Watching my happy-go-lucky six year old son at play recently, I asked him one of those ridiculous, impossible questions: “What’s the secret to your happiness?” He did not have an answer for me. I didn’t really expect he would, but I hoped.
It felt a lot less ridiculous of a question when my good friend Holly mentioned (unprompted) that she had JUST asked her six year old daughter the exact same question. Word for word, in fact. Either Holly is keeping the told secret to herself, or I’ll choose to believe that her charming daughter did in fact demure with “I don’t know.”
We must all want a little dose of that six year old carefreeness.
It got me thinking that if I were ever asked that question, I should think about how I might respond. So far it’s not a question that has come up much. We read books about it, but rarely do we ask each about it. I’ve got a long way to go before one might ever mistake me for a beacon of carefreeness, but I’m pointed in that general direction and I do have my what's-up-with-her-Jim-Carey-happy-days. And if ever someone asked ME what the secret to my (not) youthful skin was, I’d have to segue straight into my secret for happiness answer.
If I want to play it safe, my answer would be gratitude. It’s definitely part of the answer, but it’s more a byproduct of the honest, braver answer. No one is offended by gratitude which makes it safe, and most of us have experienced the altering impact that gratitude can have on one’s outlook. I’m a total believer in the whole Gratitude movement. But … it’s not “thank you” that I murmur under my breath countless times a day. It’s “Jesus.” He is the source of my happiness, and He’d really rather me not keep it a secret.
I’ve been a Christian for a long time, but I only started this bumbling of “Jesus” throughout the day in the last couple of years. I’d like to call it a spiritual practice, but really it’s just my shorthand for wanting to stay in touch with the God of the Universe when I’m too lazy/tired/annoyed/angry to offer a real prayer. As my pastor says, “Jesus didn’t say ‘Come to the Truth’ (like Socrates) or Come With It All Figured Out, he said ‘Come to Me.’” Right before that Jesus talked about how he was the Way to the God of the Universe. And He specifically directed this open invitation to those that are weary and need a rest, which for most of us, happens about a dozen times a day. More if you have children.
The daily workings of our own life along with the myriad of relationships we simultaneously enjoy but have to work at, compounded by those few relationships that we can’t escape, is enough to make us all weary. Then there is all the mess we can’t control, but also can’t ignore – another grim story about Syria and the 2 million refugees, a friend who’s gotten cancer. And then there’s the stuff like wet towels on the bathroom floor we wish wouldn’t get under our skin but does. These are the moments I offer my “Jesus” popcorn prayers. The moments where thoughts of gratitude are maybe helpful, but completely inadequate.
Turns out that when “Jesus” is what your inside voice is saying, your outside voice naturally moderates. My words soften, and my outlook shifts ever so slightly. I never see the big picture, but I see more of it. You can will yourself into a more hopeful mental state, but this is different. This is taking Jesus up on his invitation to plug into my life – right where I am, trusting that He is the life source that He promised. Jesus talked a lot about transformation, not obtained through intellectual pursuit, but rather realized through this radical idea of leaning our full weight into Him. Popcorn Jesus prayers are exactly what I believed He had in mind. They are the beginning of a chain reaction. Of course, I sometimes muddle that chain reaction up later downstream giving me yet another reason to bring Jesus right back into the picture.
It’s harder to believe that my little Jesus prayers will
have any bearing at all in places that are beyond my control, but better to put
Jesus on the job there then shore up my own position on how I would fix
it. Most of the time I/we have no idea how
best to help in these places of desperate need,
and when that’s the case – it seems best to invite Jesus to go into
those places and situations and meet the people where they are. He knows and that's a lot more useful than me knowing.
I want you to know that I also still say “Shit” under my breath too. It’s possible I may even say it out loud more than I say Jesus. Jesus knows this and loves me just the same.
So even though you didn’t ask, “What is the secret to my happiness?”, now you know.