“…All men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…”
With the celebration of our freedom quickly approaching next month, I figured I would run with that theme for this post. Our nation was founded with these principles mentioned above. The Declaration of Independence declares that these principles are not only our right as humans, but God-given. I don’t know about you, but that makes me stop for a moment and consider what this is truly stating. What does it mean exactly? What is the pursuit of happiness? I wonder if what we define as happiness today is the same as they did in the 1700s? Ask anyone today what “the pursuit of happiness” means and they probably will say something like seeking and going after whatever makes them happy. If it feels good and seems right, it is. But is it, really?
If we’re honest with ourselves, we all are seeking happiness in some way or another. We choose to do certain things in our lives because we want to feel good, right? Why do people choose to get married, consume so much coffee and chocolate, develop addictions, do anything for money, and have casual sex with strangers? We all have our “thing”…even me.
Months ago, I found out some very hard news personally from a friend. To understand the weight of this news, you first must know something about this friendship. My friend and I share a lot of things in common: a great love for music and sweets, strong dedication to God, both in our 30’s, and we both are committed to celibacy(since we both experience unwanted same-sex attraction with no attraction to women). Did you catch all that? His friendship has been incredibly helpful because we get one another and the pains that we both experience because of our situation.
[Whether or not you’re same-sex attracted, being single and celibate in your 30’s is a very unique and challenging place to live. It’s hard being this age and single because let’s face it…who has time to hang out with you? Most people in their 30’s are married with families so they don’t have time to give. Making new single guy friends my age(that aren’t gay) seems impossible now-a-days because they are rare. No offense, but it’s more common for there to be single females my age around and that’s not what I need more of in my life]
Back to my friend’s news: I’m in a relationship…with a man
I never expected to hear this from him honestly. After he said this, I stood there frozen as if in a fog. It was hard for me to hear and process what just happened, as he continued to share enthusiastically about how they met. Once I snapped out of it, I realized that he had asked me if I was shocked. Honestly, I’ve had numerous acquaintances who at one time lived with me and/or served in ministry with me, come out years later. Many of these individuals have eventually gotten into relationships and some even married. So I know from experience that this progression can occur to anyone, even those who at one time held different views. So I told him that I wasn’t shocked but this was all very unexpected.
Once I was alone and able to think everything through, I began feeling the weight of this blow. I found that this news awakened something in my own being, something deep that I was unaware of. I began telling myself, if HE can be in a relationship with a man, why can’t I? Why can’t I be happy and have someone that cares about me like that? There was still though a great tension within me because I didn’t want sexual intimacy with a man but I did want companionship and to feel wanted and enjoyed by another man exclusively. Then the lightbulb went off!! The answer was staring me in the face this whole time: it was time for me to start dating men for the first time. I was convinced that this pursuit would definitely lead to my happiness…
How would you define the pursuit of happiness today? What things are you pursuing to gain happiness? Are you happy?
So first on my agenda was figuring out how to get myself out there and “on the market” so to speak. I’ve never been one to go to bars or clubs so that wasn’t an option for me. This left me with the social media world of dating websites and dating apps. After the thrill and initial expectation wore off, I was faced with a rude realization. I assumed that it would be quite easy to find available peers with the mutual interest of friendship and simply getting to know one another better. WRONG! Months of searching, hoping, and waiting proved completely fruitless. The lack of interest/initiation and inconsistent conversation made things very clear to me. Everyone is really just out for their own satisfaction and pleasure. I had allowed myself to be drawn into this mentality as well! With each “match” on the app and conversation, it was all about what I could gain. I wasn’t ever thinking about what I could give to this stranger or how I could sacrificially love them. I had to admit that I was pursuing happiness my way, by the standard that I thought would satisfy me. I thought this was my right! Isn’t that what Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Livingston, and Sherman meant?
“At the time of the Declaration’s composition, ‘the pursuit of happiness’ did not mean chasing or seeking it, but actually practicing happiness, the experience of happiness” Arthur Schlesinger
THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING
My right isn’t in pursuing what I feel is right for me; my right is to experience happiness in a thriving, good life. This is ONLY accomplished through Jesus! He came so that we might experience life abundantly. We must all let go of our fantasies of that one thing that it would take for us to feel better and to live fulfilled lives. For me, I had to let go of the idea of a perfect easy relationship/friendship with a guy. Remember that when we come to Jesus, we no longer have any rights to ourself. We have died and now Christ lives within us. I can’t just do what I feel is good anymore because I am God’s own possession. I must first have a conversation with God and let Him counsel me and lead me into truth and life. I must return to my first love- God and cultivate deeper friendship with Him. There’s a part of a song that always redirects my heart to this that asks, “Who am I to lead myself when I’ve come to know that You’re already leading me?” If we’re going to be selfish, let’s be selfish to experience as much of God for ourselves as possible consistently. When we point our attention toward the Author of Life instead of these distractions around us, its ironic just how quickly we begin to experience happiness. If you want a happy life, get more of God in your life.
“Blessed(happy) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6