Today I met with my spiritual director. If you do not have one stop what you are doing and find one. He said a few things that deeply resonated with me. I will incorporate them into this blog post.
He told me a story:
This guy went to Thomas Merton for spiritual direction. Merton asked, "How are things?" The guys said, "Things are horrible. I can't seem to get anything right." Merton responded, "This will pass. Things will change." A few weeks later the guy returned to visit with Merton. This time his news was much more positive. "Things are going very well," the man reported. "I see the face of God all around me." Merton responded, "This will pass. Things will change."
I thought that story was brilliant. After the laughter settled, the director asked, "Are you pursuing happiness or peace?"
I want us all to think about this. If the feeling of happiness is our only goal we end up making decisions that have no bearing on the long term health and wellness of our spirituality and our interaction with others. Sure, pursuing happiness could lead to good, but it can also lead to bad. The pursuit of happiness is what leads people to start successful businesses and what causes company execs to take unethical shortcuts to pad numbers. The pursuit of happiness gives a young man incentive to pursue a woman, but it can also cause that same man to pursue a mistress. Pursuing happiness is an unsteady way to make decisions. It is like building a mansion on an unsteady foundation. All looks good for a week, but it will come crashing down. However, if we pursue peace then we will consistently make decisions that are best for the long term health and wellbeing of us and those whom we love.
We will always have seasons of discomfort. There will always be pain. If the pain is dysfunctional then yes, perhaps you should make a change. But if you are experiencing pain because your ego is dying, then lean into that pain. That is the path to surrendering to the living God. That is the path to true liberty and justice for all.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.