the people we love most, and as a result our relationships start to slip.

No one ever gets engaged and then decides, “Well, let’s get married and then spend less and less time together.” “Let’s each pick up different hobbies, activities, and responsibilities, and just drift apart over the next twenty years.” No one signs themselves up for a decrease in marital intimacy and satisfaction. Yet, if we aren’t careful to guard our time and maintain our priorities, life will edge its way into our marriages and erode the intimacy and friendship that is there.

No one plans to have kids with the goal of being absent from their childhood, but there are plenty of things to distract us from spending time with our kids. No one begins friendships with the sole purpose of watching them fizzle out.  It is incredibly easy for so many things to get in the way.

Relationships are an investment of our time. Our time is limited. We cannot cram an extra minute to any of our days. If we don’t give enough of our time to invest in what we say is our priority, we can expect for there to be mounting damage done to our relationships. If we don’t allow ourselves the rest to invest emotionally in our relationships, we can expect distance in those relationships. If we allow other things, even good things, to take priority over the people we love, then there will ultimately be a high price to pay.

We will never be happier than our relationships. The question is, how much of our time, attention, and energy are we putting into those relationships?

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. –Matthew 6:21

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

The Problem of Pleasure

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One question that is often discussed has to do with God and human suffering. If God is good, then how do we understand His allowing pain? This question has been approached from many different angles and will continue to be debated. A question that one rarely hears raised relates to God and the human experience in relation to pleasure.

Who doesn’t love experiencing pleasure? Isn’t to be happy what everyone wants? Of course it is. Don’t pleasurable experiences lead to happiness? That would seem to make since, right?

We certainly live in a culture where one need not look too far to find activities or items that evoke a pleasurable response. As late rocker, Kurt Kobain growled, “Here we are now, entertain us.” We demand to be entertained. We crave pleasure.  Everybody wants their slice of the American dream and pursues anything that might bring pleasure, even with reckless abandon at times.

To state that there is a problem with pleasure would cause many to push back. Finding and experiencing pleasure is what life is about, many would say. So we find ourselves in an endless rat race to have more. It must be harder, better, faster, stronger! The empire of me must be expanded. We seek more power and greater prestige. Many seek to satisfy their lust with endless sexual encounters, all in the pursuit of pleasure. We look to enjoyable experience after enjoyable experience to bring us happiness.

Yet, in the midst of a culture where entertainment is big business, sex is a commodity, and one can find enjoyable activities readily available in many different venues, we find so often that happiness eludes us. Yes, pleasure has its own share of problems.

King Solomon, a man whose life knew no bounds. He had everything one can think of, and perhaps some of what one might not think of. There was no experience left untried, no desire left untasted, and no conquest left undominated. Yet, in the midst of his wealth, power, and experienced life, he uttered the words, “Everything is meaningless…completely meaningless…I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.”

As G.K. Chesterton once so pointedly remarked, “Meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain, meaninglessness comes from weary of pleasure.” Such great focus is placed on pain as that which ruins lives, but it is pleasure that is far more capable of dealing a death blow. When we attain our greatest pursuit expecting to find happiness and are met with disappointment, we are left with nowhere else to go.

There is nothing wrong with being happy and seeking pleasure. The difficulty comes when one seeks to find something of value apart from God. Pleasure alone will never satisfy our thirsty souls. Our hearts are like broken cisterns that can never be filled by pleasure alone. It is all just smoke and mirrors, a chasing of the wind, apart from the eternal, transcendent, all loving Creator.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

A String of Moments

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Earlier I had to make a late night run into the office to take care of a few things. As I drove, a Jon Foreman song came on that made my thoughts turn to my wife. Out of nowhere I start crying. Why? I wasn’t really sure. It wasn’t sadness. I have no major difficulties going on in my life right now. I am not feeling any anxiety in the moment. But there I was, underneath a black sky, driving down a dimly lit road, weeping.

At the risk of sounding overly sentimental, I realized it was joy. So here I am now, unpacking the reason for this sudden burst of emotion from the safety and comfort of my bedroom against the backdrop of a humming box fan, my wife breathing, and the familiar rumble of a train as it crawls past my house.

As I drove tonight all it took was that one song to tip the first domino and bring to mind the blessings in my life. In about 24 hours, I turn 30 years old. Three decades. They have gone by in a blink. Sometimes I wish I could slow things down, just let certain snippets of time linger. Life consists of all of your moments lined up in a row, but I am all too often tempted to forget about the moments and press for the future. It is the moments that become lodged in our memory as we reflect back later. So many good moments in the last 30 years have flooded my mind tonight. So many recollections to be thankful for.

I remember my wife on our wedding day. The look in her eye that communicated she never wanted to be with anyone else. I remember the first Island sunset we watched together, the day after we married, as it dipped below the horizon. Coming home together for the first time. Walking across the stage together to receive our Master’s degree. Driving to Dallas to get our dog. The time it snowed in December in Southeast Texas. I remember the first time I saw my son and feeling love and pride well up inside that I could not previously have understood. All the little quirky things he does that remind me of myself. I have hundreds of memories from growing up in my parents home. Late night talks with my mom. Early morning fishing trips with my dad. Movies we watched. Games we played. Sayings we had. Things we laughed at. Vacations that we went on. My dad’s enthusiasm when he saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time and us both spitting off of the top of the Empire State Building. I remember the time a Blackhawk helicopter landed in our yard. I remember naive conversations with friends. Music that we liked to listen to. Studying for certain tests in college. Planning what life would be like. I remember all of the antics my roommates and I had. The time we ran a truck over a Christmas tree in the middle of the parking lot just because we had nothing better to do or pouring washing detergent in the school fountain. I remember Christmas plays that our church had. Specific sermons that impacted me in a significant way. Kind words spoken by others. I remember certain times were God convicted me to change and other times were He nudged me in a certain direction. I remember the first time I spoke in front of a congregation. If space and time would permit, I could fill volumes about all of my memories. All of the moments that have composed my life.

It’s almost been 30 years. I have gotten to love so many people. I have been loved more than seems possible. I have been blessed more than I deserve. I know where I will be when this body wears out. It has been a joy. There have been highs and lows, but the string of moments that have comprised my life have been wonderful. If 30 years is all I get, I can honestly say it has blown any expectations I had. I look forward to whatever the future holds and wonder how it could be any better.

I am thankful that tonight was about remembering, for the flood of unexpected emotion and surprising joy, and for 30 years of life that have gone by too quickly.

“Over and over I hear the same refrain
It’s the rhythm of my heart
And my sleepy girl’s breathing
It’s the rhythm of my Southbound Train”
-Jon Foreman

Walk Good. Live Wise. Be Blessed.
Josh

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