So, I am getting married. I will now have everything I wanted as a little girl, what I dreamed of and prayed for my adult life. Beautiful house, committed husband, loving church, fulfilling job. It would seem all my immediate needs are being met. I am uniquely blessed. Now, I have had my share of pain and struggle and heartache. It has not always been this calm. So, I am fully aware and fully appreciate this moment of Eden-like contentment.
But I don’t feel the way I thought I would.
Now, I don’t feel sad by any means. Far from it. I recognize that God has given me blessings that I don’t deserve, that I could never deserve. I will be moving into a beautiful home that my fiancé and I worked on together, that is wonderfully located and designed in a way we both approve of aesthetically. I know that I have been given a future husband that is what many women have always wanted: someone kind, full of integrity, hardworking, intelligent, patient and loving, my best friend in every capacity. And my church is a remarkable safe place full of biblical truth and kind, loving people that want to help me to become all God intended for me to be. And my job is a unique, encouraging environment that challenges me every day and has provided me with so many good friends and learning opportunities.
I am content, which is infinitely more powerful than being happy.
“Happiness” is defined as the following:
(noun) Delight, pleasure, or gladness, as over a particular thing; characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy; favored by fortune; fortunate or lucky.
Don’t you think my current life is the very definition of those things? I don’t mean to brag, because I know those things can change at any moment, and I have done nothing to deserve them. It’s an incredible grace. However, I am a human being. I don’t wake up every day with a visible, intense, happy energy. I don’t bounce around, gliding on a cloud. I feel pretty normal. Content, but normal. That’s is something I don’t think people truly understand about the process of adulthood and finding yourself the recipient of what you always wanted. It is more likely (and better) to experience peace, a calm solidified confidence, than an all-consuming excitement.
My fiancé and I intend to have a very small, very un-exciting wedding. In my mind, marriage is a very serious covenant made before God. Sure, it’s fun and the whole wedding planning process is fun. Dressing shopping is fun. Engagement parties are fun. Wedding cakes are fun.
But I am not signing up for fun. I am signing up for a very convicting, very rewarding, very challenging journey. I am publically declaring that I intend to operate (sometimes painfully) in selflessness. I am declaring publically that I will be emotionally, financially, sexually, legally and spiritually tied to another person. Just ONE person. No matter who comes along, no matter what happens within our relationship, no matter how hard life gets. I don’t leave. I stay. That, to me, is very serious.
And in regards to the other things I mentioned, there are similar constraints. Sure, we will have a beautiful home. But that home comes with maintenance, mortgage, HOA payments and expectations, repairs, etc. And it’s another serious commitment. And my job? Well, I love my job. I feel very blessed to have it. But each day, I am responsible for the tasks assigned to me. And the more I move up, the more responsibility I take on. That’s something else I take seriously. I also take seriously that each day I choose to work here (even if I enjoy it), I am choosing NOT to pursue a Masters in Psychology, something I had planned on for a long time. That is something I also take seriously.
So, maybe it’s my problem. Maybe I take things too seriously and its making it hard for me to swim in that milk-and-honey phenomenon known as “being in love” and your “dreams coming true” and “living the life you always wanted” – or maybe it just doesn’t feel the way we always thought it would.
And that’s okay.
Because, you see, happiness is a slippery thing. In some ways, it’s the most deceptive lie humanity has ever perpetuated. We abandon good people, good jobs, good circumstances because it doesn’t make us “happy” and that’s simply because we are still living in the Romantic Age. We still elevate feelings higher than reality. The simple fact is, circumstances don’t determine joy. We do. Love is not a feeling, it’s the choices we make every day to deny our own selfishness and to pursue the highest good for the other person. It’s an active commitment to put someone else first, before ourselves. That’s a very difficult thing. People don’t realize that. Well, they often do, but far too late.
Maybe that’s why I don’t jump up and down in ecstatic joy, threatening to break my ankle at the force of my locomotion. Because I am often sobered by the reality of what my dreams afford me. My joy is not a superficial one. It’s a deep-seeded awareness that manifests itself as a calm, contented solidity. My new life will breed a great deal of happiness. And a great deal of challenge. The weight of that holds me firmly to the ground.