I know this is so VERY hard to believe, so please, do try to stretch your imagination to envision it, but once upon a time, I didn’t have my life very figured out at all.
I’ll give you a moment. I know what a huge shock this must be.
Okay. Still with me?
I remember, very vividly, the struggle I had as the demands of motherhood began to mount. Especially going from two children to three– that was the real kicker for me. I fought almost daily, trying to figure out how to hold on to my identity. Trying to figure out even what it was anymore. I didn’t realize that I had been living with a completely false idea of what would make me happy. I thought, if I had more time to myself, more opportunity to be creative, more moments to “define” myself outside of my roles as wife and mother, then I’d be a self-actualized, self-fulfilled person. Not that I didn’t want to be a mom and wife. But I thought if I didn’t struggle hard enough to define myself outside of those things, then I’d just be… well, nothing. Empty. I’d be like a robot, just idling until the next thing was required of me. I felt like the more God asked of me, the less there was left.
So I fought really hard.
I was all over the place. That is a really nice way to put some ugly, selfish moments in my life.
And I still wasn’t happy. Really, all it did was breed resentment, discontent. It warped the joys of motherhood into obstacles to My Own True Self. Ugh.
That’s not easy to say. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea… I have loved my children from the instant they formed within me. But, I have warred against my carnal nature, warred against loving myself since the day I became a Christian, and motherhood became another battleground for it.
Brutal truth, there were times I felt shortchanged. Like if I had only known how much I would have to give up, then I would have enjoyed it more when I had it. Free time. Liberty to come and go as I pleased. Peace and quiet. I felt like I should have taken more time for ME before it all went to someone else.
I believed lie, after lie, after lie about what makes us happy in this world.
I am writing this now, in case you are in that miserable place I was. I learned some hard truths about what it means to fight God’s design. I’m sure lots of people learned it the easy way. But me, I had to go the long way around, through the briars and jagged rocks to get it. Here are three really huge truths I have learned.
1. We are not made to fulfill our own desires, so we are not capable of it. We were designed for something else. So, when we try to manufacture what we think will make us happy, we malfunction. We rattle and bump around, and finally produce lumps of unusable material. It is a sad waste. The truth is, we were made to serve OTHERS. All of us, not just women- as Christ commanded us in the Bible. If we only seek our own ends, those pleasurable goals (most of which are not even inherently sinful ambitions), then we will be unsuccessful. We will not make ourselves happy, it is spiritually impossible. We can, however, be instruments in making OTHERS happy. How easy is it to make your child happy? Or your husband? Oh my gosh, it’s the easiest thing in the world! You know it is. You know that you set the tone in your home. If God made it so easy for us to make others happy, and so difficult for us to make our own selves happy, it’s pretty obvious what we’re supposed to be doing.
2. If you are not surrendered to a life of giving, then you are committed to a life of taking. You will be selfish. You may hide it, but you will know it by those internal complaints. By the sighs you suppress, the frustration you feel when someone trespasses into those quiet moments reserved just for you, by the irritation you don’t always quite keep out of your voice when somebody NEEDS you. You feel entitled to “me time”. And the more “me time” you get, the more you want it, and the more you feel entitled to it. It just goes on and on and on. You can never fill that up. You can never give enough self to selfishness– it just keeps wanting more. The discontent feeds more discontent, and you will be even more unhappy as time goes by. It grows exponentially, tragically, and it will corrupt and infect everybody around you. It doesn’t stay isolated within you, it bleeds out over everybody else, too. It takes not only YOUR happiness, it will steal away theirs as well.
But wait, where there is despair, there is always hope. The third truth is the best one.
3. Giving over to God’s call for servanthood and selflessness, is WHAT WILL MAKE YOU HAPPY. It’s crazy. The very thing you think stands in the way, all those moments of intrusion and the neediness of others– all those things that demand your free time, your “me time”– it’s those things that are the mechanisms to your contentment. God delights in irony, doesn’t He? The very thing we resist, is the very thing we must embrace. When you surrender, obey, with a cheerful heart, that ever elusive contentment sneaks in. You think it’s an extra hour a day to read that will do it. Well, you were wrong. You think it is a night out with the girls, or money for that early morning yoga class… wrong. It is obedience. Submitting, giving over in the little moments, it is in those small sacrifices, that God grows joy in you. Joy, purpose, satisfaction– identity, specialness, uniqueness. All those things you crave, acknowledgment, approval, appreciation— whatever that empty space inside you is called, He fills it. He is the only one that can do it, and He doesn’t do it until we are willing vessels. True happiness comes at His hand, through your faithfulness and obedience. I mean it. I promise.
You can still have “me time”. You can have yoga class. You can have an hour to read. There’s nothing wrong with those things, and God will bless you with them. But those are just… moments. They don’t generate happiness. They happen, or they don’t. They don’t signify a self-fulfilled life, or a well-balanced person. That is one of the greatest misconceptions facing today’s Christian, this fantastic lie that the Deceiver has cooked up, that you’ve got to find the perfect formula for a happy life. That your whole existence is about discovering the perfect balance of mom, wife, daughter, sister, woman, whatever!! Well, you don’t. You’re not smart enough for that, I’m sorry to say. No offense. It’s futile to use a worldly calculation, when what is needed is a supernatural function.
The Creator Himself has given us the perfect equation. You don’t need anything but Christ. And all He wants is obedience. He does the rest.
Obedience = Happiness.
It really is just that simple. You don’t have to add anything else, divide it or carry any ones or anything. It’s lovely, isn’t it, in it’s genius?
I’ll close out with the fourth truth, one I’m still learning. That first truth? Well, it never really goes away. We will always fight that desire to make our own selves happy. It’s our nature. Until we have new bodies, in heaven, and this old sinful self is put to death, we will instinctively lean towards our own devices. We have to fight it, and continually renew our choice of obedience. It’s not a one day deal. A day of obedience doesn’t produce a lifetime of happiness. Equal parts yield equal parts. A lifetime of obedience yields a lifetime of happiness.
But God, who is so good and merciful, never stops revealing the Truth. No matter how many times we must learn the same one, over and over again.
Good thing for that, I say.
If you’re unhappy, and you know it (don’t clap your hands)– but look at your life. Take a spotlight to it, and look for the places that you have not yielded to him. Find places that you could be more obedient to Him, and then, just do it. Just trust Him. Trust that His way is better than yours, that He knows what He’s talking about. ‘Cause no kind of happiness you can fabricate could even begin to compare to what He’s got in store for you.
Fulfill your end of the equation… and let Him fulfill His.