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What’s your definition of being happy?

Everyone wants to be happy, but a lot of us don’t know what our definition of happy is, so we settle. Okay relationships, okay jobs, okay health, and o – kay everything. Don’t mess with what is working, even though it could be a whole LOT better.

My definition of being happy is not a textbook, but nothing about me or you is strictly a textbook, and so I suggest that you don’t settle for less. Part of our definition, and I say a collective ‘our’ because most if not all people equate to having ‘stuff’ to being happy. Somehow if by appearances we can show the world what we have and hide what we don’t have then were successful. But what are we really being successful about?

How Much Stuff Do You Have?

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine treated me (an early birthday gift) to a show called, The Minimalist. It’s comprised of Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus who both grew up in Dayton, Ohio and who have also been friends since childhood. I won’t go into their stories which you can read on their website, and what led them to live a minimalist lifestyle and their definition of it.

I have one problem with living as a minimalist. It’s living without knowing God. Maybe you know what I am getting to but it’s the whole idea that less is more, but it’s a bonus, and I think it’s easier if you have God as your foundation. You see I know I don’t need all those supposed extras because I know stuff won’t fill me like God can and will. I know not everyone lives this kind of life with God, and maybe they’re great without Him, but could I suggest that it is easier? Before I got to know God better, I would buy tons of stuff that I thought would somehow make me a better person. We’re big on appearances but exteriors do lie

What I am trying to get at, is that most things that we do is to find a purpose, it’s just a fancy way of humans looking for God. We are looking for the truth because well, we were made to want the truth. It’s like looking for those earrings in the couch. You will keep pulling apart the cushion until you find it. Why? You know it’s there. This is where you want to insert value and meaning into what is called your life.

We Are Being Pulled In So Many Ways

We’re told to stock up, to buy in bulk, and were bombarded with sales flyers in between the doors. It’s easy to order online with the promise of free shipping and handling and arriving at our doorstep in two business days. Don’t use cash when you can whip out your credit or debit card.  By doing without, I have learned that stuff is not what I am looking to fill myself with. I think a lot of it has to do with how messed up a world we live in. It’s hard to pass by our faults, our sinful self that lurks in so much of who we are. By living with less we have the opportunity to experience more of His goodness. Somewhere in all the cobwebs, we discover a world that most don’t see or even want to. It is a life that may seem empty to some but is fuller than the kind of life you only think belongs in dreams.

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Get Me Out of Here

When things got so overwhelming for me in junior high during the time I was being bullied, I would grab the washroom key and leave the classroom. Most of the time, I just would choose a stall and inhale the quiet, and read the messages that were scribbled on the cubicle walls. I would describe it as a time of desperation. Just being able to get out of the four walls of the classroom was freedom in a world that constantly had me on guard. I just wanted it to stop, the constant picking on, the constant ribbing, the constant negative voices that had taken residence in my head.

A few weeks ago, there was a parish mission, and the retreat speaker spoke of a quote that Henry David Thoreau so eloquently expressed during his time spent on Walden Pond:

‘The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation’

The retreat leader likens it to the kind of world that we live in now. There was this awareness inside of me when I heard him speak about quiet desperation. I identified with the word, desperation to describe a time of my life when it seemed out of control. It feels like you literally holding onto this rope that you are convinced is the only way to keep going. A quick sand way of living. I believed that there was nothing I could do, but as time continues to show me that I was wrong in my assessment. I did have a choice, but I wasn’t aware of my choice at the time. And the Lord has shown me that I wasn’t alone as I had initially believed.

I had never heard this quote until last week, and it was really impressed upon me of and how hidden this quiet desperation is among us because no one talks about it. No one talks about loneliness, shame, fear or anger because these are the emotions that lead us to live lives of quiet desperation.  We are desperate to get things in order in our lives. We want to be what others expect of us so there is no peace in our hearts, but instead, it is filled with deadlines from work, relationship woes and dreams put on hold.

What Can Be Done?

Yes, there are tons of quotes that encourage you to follow your dreams. Have courage, be brave and walk a path that no else has. All very noble things. But life keeps disturbing your plan. Obligations like family, work, friends, and of course procrastination. Anxiety creeps into all of these situations. I could tell you that things will get better, but desperation comes from a deep-seated fear that nothing will change. The good news is that change is always happening. Desperation largely comes from our belief systems and the world around us, which also dictates our beliefs systems.  But there are also things which we have no control over, systems which enslave people despite what they believe in, and some of these very beliefs are what causes others to rage against them.

I don’t know when I stopped living in desperation and when I stopped holding on for dear life, leaving marks on people who weren’t supposed to be my life preservers. The more I went to Jesus, the more he just came in and started putting things right. It’s a blur but a big part of it was prayer and trying to live as I desired to be in Him. I allowed for the change that I needed in order to be filled with His spirit. Our culture demands more of us every day, week, month and year. It’s exhausting and part of what kills our spirit, but the more I learned what the Lord expected of me, the more my desire became to not follow the lies of desperation.