Thursday, September 18, 2014

Happiest Ever After...

I’m the kind of person who loses herself in great love stories. I ride the waves of heartbreak and reconciliation, holding out for a happy ending. And the best classic romance stories are those that you read and watch hundreds of times and still hold your breath. As those rose petals fall, sealing the fate of a transformed prince, as Shopgirl bickers scornfully with her concealed lover, NY152, or as Lizzie Bennet endures the intolerable pride of Mr. Darcy, we experience a near unbearable anxiety, until, at the very last moment, the glass slipper slides gently on to the lover’s foot, the confession of love is made, or the dazzling ring is presented. Then we sigh, finally contented in the blissful romance, two hearts finding their counterpart and finally able to live their happily-ever-after.

I think a lot of us spend our lives in that same sort of tension. I think that we’re living to “arrive” at our place of security, where we can exhale and feel safe.  We think that when we achieve the next great thing we will somehow level-up. Here’s what I mean:

There is a monstrous evolution of insecurity assaulting us constantly: our desperate desire to feel like we’re measuring up.
I think that a lot of us live looking ahead to the next stage of life or achievement as if it will satisfy us or make us feel like we have arrived somewhere. We use language like “If I just…” or “If I only…” or “when I finally...” when we analyze our desire to be OK.  I think we do this without really knowing it’s happening.

I’m guilty of this in a number of areas of my life. As a single woman, I looked admiringly on my married friends, who seemed to have it all together. They had “arrived,” it seemed, to a place of bliss, maturity, and godliness. I wanted that, the glistening ring on my finger telling me that I was on the right track, measuring up to those happy people around me. And now that I myself am married, I for sure don’t feel like I’ve arrived anywhere, but think ahead to how worthwhile my life would be if I had a family of my own. I wouldn’t have to wonder if I was enough, I’d be a mom! I’d be needed! I’d be VALUABLE!

I hear the echo of this same insecurity in conversations all the time. And I don’t think that we are at fault for creating these ideals. Society is full of them. We are being battered with images and voices constantly saying: “Being happy looks like this!” or “Being good looks like this!” or “Being a Christian looks like this!”

We all want that exhale, that ability to feel OK. We think that our milestones will make us feel, even for a second, that we are free from our insecurities, or the ways that we feel like we aren’t measuring up.  Once we reach our idealized summit, we feel OK,   safe from the striving to be,   to have,    to prove.

How safe does this really make us? Does it ever satiate our desire to be OK?

I am in a situation in which I really never thought I’d find myself. My husband and I are fundraising to be missionaries abroad. Missionaries. You know, those really perfect Christians who have finally made it? And I had the thought recently: If 5 years ago I had looked at my life today, I seriously might have thought that I had crossed a certain Christian finish line. But in my current reality, I do not have a sense of fulfillment from what I’m doing and I don’t feel contented because of my ministry plans; I’m just doing the best I can to trust Jesus.

Like a mirage in the desert, these goals lure with the false promise of satisfaction, contentment, and wellbeing. And as flashy as they are, they will only leave us empty and seeking the next big thing to hide behind. Only Jesus can satisfy our desires. God alone sets the standard of true worth and then gives us Jesus, the only way we could ever measure up. 

The apostle Paul is convinced of that profound truth. It would be easy to look at Paul and feel like he has “arrived.” He himself lists his impressive credentials: he is an ethnic Israelite, able to trace his lineage back to the tribe of Benjamin, from the strictest religious sect, and claims blamelessness through obedience to the law (Philippians 3). Yet, even Paul considers his best accolades as rubbish. Why? They don’t matter. There is no security in them for him. They don’t prove anything to others; they don’t make him closer to God. They are merely a distraction from the real goal. The real prize for him: the richness of perfect intimacy with God for eternity (Philippians 3).

The journey of our lives belongs to God. And we are not women who “arrive;” we press on. We persevere. And not to the next greatest thing, but to the one Great Thing.  Our life is not fragmented into moments of great importance, and nor should our faith be. Our faith must be more about trusting God moment by moment, day by day. We take the example of Paul and “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3). Our eyes are set on something so beyond the fleeting satisfaction and assurance of a status, a relationship, a job, a marriage, or even a family. They will never be good enough for us. Our desires are BETTER than that.

Hillary Krieger, 26, serves on the women's team at Flatirons. She believes that there is joy in the mundane, that the best days are spent exploring in CO, and that God writes the best adventure stories.

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