Monday, April 29, 2013

Happiness and head-banging

Did you ever want to shake someone? No, not literally. Well, okay, maybe literally, but not hard enough to cause permanent damage.

Why do I ask? Because I just wanted to shake someone. There I was, scrolling down my Facebook page (yes, I know) when I saw a quote from the Dalai Lama being shared by one of my Christian Facebook friends. Now, before you start in at me about how we can find truth and wisdom everywhere, and that Christians don't have a monopoly on either – yes, I agree. Nobody is always wrong about everything, except for that one guy. You probably know him (or her).

But my problem wasn't with the fact that a Christian was sharing a quote from the Dalai Lama. My problem was with the quote itself. “The purpose of our lives is to be happy.”

It took every ounce of my will to not type “no it isn't” and hit the enter key. The only reason I didn't is because I know it would have led to much more heat than light, because, sadly, that's the currently popular mindset.

If you're not happy with your job, quit and get another one (although only the brave and the foolhardy quit a job in today's economy). If you're not happy with your house, sell it and get another one. If you're not happy with your car, your furniture, your church, or your husband (or wife), get another one.

Instant gratification has become the ruling philosophy of our time. I have to deal with it with my children almost constantly. They always “need” the next, the newest, the coolest. My response is invariably “then save your money until you can afford one.”

The problem with that advice is that I don't immediately follow it up by placing the boys into a sealed room with no television or internet access. It never takes more than a few days for them to see something that they just HAVE to buy. Occasionally, when I remind them that they were saving up for this or that, they'll have an “Oh yeah” moment and pass up whatever it was that caught their eye. Most often, however, the “need” for whatever it is overwhelms them, and they crumble like a stale cookie.

Some of you are probably asking yourselves why I allow the kids to spend their money in this fashion. I have found that slowly, bit by bit, when they realize that their need for instant gratification has destroyed their plans, they learn just a bit more patience. The next time, they have to think the decision over just a bit longer before they give in and waste their money. Occasionally, they even decide to stick with their plans. I believe (or at least I hope) that learning the dangers of spending frivolously now will help them avoid the pitfalls when there's more at stake than being able to buy the newest Playstation game.

You expect children to behave rashly, to have a need for instant gratification. Today, however, adults have the same mindset. But as I read my Bible, I don't find anywhere the notion that the purpose of my life is to make myself happy. In fact, I read that I'm supposed to deny myself, take up my cross and follow Jesus. I'm supposed to nurture my children and love my wife. I'm supposed to allow God to bring my desires into line with His desires, and to realize that I'm not the main character in the story.

The simple fact of the matter is, the purpose of my life is to make God happy.     

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