"No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him"
1 Corinthians 2:9 (NIV)
For the past two days I've been struggling to write a post about happiness, about what it means and how we get there when it seems so out of reach. The words just weren't coming together right, they weren't conveying what was on my heart.
This morning I sat down to work on the Beth Moore Bible study that I'm working through with a group of women from church. We've been working on the study Breaking Free: Making Liberty in Christ a Reality in Life and I've got to tell you, so far I haven't been feeling a lot of breaking free going on in my life. Still yelling at the kids? Check. Still struggling with depression? Check. Still feeling that in God's eyes I'm pretty useless? Check. We're half way through the study and I'm thinking once again God is just ignoring me down here. Bless others, give them great insights, but somehow I'm left out in the cold. Again.
And what was the title of today's lesson? "To Live Happily Ever After." Now, before you go accusing Beth Moore of having some pie-in-the-sky vision of perfect Christianity that never experiences sadness, that isn't her point at all. I won't go into the details, they aren't important to what I learned today and if you really want to know you can do the study yourself. (Which I'm sure you'll rush right out and do after that ringing endorsement I just gave it in the previous paragraph.)
I came into this lesson with my fighting gloves on, expecting Moore to tell me a Christian should be able to be happy all, or most of, the time. And after years of believing that myself and trying to perpetuate the illusion, I'm dropping it. Christians get sad. Christians can even struggle with clinical depression and guess what? Christians can even have to take medication for depression and anxiety. (And yes, three months ago I would have argued the opposite, that I SHOULD be able to be spiritual enough to MAKE myself happy. Notice the conspicuous absence of God's work in that sentence...now move on to the next thought.)
Two paragraphs into the lesson the unexpected happened. Moore posed the question about what God has done in our life at this point in the study that is in the realm of 1 Corinthians 2:9, that exceeded anything we had seen, heard, or imagined. I flexed my fingers, picked up my pen and began to write that after all this work, God has not done one single thing in my life over the past few months. I've been passed by.
And then I stopped. I stopped and thought about the group of women that I'm doing the study with. I thought about how we've opened our hearts to each other and shared our hurts and our joys. I thought about the women who have encouraged me, the one who poked at me to get me to speak up, the one who gave me her phone number just in case I wanted a friend to call, the one who said "We've all been there" when I was frustrated over one of my son's meltdowns, the one who invited me out to a movie. My prayer for more years than I can remember has been "God, just send me a friend. Send me someone I can share my heart with, someone I can sometimes just hang out and do fun stuff with. I am so lonely, God." And unexpectedly, without me even realizing it, over the past few months he has not been giving me just one friend, he's been giving me a whole group! Slowly the corners of my life have been filling up with the female companionship that I craved.
Still yelling at the kids? Check. Still struggling with depression? Check. Still feeling useless? Check. Surrounded by friends who love me and will walk with me through all the crud in my life? Check, double and triple check.
Sometimes we're digging in the dirt, trying to make grace grow, only to turn around and realize there's a whole garden of it behind us.