Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Happiness Is...

Just back from a week in Virginia visiting my parents and skiing at Wintergreen. Actually, I was an active participant in the visiting part but passed on the skiing (bahk, bahk bahk bahk). Still, I suited up in black and purple multi-layers and stood on the edge of slippery slopes trying to fend off the East Coast chill while watching the boys on their first-ever ski trip. I looked like the Michelan Man in a Barney costume, but managed to stay warm! Great fun, all around.

On the last night, however, I was done with the sporting life but lost the vote (4 to 1) to stay in by a fire and watch a movie. Todd and the boys wanted to pack in a few more hours of skiing, but graciously suggested that I could retire my Michelan suit for the evening and stay inside! So, there I sat on a fluffy couch with a TV remote in my hand, feeling a bit like the beer commercial guy looks. After a few minutes of surfing, I landed on the Lifetime Channel several minutes into a movie starring Heather Locklear. It was pretty much your typical made-for-TV deal, but something had me hooked and I hung with it to the end. I learned a lot, too.

The Plot

I can't remember the name of the movie, but the character played by Heather Locklear, a mother of two young children, is recently divorced and off on a solo trip to Hawaii to celebrate her 40th birthday. She hooks up with a 20-something surf instructor and spends the rest of the movie going back and forth between Hawaii to keep the affair alive. In the end, "love" prevails and there is the suggestion of a happy albeit complicated ever after.

The Theme: Pursue Happiness At All Costs

This sentence was uttered two or three times by Locklear's character: "They [the kids] like me better when I'm happy." This was how the character justified dumping her young brood for a week every month to romp around Hawaii having sex. Which made perfect sense to not only her, but managed to also shut up her critics.

The Trap

Have you ever fed a ticket machine at Chuck 'E Cheese? It makes those gobbling, snarfing, chomping sounds as it devours the ticket. That's how this movie struck me. I imagined all the people out there bug-eyed on a sofa watching this movie. Choking down a message about pursuing happiness at all costs. Justifying selfish, destructive behavior by passing it off as being in the best interest of someone else. Harmless Hollywood chick flick fare? Maybe so. Maybe not.

What Scripture Says

For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. Consequently the one who rejects this is not rejecting human authority but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. (1Thessalonians 4: 7-8)

Much has been written on this subject in recent years, but someone said it best who said that "God is most concerned about our holiness not our happiness." Happiness is a fleeting and transient emotion that derives principally from man-made sources. And as quickly as it comes, it goes. So, when we chase off with blinders to God in pursuit of earthly pleasures and treasures, we are grabbing at fog. Not to suggest that we as Christians can't or shouldn't be happy or enjoy the state of happiness. My laughter is now officially a source of embarrassment to my tween who has hit the I-would-rather-die-than-draw-attention-to-myself stage. "Can you control that?" he often pleads. Through Christ Jesus, we are free to know joy. But when the pursuit of fun becomes life's driver, edging out our focus on Christ, we become vulnerable to temptation and high-wire instability. We say and do reckless things that threaten our primary relationships and our Christian vision ices over.

Question: What makes you happy? Why?


Kathy P said...

Don't you EVER dare control that beautiful laugh! hahaha!!!!! Love this entry, Sarah. LOVE IT. I bet if there were a sequel to this movie, they would be broken up in less than a year...and would both be looking for that next round of "happiness" which would be impossible. Without Christ, there is no joy. NONE. Love you. KP

Sarah Onderdonk said...

Speaking of laughs... I was just remembering the time the food service guy at Cowamunga's thought we had LOST it. And, ahem, as I recall, it wasn't just ME. (Now all I can say is: "Poor Ross.") God willing, the plywood and duct tape will come down and we can change venues at some point... and not worry about the acoustics :)

But, in all seriousness, what you said about the sequel is so true... I would like to read the sequel to Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love" book, too...