29
Aug
13

different kinds of happy

I believe there are different kinds of happy. The one I’ve known for most of my life is the kind that depends on circumstances going my way and on other people meeting my needs or seeing things my way. It’s the kind of happy that is fleeting, beyond my control, based on outside circumstances.  So how do we “keep” happy around in a more lasting, satisfying way?

We as people want to be happy; we want our kids to be happy and live happy, fulfilled lives. It’s even written in The Declaration of Independence  that we have “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” But many of the things that I myself have pursued have not brought any kind of lasting happiness. Maybe the word pursuit is what makes the word happy not really work. Because it seems that when I pursue it, it always seems to elude my grasp. And I know you can’t buy happy. So maybe happy isn’t something you pursue or something you buy but rather a state of being, something a person learns or even receives.

I looked up the word happy in the dictionary, and most of the definitions described happy as “something based on one’s circumstances or having good fortune,” but the one definition that stood out to me said “happy” formerly meant “blessed.” I have a hard time grasping the word blessed even though I’ve read it hundreds of times in the Bible. But there’s one Bible translation that translates the word blessed as happy. And that’s something I think I can begin to understand.

For me, I want to go deep into happy, the kind of happy that maybe could even be described as joy or peace within, the kind that doesn’t change even when the things or the people around me do. Deep contentment, not dependent on outside things to sustain or fulfill me.  Blessed.

So, God in His gracious kindness used one of my kids to show me a different kind of happy. Jesse, who is 17, went to camp for the first time at the beginning of the summer. I was so excited for him. Jeff and I both grew up going to camp, so I hoped that he would have the time of his life.  The camp where he went posts picture online daily, so parents are able to catch a glimpse of their kids enjoying camp life at its best.  I kept checking online, picturing in my head my son having such a great time. They posted cabin pictures online Tuesday night. All the campers in Jesse’s cabin had these big smiles on their faces; some made funny faces, but my son stood at the back behind everyone else with closed lips and a sad expression in his eyes. My heart dropped because all I wanted was for my kid to be happy.

I didn’t even tell Jeff about the picture. My heart hurt for Jesse. So I began praying for him like crazy. I prayed for him to have a good time, for him to find someone he connected with, for him to be happy. And then, in the middle of the night, God changed my prayers for Jesse. I began praying that he would find ways to serve others, to find those outsider kids who had no one else to talk to, and that he would love them instead of focusing on himself. I prayed that he would open himself up to what God had for him in this experience, that he would be happy, but that happy would look different from what I had formerly thought.

Jeff and I went to pick Jesse up from camp on that Friday, and he seemed settled and somehow more mature than the week before, happy even.  I told him about the picture I had seen online and about the two very different prayers I had prayed. And he told me stories of where he had listened and talked with some very lonely kids. Camp had not been what I had originally wanted for him, but God answered my prayers in the way that God wanted and knew that was best for Jesse.

As the summer went on, Jesse went back to work at the same camp as a junior cabin leader for twelve rambunctious 10-year-old boys. The first week he worked was a really hard week, but Jesse came home talking about what he had learned and how he would do it differently when he went back to camp to work later on in the summer. He seems to be learning happy, but not in the traditional sense of the word, where he pursues it or relies on other people or circumstances to make him happy. And as a mom, I’m content to know that God takes care of my kid and knows how to do so far better than I can even imagine.

A couple of months ago, I found the “happy” chapter in my Bible and shared it with almost everyone I talked with. Psalm 84 reveals the life-changing happy that circumstances and tragedies and fear and even other people cannot touch. It’s the kind of happy that sinks into your soul and allows you to breathe in and live all that God intended. It’s the abundant life that Jesus talked about in the New Testament. It’s the happy that tastes and sees that God is good. It’s what it means to be truly blessed.

How happy are those who reside in Your house, (Christ in me, Christ in you)
who praise You continually.

Happy are the people whose strength is in You,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

Happy is the person who trusts in You,
Lord of Hosts!

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