A Song Searching for Happiness ~ BitterSweetLife

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A Song Searching for Happiness

Happiness is elusive, until Christ appears

I was thinking the other night that the sincerity of the success story's song is exceeded only by its rarity. The person who has, against all odds, pursued her dream and dragged it, kicking and screaming, into the studio, is completely justified in her enthusiasm: Keep your hopes alive, she says. Don't give up, she preaches. Have a dream, and make it a big one! she yells, pumping her fist. And the rationale for this argument, from her position, can't be faulted.


But what about the majority of the people in history who lived as they had to? What about (if I may) the rest of us, who lack the rare talent or opportunity, but entertain dreams just as bright and unrelenting? How long will it be until we taste the champagne of desire fulfilled: write the book, get the part, make the team, win the girl--and sing that victory song?

I think, in various forms, this is a question that has haunted most of the world for most of its history. When will I sing that song?--the one that soars, the one that winners sing? Or will I ever? For the time being, we hum a different tune, and the chorus runs, How long, how long, how long?

Will I ever author a book, and earn the leisure to write chilling and imaginative things? When will I have enough money not to worry? Will I ever travel to the Alps? When will I get my share of beauty? When will my own, particular, ridiculously-nuanced dream be realized?

Questions like this hold an element of drama--an adventure that just might turn out right--but the spice of suspense dries up as years accrue. Something else happens as well, something unexpected. Occasionally, dreams materialize (but this is not the unexpected thing): Authorship, or travel, or wealth does arrive. But the original question does not go away. We are still singing, How long? even though 'good times' have come. We look at the trappings of happiness and realize we did not really understand this melody at all.

This is when Christ steps in.

Other gods give their own answers re: the Victory Song, but the Christian God says, "It doesn't matter if you sing it now or later--I give no special preference to this life. In fact, those who have their dreams denied down here may be better off in the end. They won't mistake their amenities for real happiness. And at last, the ones who love me will be singing out: affirming the beauty of hope and faith against all odds; and some who think they have it now will find themselves sadly lacking."

"About that victory song," God says, "you may begin to hum it now. And if you do, I hope you understand the melody. But in the end, all my children will sing out. And that old chorus line that you hum now, that 'How long?' It will no longer have a meaning."




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13 comments:

Oneway said...

Isn't it true that hope and faith and patience will burn up when the new heaven and new earth appear? There will be no chance for these things to exist, because Our Master, Jesus, will see us face-to-face, to our ecstasy.

Andrew Simone said...

That reminds me of Psalm 84, specifically verse 2, "My soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the Lord..."

Will Robison said...

I don't think it a coicidence that as I am about to live out my dream, that I am about to finish my first novel, I am also embracing a deeper understanding and love of Jesus Christ. Its not been the other way around. I know people like to make fun of athletes that thank God for their touchdowns, but I think I'm starting to understand them. I'm not sure there is a dream that can be fulfilled without God's blessing, and if it ever were, I'm not sure it'd be the sort of dream you'd want fulfilled. As I get closer to the final day and the reality of my dream, I realize that I never could have come this far and that I will never make the last few steps without God by my side. After that, it might be hard to be humble at times (yes, I really am that good) until I remember all the struggles I endured and all the times that I looked at something I wrote and said, "How the heck did I do that?"

Alexys Fairfield said...

Does this have a tinge of doubt about your own desires and perhaps unfulfilled feelings? Your profundity is indeed enlightening. Sometimes when we think too deeply, we overlook the point of being alive. (I'm not saying that you have.) We are so enthralled in lofty thoughts and the thought process that we forget to let our minds be silent and let God speak. When Michelangelo was painting the Sistine, he was hounded daily by Pope Julius shouting, "How much longer?" I disagree that Christ waits to step in. I think Christ is always here, watching, waiting, being thoroughly entertained at our folly, yet always giving divine love. We are slaves of lust; dreams of passion, works in progress. We want the best car, mate, house, job, experience, etc. It's a mental trap. Joy like water seeks its own level. We are all impatient to hurry up and get there. Like a child in the back of his parents car chanting, "Are we there yet?" God has a plan for each of us. Not thy will. Thy will be done. When our soul is ready, we will get to where we are going --- all in God's time. So sing that song. Write that novel. Make that three pointer from the free throw line in the last seconds of the game. Give yourself glory, don't wait for others to give it to you. God is watching, as he cradles us in his arms. In the end Michelangelo finished that ceiling; all in God's time. Sing boy sing!

