When I was dating someone at the beginning of the year, I didn’t tell my parents about it for three months. Even though I was living with them and seeing them every day, on date nights I would run down the stairs and out the front door and I wouldn’t even tell them goodbye sometimes. Admittedly, it wasn’t my best plan.
I figured I was an adult and didn’t have to answer to anyone about where I was going or who I was spending my time with. It turns out that’s actually a pretty juvenile way of thinking.
My friend Beth yelled at me about it one night, and made it clear that she thought my inability to talk about dating, not just with my parents but in my life, was a major problem. She said that I was getting in my own way, that I wasn’t being fair to the guy I was seeing, and that I was going to destruct my relationship by hiding him. She said that she was mad at me because I’m a smart person, but I was being so stupid. And then she yelled, “WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LET YOURSELF BE HAPPY?!”
My friend Amy simply told me I was being a child and threatened to tell my mom if I didn’t.
I told my parents at lunch the very next day.
Even though my relationship ended, my wrestling with Beth’s question hasn’t. Trying to find the answer has actually led me to make conscious, pro-active decisions about my life that have nothing to do with dating. And I think for the first time I’m beginning to understand what it is to be happy.
How I came to be someone who believed her happiness irrelevant, I’m not sure. But, I think a lot of it starts with being raised with a theology that emphasized saving souls and serving others. My whole faith system became based on others – making sure they were cared for, listened to, carried, and saved. The result, I think, is that my relationship with Jesus suffered a bit. Because I feel guilty if I take time for myself, even if that self time is spent in the Word or prayer or being quiet all alone. Because don’t I know that there is work to be done? Don’t I know that people needed to hear about the Lord? Don’t I know there are people going to hell from Harford County?
The truth is, I know. I know there are people in my county that don’t believe in God, and I suspect that there are people in this coffee shop I’m sitting in right now who don’t have a relationship with Jesus. But, I also know that I can’t save their souls.
I can share with them all I want to, and open up my Bible with them, and read them all the verses about how God loves them and sent His Son to die for them and offers them eternal life if they believe in Him. I can hand them tracts and invite them to church and I can do all the things I’ve been told to do to bring them into the Christian faith, and they might say no. Or like the rich young ruler, they may just walk away.
So then, this is what I’m coming to know: God alone is the soul-saver. And I think that it makes God happy when I acknowledge that He is I AM and that I am not.
And this means, then, I’m in a position to build human-to-human relationships with everybody else. And in those relationships, what I share about God is rooted in my experience with Him – as sinner saved by grace, convinced of the truth of Scripture, and humbled by my inability to save myself.
And this, I know, is where my happiness lies. Not in working so damn hard to make sure everybody else is okay, but in a surrendered relationship with Christ, where what is “required” is to do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with God.
Because the truth of the matter, friends, is that talking about God makes me really happy. And sharing stories about how He’s making Himself known to my friends and to me and in our relationships together makes me happy. And drinking coffee, and reading, and learning blog design make me happy. And writing makes me happy.
And if I keep doing these things, for as long as God calls me to them, then maybe, just maybe, I have a shot at answering Beth’s question.
Why can’t I let myself be happy?
I can. And it starts now.