Jan 162014 6 Responses

I Just Want to Be Happy

Fatherhood is fascinating because of what it teaches me about myself.

Last night I came home to one child having a bad day. It was easy to explain. He went to bed too late and got up too early. After a long day at school, he was tired. Obedience is always tougher when we are tired. (Sarcasm alert) Of course, as adults we know this and go to great lengths to make sure we are well rested so that we are always at our best. Children aren’t aware of the importance of rest so they are prone to wearing themselves out and dealing with the negative consequences of making bad decisions. (See: On Throwing a Fit)

So he was tired and was not obeying. The main task before him was simple—pick up his toys in the living room so the house could be clean. To an adult, it is a 30-second task; to a 5–year-old it is the most impossible expectation of all-time.

I came home and after some introductory remarks and play, I ask, “Have you been making good decisions for mommy?

Shame immediately kicked in. (Notice, I didn’t shame him. He felt shame over his actions, but I did not create the shame. There is a big difference. See: Shame On Me For Shaming Them) He ran to his room, shut the door, and cried. After giving him some alone time, I went to console him.

There was no need for me to correct him or reprimand him. He felt the proper emotions for his actions. I was there to put his rebellion in context. I’m not sure if he is overly dramatic or just extremely sensitive (I think the latter), but he was saying, “I’m the worst child ever.” He assumed his mother would never forgive him. I knew better and wanted to communicate that with him. It was my job to Recognize My Child’s Pain.

As we sat and talked, I asked him what he wanted and he said, “I just want to be happy.”

It was the first time I had heard that statement from him, but as a pastor it is a statement I hear all the time:

From the man walking away from his family,

From the woman making inappropriate emotional connections with a co-worker,

From the teenager making foolish choices.

Each say, “I just want to be happy.” It’s a common human desire.

Here’s the irony: as a father, I could say that what would make my son happy was if he would simply do the 30-second task his mother had asked him to do, yet to my son the task was what was preventing him from being happy. He thought he couldn’t accomplish the task so he refused to do so which resulted in a plethora of negative consequences—no TV, no Kindle, no toys, the disapproval of his mother, shame in front of his father, isolation in his bedroom, etc.

Had he simply obeyed, he would have been happy.

It was true for him.

It’s often true for us.

It’s not a universal truth. It is not gospel truth. It is not God’s law. Yet it is proverbial truth. A majority of the time this is how life works; we will be happier if we obey.

Clearly there are exceptions. Job obeyed and wasn’t happy, as did Isaiah and Ezekiel. And happiness should never be our primary goal. Yet, as my friend Ed Saucier has long said, “Happiness is often a byproduct of a life well-lived.” Happiness is often the result of obedience.

As I held my crying 5–year-old last night, I saw myself.

How often is God asking me to do something which I think is too difficult?

How often do I see his expectations as the hindrance to my happiness?

How often do I foolishly disobey and the result is far more negative than had I simply obeyed?

The most likely path to happiness is obedience.

For more, see:

3 Things to Do When Parenting Goes Wrong

6 Responses to I Just Want to Be Happy
  1. Gregory D. Kuhn Reply

    Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
    to be happy in Jesus……but to trust and obey.
    Probably the most stereotypical soundings hymn in all of history, as far as the music go, but the simplicity of the message it conveys goes deep.

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