One day, my 8-year-old son wrote two notes. Being the attentive parents that we are (more my wife than I), we confiscated the notes. One note was to one friend, Bob, and said basically that I’m not your friend anymore, and you’re not Mike’s friend either, and only Mike and I are best friends. The second note was to Mike, and said not to be Bob’s friend anymore. He even signed the one to Bob: Love (crossed out) Jeremiah.
Before heading to work, I talked to him about it. I asked what’s going on, and he said that Bob made fun of Mike’s shoes so he’s mean. I tried explaining that people will be mean to him for life, it happens all the time, and the best thing to do is to accept this fact, and don’t fight back, rather move on. He didn’t like that answer. Then I asked him what he thought Jesus would do. He wasn’t sure so I explained that Jesus said to love your enemy.
He slapped his forehead and didn’t believe me. He left the room and came back with his Bible, and said show me (I love his eagerness to know the truth, and not simply trust my word for it). So I turned to Matthew 5:44 and read a few lines. He then wanted to see it and read it himself. I said read all the way to verse 48. He was bewildered.
I then headed off to work, but told him to think about it, and what it means to him.
My wife texted me a little later and said she and him had a conversation about it as well, and he couldn’t understand why the Bible would say that. It doesn’t make any sense! And alas, that’s the truth, sometimes the Bible doesn’t make any sense, but regardless its the truth.
Explore 1 Corinthians 13, what is Love? It’s not an emotion, it is action. Love is something to do, and doesn’t care what your mood is or how bad the other person is. In its perfection, Love is unconditional.
This made me think long and hard that day and since. How am I loving my enemies? Well, I don’t think I have any, I’m an easy person to get along with, and I seriously can’t think of anyone who I’d call my enemy.
Then I got thinking some more.
It’s easy for me to love my wife, and my kids, and my friends.But…
What about that stranger I’m behind in the grocery store who has 20 items in the express 12 items or less lane. Am I acting in Love when I grumble under my breath loud enough so they hear me?
What about that person I just clash with, our personalities are oil and water, we just can’t seem to get along so I avoid them. Is that Love to avoid them? It makes my life easy, but is Love selfish?
What about that family member that drives me nuts with their conversations, and their attitude. Easy for me to blow them off and ignore them. Am I Loving?
What about that person who I think is trying to be my friend? Since I don’t need any more friends, or see value in becoming their friend, I act polite and walk away as fast as I can. Love?
This is a tough one. Sometimes I think it’s easy, or almost romantic to say “I love my enemy”, but what about those who aren’t our enemies? Are we still loving them?
I just finished reading The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel. It is a great read for new and old Christians. The sub title is “Believing in God but Living as if He Doesn’t Exist”. Come to find out, it’s really easy to be a Christian Atheist and not even realize it. The book starts off with some of Craig’s life stories. But then covers a broad stroke of what we as Christians deal with daily: When you believe in God but not in prayer… but won’t forgive… but still worry all the time… but don’t share your faith…
This book convicted me in a few places, and I want to share one of them: I believe in God but pursue happiness at any cost. I tend to lean more on the side that God wants to bless me and wants me to be happy. The Bible says so, doesn’t it? In the past I’ve justified it and my thousands of dollars of debt agree. During my college and early marriage years, I have purchased more stuff than I can remember. Stuff that made me happy, legitimately made me happy. Why else would I buy it? I found happiness in having the cool toys and gadgets and also found happiness in impressing my friends and family.
I recently finished paying down a hunk of debt, about $15K through a debt consolidation program. This is a very sobering event. This money bought be stuff to make me happy, and yet I don’t know where any of it is. I didn’t trust God to make me happy, instead I took it upon myself to make me happy. And I paid dearly for it (literally and metaphorically). If you’re in debt you know the stress that debt comes with. The pressure knowing I have to pay $800+ a month just to make creditors stop calling me. Nevermind buying groceries, paying rent, gas, etc. It sucks!
My good friend Dan is my financial conscience. He and another friend helped me through a budget and focused me on paying down my debt. If I’m positioning myself for a larger purchase I run it by him, he usually talks sense into me. He let me get a digital camera but not surround sound. Funny, sometimes I don’t even need to talk to him, I just need to imagine the conversation.
All this for a feeling of happiness?! I’m crazy…
Jesus has, over the years, shown me what is important. It’s not the immediate pleasure a thing gives me that’s important. That pleasure is almost addicting and has caused me some significant debt. I have been on numerous mission trips to third world countries and even some rough parts of the US. I have seen people happy with a fraction of what I have. Happiness that is found in Jesus Christ is better defined as JOY. I describe happiness as a fleeting emotion that comes and goes with the weather, and in New England that can happen more than once in a day! Years ago, if I lived like I experienced others living I would be miserable, I couldn’t be happy because I didn’t have my stuff.
Being happy is great but to make any decisions because you want to be happy isn’t a good idea. Buying a new TV may make me happy, but only until a new TV model comes out. What Jesus has drilled into my head is to find joy and satisfaction in what I have. My TV is a few years old, it’s a plasma, so it’s a few tech-iterations old as well. Now that LED is out, I don’t think they’re making plasmas anymore. So my gut says I can swing a grand to get a nice LCD or even an LED TV, and I could too! Instead, I ask Jesus to take this desire for the latest and greatest and I study my TV closer and appreciate it for what it is. It is HD, and has a brilliant color. I can’t complain. It’s not the newest but it still works like it’s new.
My relationship with Jesus Christ is the happiest thing, most joyful experience I have, daily. Second, my amazing wife and kids. Third, friends. After that, nothing else matters. I am constantly reminded of how important my life is over my stuff, and how important it is to be joyful in life and not happy in stuff.
If you follow me on Twitter, @happyrealist, you may have recently seen me post pros and cons for getting an iPad. I want one and I slipped back into my routine of wanting it because it’s cool, and my friends would be impressed. Dan doesn’t approve but if I can convince myself enough I’ll get it. Reading through this book, it clicked. Forget it making me happy for a moment and turning to a flawed human (sorry Dan) to make decisions like this is a little backwards as well. It clicked, I asked Jesus “can I get an iPad? I really want one, it’ll be fun with the kids and I can use it for work as well.” He didn’t respond audibly, but I knew I shouldn’t. I’m okay with that. I need to be a better steward of my money (another blog post for another day) and if I bought an iPad now, that would cut out of my saving for a house, a vacation this summer and possibly take away from future opportunies God may have for us to help someone financially. Am I perfect? Nope, but I’m working on it.
There are other methods of finding happiness. Some use sex, drugs, work, social life, etc. My biggest method of finding happiness has been buying stuff. I choose to be happy daily, I choose to find happiness in what I have that’s more important than stuff. I’m not always happy, I have bad days, but I hold onto the joy of my Saviour. I highly recommend reading The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel. It will touch you in at least one chapter, and may open your eyese to other areas you can improve. I know it did for me.
Knowing happiness, true happiness, is found in Christ and his love, I will pursue at any cost!