SinisterBaby said...

Love+ self-actualization= happiness for moi.

( And Jesus the Jewish mystic and 75mg of slow release efexor for my social anxiety)

Rob ;-)

SinisterBaby said...

When I grew up in the 60s and early 70s, my parents generation had no outlet for "self-actualization."

They were miserable drudges who hated each other and wanted to divorce each other. Divorce was difficult in that era and held a terrible social tabbo, escpecially for the woman who was seen as "fallen".

My generation's sexual revolution stepped in and saved the -fallen- women, and when the laws were liberalized half the country was "fallen".

Rob

SinisterBaby said...

On divorce (which no one likes):

Jesus announced his divinity to-

A woman

A Samaritan

A woman who had had 5 husbands (One does not know whether she or they divorced, but this is more than likely)
--
Jesus appeared to tighten the Law by transcending it. (His use of the Sabbath)

some thoughts

Rob

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Andrew Simone said...

"I think Christ is always here, watching, waiting, being thoroughly entertained at our folly, yet always giving divine love. We are slaves of lust; dreams of passion, works in progress." -Alexys Fairfield

There is much merit to that statement, and by merit I mean truth. However, I still think there is merit to A.J.'s statement if taken existentially. This is to say, that while Christ is always there we often feel like he is not; there is a tension. This tension is the reality of sin and the Goodness of God's grace through Christ. This is why the Psalmist can write about his heart yearning. It is not that he does not know God or experience him, for how could he even right such a hymn, but that he wants to know him more deeply. It is to this that I have concentrated all my efforts (when not distracted by lust, dreams of passion, etc.) in my meagre 26 years of existence

Ariel said...

Alexys, you make some comments that I see no reason to argue with:
Life itself is a startling gift...
We often make too much noise ourselves to hear God's voice. "Christ is always here, watching."


However, your framework is more gnostic that Christian. God does love us, as proven with awful clarity at the cross - but we don't enjoy the benefits of his love by simply being, "giving ourselves glory," or slowly gaining enlightenment.

God is definitely watching, but his attention calls for sharp action on our parts - a spiritual about-face. Our ability to meet Christ, and to enjoy "glory" is hindered by an embarassing reality: the bias we have toward evil.

Thus, the cross.

As you note, "We are slaves of lust." But Buddha was wrong: desire is not the problem. And lust is not merely a "mental trap," something about which we can 'change our minds.'

Lust must be subdued by a greater power - this power is worship; a life given over to following Jesus. Within the context of discipleship, Christ gives his followers the ability to do what is right.

Moreover, he heals our desires so that we can 'see through' them. In the light of Christ I can finally see clearly. And what I see is that the things I think I want, even when they are good things, will not end this How long? song I've been singing. Only Christ himself can do that.

Ariel said...

Make that three pointer from the free throw line in the last seconds of the game.

I have to let Alexys know that her KU dig has been duly noted. Of course, it's very difficult to make a three-pointer from the free throw line (some would say impossible)...but Christian Moody's missed foul shots with .04 left on the clock would definitely have had even more than trifecta significance, had they gone in. So I'll let the details slide. ;)

Ariel said...

Rob, I would challenge you to give a concrete definition to "self actualization." I suspect that "self actualization" has enjoyed a long and storied past, ever since Adam & Eve bit down on the proverbial apple.

My "self-actualization" may be a slap in your face (if not worse) and visa versa. It begins to look a lot like a world of people with a very singular agenda in mind: me.

I appreciate your observation about Jesus: he went to the outcasts in society. Anyone who was considered 'untouchable' or 'broken' was worthy of his special notice. As he said, "I came to heal the sick."

The same is true today.

J said...

Thanks for this, AJ. So many of us don't have dramatic success stories, and we fade into the sidelines of other people's victory parades. I like your reminder that these temporal successes are not really the point.

 

Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife