I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor. I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength.Philippians 4:12-13
Yesterday evening Rebekah and I watched a movie that was not only a box office flop, but widely panned by the critics. “It uses the most condescending fortune-cookie thinking possible,” said one particularly scathing review. For my part, however, I found it both entertaining and insightful, which likely says a lot about me!
I will grant that the film, Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014), glossed over a lot in its eagerness to get to the main point. But it’s also true that the very simplicity of the central thesis is likely dismissed exactly because it sounds too good to be true.
It reminds me of the Old Testament story featuring the great warrior Naaman, who needed healing but refused to follow the prophet’s instructions to “bathe in the River Jordan.” His servants risk instant punishment when they ask, “Had it been a hard thing – a great task – would you not have done it?”
Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!”2 Kings 5:13
In the same way, Jesus asks us to “wash and be cleansed.” And, like the general Naaman (and the critics) we turn away because we believe the simplicity of the invitation to be absurd, or beneath us, or too good to be true.
But the “Happiness” movie was a parable, not a dramatic narrative, so of course everything was tidily contained in a story that covered just a few short weeks. I have – but it’s taken a lifetime – experienced just about every element of Hector’s adventure, and I can confirm the truth of its conclusions.
Part Two of this post is related to the first. After the movie I took Max for his walk and listened to a podcast on the virtues of silence (Yes, I totally get the irony of exchanging my quiet, contemplative walk in the cool clear night air under a million stars for the noise of a podcast).
The essential point of the pod was that the experience of contentment in our lives – that soul-level sense of resting in and of being at peace with ourselves and with life – has nothing to do with meeting the expectations of “success” as imposed by the world around us.
To be at peace we must first – as the Buddhist practitioner put it – be able to, comfortably, sit with ourselves.
Happiness, of course, is a byproduct of so much more and just about all of it involves the journey – the pilgrimage – not the destination.
“It is about turning inward, to the self,” a voice on the podcast said, “and then upward, to the transcendent.”
Which brings me back to what I wrote the other day about the story Frederick Buechner shared in his book, The Longing for Home (“Don’t miss the beauty the holiness and the joy“).
Joy is the natural state of the human being. I am sure the critics would have a field day with that suggestion, and also with the words of Jesus, who said “Don’t worry… Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31-33)…
It is important to realize that the other part of silence is listening. The value of listening is a more complete understanding of our own story, of the story going on around us, and of the story we have been placed in in order to live purposefully.
Because we have been assigned life in order to be light and mercy and grace and love and encouragement and peace and hope both in and for the world. And we can’t do that until we first know who we are, and then know where we are; and we can do both by paying attention, and by responding to Christ’s joyful invitation to live. – DEREK
Enjoyed todays wrting. A lot to digest and think about.
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Thanks, Becky. More people should digest and think!