Our nation is on the brink of turning 240. While I don’t want to go into the state of our country or politics here, I believe each 4th of July is an important time to consider our country, while deeply flawed, it’s still the place that affords us so many freedoms and has so much to enjoy. It is a day of celebrating, a day of remembering, and a day of thanking God for the freedoms we do have here. On a personal level, the day before our collective celebration as a nation, marks exactly 6 months since my last Sunday as pastor of a local church. Having stepped into this time not knowing how long it would be or what would come next, 6 months in begs for some reflection. And perhaps the most significant thing that I’m learning during this time is, are you ready for it…to be happy.
Really, you say, that’s all you got? To be happy? Let me explain.
It may not sound super-spiritual, but I believe that through this process of having what I’d gone to school for and worked at for over 10 years stripped away, not having a house of our own, working a physically demanding job (construction and remodeling), having over 20 interviews that have yielded nothing definitive at this point, I’ve learned that my happiness and satisfaction and even mission in life does not come from others, it does not come from a title I have or don’t have, it comes from a mind and heart submitted to God and willing to do what He has put right in front of me.
I now understand that a good deal of the dissatisfaction in my life was from the fact that I wanted something different. I wanted my ministry to work better, I wanted my family to function better, I wanted to have more peace and vibrant relationships with others and with God. My reality did not meet my expectations, and to the level that I didn’t adjust or accept my reality, I was harboring resentment. I was looking down on the things and unfortunately even the people who where, in my (hard-headed) opinion, not meeting my expectations. Let me explain this a little more specifically.
I’ve lived most of my life trying to have those around me think well of me. I try to be a nice guy, do the right things, and by and large, it’s worked out for me. As a result it made me feel good, and valued, and yes, happy. But recently, that was not the case. Not only were there some around me who didn’t like me, but that who I was and what I did was not valued and was rejected by them, and I’ve got to tell you, it was not pleasant. I have never felt so low. And I didn’t realize how much of my value and self-worth was tied to the opinions of others. I didn’t think it was, but I painfully discovered the truth.
While there were hurtful things said about me, I’m learning (this lesson I seem to have a great struggle with) that my worth, value, purpose, and joy (happiness, satisfaction, fulfillment) in life is not contingent on others’ opinions of me. My happiness and contentment in life is seeing what God has put right in front of me, the immense blessings and gifts that He has given me, and accepting that, loving that, and loving well the journey that God has me on. I cannot seek after what is not for me, or wallow in regret of what could have or should have been, but to let go of the unmet expectations in myself and in others, to forgive, to accept forgiveness, to recognize the beauty in those around me, to know that I am secure in my Father’s love, and how dare I think that’s not enough.
My world is right in front of me, a beautiful, wise, and faithful wife, 4 precious gifts that God has graciously loaned to me to love and teach, and hopefully give a glimmer of the goodness and grace that pours out to them from their Heavenly Father, and beyond that the promise of His faithfulness and presence. As God continues to be patient with me, teaching, loving, molding, drawing me closer to Him, I do look forward to being able to serve Him and serve others in a ministry setting again in the future. And I can truly say, I am happy.