If I’m being really honest right now, I’ve looked to a lot of things in life with the expectation that they’ll bring me happiness. I've told myself if I could just have that salary, or that marriage, or that number on the scale-- that I'd be fully satisfied. That I'd know what real happiness was.
Sometimes I’ve chased things to the point of exhaustion, but I’ve also chased some wonderful things. Because I’m a dreamer, and I love encouraging people to go after the dreams that are on their heart. But somewhere along the way, all the chasing (good or bad) caused me to fall prey to the illusion that I’m in complete control of my life. And while that’s a very seductive place to be— it’s also a cyclical one that's guaranteed to leave you unhappy and feeling like you're on a carrousel (although much less picturesque than this one).
After relinquishing some serious control issues earlier this year, I’ve often used the metaphor of God being the artist, and my life being the canvas on which he creates. But I've still struggled to maintain a balance of letting myself dream big and reach for the stars, while remembering God is the man with the plan for my life.
In the parable of the talents, a master entrusts his servants with various amounts according to his ability. We learn that each servant uses those talents to grow what had been gifted. But the servant who did nothing with what he’d been given didn't grow or receive an abundance. He wasn't rewarded with “well done my good and faithful servant” like those who multiplied theirs.
I’d have to agree that God wants us to be more involved in our lives. No, it’s not our job to be the artist and try to steal the paintbrush from him, but I have to think we were created to do more than just exist and let circumstances be thrusted upon us like paint splattered on a canvas.
I think that’s where most of us miss the mark. We either live under the illusion that we have control, or we helplessly exist, claiming we can’t do a damn thing. But I believe God entrusts us with the portions that we can control, and then it’s our job do so something with it.
I recently switched churches, and we’ve been talking about God being the architect of our life. This metaphor identified a missing piece of the puzzle for me— the part that lets me be involved. Because In the metaphor of God as the artist, I’m merely a canvas, but in the metaphor of God as the architect, I get to help build.
Now, if I fight for the control, I’m doomed— because It’s highly unlikely that a construction worker can build a stable structure without looking to his architect to draw the plans. And sure, God absolutely doesn’t need me to do what he wants to accomplish, but he's happy to employ me. He let’s me be an active participant in the story of my life.
This last year I've learned a lot about what it means to create my own happiness. I think sometimes realizing all the things you can’t control makes you also realize all the things that you can.
For example, I realize that I can’t control when I’ll meet my soulmate or if that driver cut me off and laid on his horn for no apparent reason in traffic. I can’t control if the economy is falling apart or if people make decisions that betray me.
But I can choose to be happy about what I’ve been gifted. God has personally entrusted me with a beautiful season in life that I have a say in, and it’s a season filled with freedom. I have the freedom to pack up and move tomorrow if I wanted, to eat ice cream for dinner, or have sleepovers with my friends without asking for anyone else’s permission. I can pull the tequila bottle out of the freezer, cut up some limes, and have a dance party on the porch to comfort my best friend because she had a terrible day at work. I can listen to someone who needs to talk, help someone who needs a favor, and be generous with how I love people.
And probably my favorite freedom that this season has given me is the freedom to do things like book trips to Paris (and London, and Vienna, and then back to Paris again) simply because God has wired me with an insatiable appetite for travel. And he's also gifted me the luxury of nothing else to keep me from pursuing it whole heartedly.
There’s a lot I’m still figuring out about where my life is headed— and that’s okay. Because this is where God has me- in an uncertain season of freedom and with a heart that’s hungry for adventure. And I’ve learned to be really happy about that, and to trust there is a lot he has in store for me if I'm willing to jump at the offer.
This trip that Sarah and I took to Paris had a ton of significance and left us both with tons of stories that I can’t possibly sum up into one singular blog post. But for the sake of this one, Paris taught me how capable I am of creating my own happiness and making my life a more beautiful story using the resources that God’s gifted to me.
These days, my happiness isn’t contingent on one particular thing, because I've learned there’s a lot of things that can make me happy. Sometimes they end up being what I had in mind, and other times they look really different. But I know now that what’s in front of me is what I have to work with, and I'm proud of what I'm creating out of it. And I'd like to think that God's response will someday be "Well done, my good and faithful servant."
“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings.” -Elizabeth Gilbert