I am reading a book called "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin. It's about this woman who realizes that amidst her wonderful life- great job, great husband, healthy kids, wonderful apartment- she could stand to be happier. So she does a ton of research on happiness and decides to pursue happiness over the course of a year. Kind of like Elizabeth Gilbert in "Eat, Pray, Love". I am only two months in to her experiment, but, I have discovered something interesting. She quotes a line from William Butler Yeats. He says, "Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure not this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing." Hello. That's it! It is so true!
Think about it. At some point in your life years ago, you probably thought things like, I'll be happier once I'm married, once I have a bigger house, a nicer car, more money, kids, more free time... etc. Then you obtain those goals and realize that you still have a list of "I'll be happier when..." I don't think we can feel absolutely content and supremely happy (at least not here, in our mortal lives). I think our humanness keeps us striving for more, at whatever pace we are driven.
So, will there come a day when we are happy just where we are, without a desire for more? I don't know for sure. My suspicion is, not until we get to Heaven. I think we all have some innate drive for growth. We are all, on some level, seeking to get closer to something. We don't all realize what that something is, but, I believe that it is God. We all want to get closer to where we have come from- and ultimately where we are returning to, our final destination.
This sort of changes my perspective on how I am going to look at happiness from here on out. Although I feel very happy when I am spending time with my husband and kids, my friends make me feel happy, I feel happy receiving gifts, I appreciate the happy feeling of having a car and a home, I know that irrefutable happiness will not be realized until that day when I stand before Jesus and he welcomes me home! I should spend my time, until then, growing toward that goal. I should try to improve my life here so that I will be worthy of a life there. I should spend more time in my Bible, more time in prayer, be more forgiving, be more generous, more tolerant, more respectful, more loving. I should spend my quest for happiness trying to be a better person! I think, that I should not strive for my own happiness, but instead, I should strive to bring happiness to others, especially God.
What do I want to teach my children about happiness? Well, I want them to be happy. Duh. But, I think that they are going to learn most by my example. The fact is, in order to know what being happy is, they are going to have to experience being unhappy. I need to make sure that I model for them how to not get stuck in that unhappy place and let it consume you. I have to be diligent about always striving for more, never letting setbacks and obstacles keep you where you are. I have to make sure they learn to identify the problem quickly and immediately formulate a solution. They need to know about Heaven, and how to get there. They need to know that there is always room for growth. I have to show them that they must always be true to who they are as individuals, the beautiful, unique creation of God. And most importantly, even though we should strive to advance ourselves here on earth, we should be very careful to not fall into the trap of thinking that stuff will bring us utmost happiness. Things can evoke feelings of happiness, but they need to learn to recognize that "the real deal" is only found in Heaven.
"You do this because you are looking forward to the joys of heaven- as you have been ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News." Colossians 1:5