Maybe for a minute think about what makes you happy. A sunny day? Playing a sport? Walking outside? Lunch with a friend? A nice wine with dinner? Remember Jesus was the one who changed water into wine, just sayin’. A trip to the beach, the mountains, western Kansas? (Maybe that last one’s just me). Watching the Royals, well, at least Tuesday night was fun. The Chiefs? We did move up in the draft for a young, promising quarterback. Time with your spouse, partner, best friend, adult children, grandchildren, other people’s children? A bike ride, motor or pedal? If you pretty much know what makes you happy, how often do you intentionally put yourself there? How often do you find reasons why you aren’t or can’t be happy? It’s kind of a nebulous thing, isn’t it? If happiness is a “feeling” it’s probably fairly fleeting. But if we look at it as something a bit deeper, is it possible to understand it more as a way of life or a foundation to a way of life that we experience with each breath we take?
I think life is meant to be deeper than the roller coaster ride of feelings. Certainly feelings are a part, but not the whole of life. Interestingly the word “beatitude” found in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:1-12), has to do with the concept of blessedness. Blessedness is not easily translated into English, but the “condition or state of blessedness” in the Latin Vulgate translation can mean “favored, fortunate, and/or happy.” So Jesus’ first and most complete sermon, at least that is recorded in scripture, begins with the concept of blessedness loosely connected in translation to the word happy. The situations Jesus lists are not necessarily those we might name as our happy places, i.e., poor in spirit, time of mourning, spirit of meekness, being peacemakers, being persecuted, etc. Perhaps Jesus is intoning from the beginning of his ministry that there is a greater depth of possibility for human beings regarding happiness than emotional highs. Developing our faith may allow for a deeper happiness that allows a certain spirit of life and hope and peace in the midst of struggle as well as in moments of great joy.
That brings me to the celebrations of Mother’s and Father’s Days. Quite a random leap, yes? But then again, maybe not. These days that we’re told to take time to celebrate our moms and dads are wonderful, mostly, for most people, most years, except for some. Right? It’s hard if it’s the first year after a death and you feel grief when everyone else in the whole world, at least it feels that way, is celebrating. It’s hard if you wanted to have children but couldn’t, or you chose not to have children and those around you seem to think less of you because you didn’t. It’s hard if your relationship with your mom or dad was not healthy, is not healthy, can’t be made to be healthy, and nobody wants to hear that side of it. AND, it’s even a little hard when you have a great relationship with your parents and it feels great to celebrate it, but you kind of feel like you need to keep a lid on it because not everyone feels the same way.
Maybe we should just say to people, strap it up and get tough and if Mother’s Day and Father’s Day aren’t your favorites, stay quiet and move on and let other people have their celebrations.
OR, maybe the “condition or state of blessedness” doesn’t have to equal the emotional state of happiness and/or perfection in our relationships. MAYBE the beatitude, a deeper understanding of happiness in our relationships, can be and is inclusive of mourning, and meekness, and hungering and thirsting for righteousness, and mercy, and purity of heart, and peacemaking. And maybe if we broaden and deepen, with God’s help and grace, our acceptance of being human and those around us being human, maybe our celebrations become more real, more authentic, and more accepting that brokenness and hurt alongside wonderful moments of growth and celebration are what make us who we are as individuals, and who we are in relationship including our relationships as parents and children. And maybe who we are and how we are is enough, by God’s grace and purpose.
The following video is illustrative of this concept of depth. It encompasses the idea and perspective that how we define or describe ourselves and our positions in life are often not the same as how those who love us define or describe us and our positions in life. I’m most moved by how the children see and talk about the parent in relation to how the parents see themselves. It’s amazing when love is deep and abiding and lives through heartache and healing, how our perspectives and reflections soften the sharp edges of (sometimes justified) anger, grief, and hurt. Maybe it can help us see ourselves and our lives and our relationships more generously and with a deeper understanding of hope and maybe even happiness.