Is true love and happiness just the carrot dangled in front of us?

The possibility that we can find true love and happiness is the carrot dangled in front of us. It is the promise in every romantic comedy. We would be disappointed if it wasn’t. However, real life begs the question of whether we have placed our faith in fairytales. I know I have wondered this.

In my teens and early twenties I battled the fear that nobody would want to marry me. My three younger siblings were married and I found myself wallowing in longing and loneliness. Marriage and family seemed to be the missing element that would fill the void I felt. My mother was convinced it was the next thing I needed and I admit I listened to her. I even went so far as to visit a “boyfriend” in another province with whom I had a rather long long-distance relationship to let him know I was finally ready to settle down. Unfortunately I discovered he was now taken.

I watched an interview with a young woman who had every marriageable quality, namely beauty, youth, understanding, insight. She cleans houses for a living and lives frugally. Who wouldn’t want a woman like her for a wife? But like me, she expressed a fatalistic acceptance of never being married. It hit me that I know very many in their twenties and thirties like her. I wished I could open a match-making service to bring these people together.

I think what is missing is opportunity to meet a varied group of marriageable people in a setting where there is no pressure.

Someone told our college-aged group that we would marry out of our acquaintances and this jarred me. I realized that I held onto a fantasy that my prince would come riding into town one day. He was not already there, among my peers, waiting to be acknlowledged. I had tried to broaden my horizons. Nothing wrong with that. I remember a girlfriend and I went to a gathering of youth across the border, with no other intent than the hope that we might meet someone.

I wasn’t alone in my thinking. Two of my best friends also despaired of ever getting married. Like the girl I mentioned earlier, they had everything to recommend them for marriage but it was as though all hell was bent on keeping us from the alter. Recently I have begun to think there may actually be some truth to this. We cannot deny there are oppositional forces keeping people apart and preventing them from committing to another person.

Why should my girlfriend and I get married, a young man asked me. So you can have a family, was my response.

Family. Think about it. We come from a family, such as it was. We dream about the ideal, two-parent biological family. Nobody can deny it is what we need and want.

I think many people have given up on ever having either marriage or happiness. Not only is it disappointing to have neither love nor happiness, it is depressing and almost devastating to have to acknowledge that this was the elusive carrot and that we were virtually deceived and promised an ideal that would never happen.

But happiness is not tied to marriage. In fact, happiness is not dependent on our situation. It is a mindset. It is deciding to refuse to be unhappy and doing everything we know to do in order not to sink into despair. I’ve engaged in years of observation and study to find out why some people are happy and others are not. I’ve concluded happiness is not dependent on circumstances. People can be in an identically trying place and one will be happy while another will be on the brink of suicide. Each has arrived where they are as a result of a pattern of choices in how they respond to what life deals them.

Refusal to sink is a powerful weapon. It means you may go under water, but you will always rise again. It means you believe in your resilience. You get up as many times as you fall down.

It also means looking out for the things that make you buoyant and strong.

At the root of happiness is a personal integrity. You value your life.

It follows that if you value your own life, you will value the lives of others. And if you value the lives of others, you will live your life so as to make the world a better place. Integrity is being the same person on the outside as you are on the inside. It also means cleaning up the mess inside.

It means dealing with your anxious feelings, with your tendency to become easily annoyed, with your constant worrying, with your fearfulness, with your difficulty coping. It means facing the truth that the best thing you can do for yourself is to become a stronger, better adjusted person.

An interesting thing happened at the time in my life when I was afraid I would never get married. I increased my happiness level.

I had not wasted my time while I was waiting for my prince. I had worked at becoming marriageable. It struck me one day that I needed to become the person who would attract the kind of person I wanted to marry. Once I had this revelation an amazing thing happened. I began to have options. I also turned down unsuitable prospects because I valued myself and knew what I needed.

I was still unrealistic, however. I might not marry a “handsome prince.” Looking back I see that I had a sad pattern of always falling for a stereotype. Yes, the tall, dark, handsome type. I married a ginger.

As I thought about who I wanted in my life as a life partner, I decided that I wanted someone whom I would enjoy sitting across from me at the breakfast table for my remaining years.

Happiness has not come easy for me, but the pursuit has been rewarding. I think we find happiness in the pursuit because our eyes are opened.

Lately I have had more of a struggle maintaining a happy spirit. I awaken at night with dismal feelings, even feelings of doom. I don’t think it is possible to be truly happy unless your soul is at rest. This is where I believe the Christian faith shines. Not only does the example of Christ inspire, we are offered forgiveness. This is such a unique and profound concept. That we can start anew. That we can be restored in our relationship after having failed. That we can offer this hope to others.

A life of integrity is a life lived with the quiet assurance that we have done our part reasonably well. This is what helps us sleep at night. It is also a life that is not naive and can face with courage the evil and devastation in the world. Let’s be honest, there is evil and devastation. The longer we live, the more we see. This is the reason for my feelings of doom. It is the reality we live with. The only response I have found to lift me out of this place is prayer. Prayer is an aspect of virtually all religions. But prayer is only a placebo if the entity to which we are praying is a figment of our imagination. On the other hand, if we believe in a Creator of the universe, then it follows that this Creator and sustainer of life cares. Every day we have a new sunrise. Every day the birds are fed. Every day plants grow. This simple observation is enough to lift me out of despair every time because it is evidence that my Creator lives. My only reasonable response is awe and worship and gratitude.

When I awake with feelings of doom in the middle of the night, I begin to pray for the world. The beauty and the order I see in creation, the intricacies of the balance of nature, inspire me to pray for the same thing among human beings. In other words, I pray “Thy kingdom; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

I consider myself the most fortunate person on earth to have grasped this understanding. Prayer for me is not a placebo. It is a powerful coming into unity with the one who created me and sustains me. We have been done a serious disservice by being taught to put our faith in the theory of evolution. We have been told to believe in a “theory.” In fact the qualifier, “theory” has been mostly erased. In university we are stigmatized if we do not “believe” in evolution.

This is more critical than people realize. I propose that the real purpose of the introduction of the theory of evolution was actually an objection to belief in a Creator. However, looking at the laws of the universe will quickly dispel the theory. Seeing that there is no evidence of the “in-between” and “imperfect” stages of development disproves the theory. Yes, there are similarities between species that could point to giving rise to superior species and development from simplicity to complexity. But there are components that need to be in place simultaneously and so many components that evolution never attempts to explain. This proposition merely depends on our ignorance and inability and unwillingness to open our eyes and see and reason.

Why is this relevant to marriage and happiness? Every species propagates. Propagation is part of purpose. If we cannot propagate, we can support others who can. Do you see how evolutionary theory opposes propagation? It cannot have a worldview of blessing and sustenance by the Creator. It totally depends on personal effort. Well, we are doomed when we exclude a Greater Power.

This is why faith can be threatening. It truly engages a Higher Power. It is also why faith and religion have not only been maligned but have been distorted and destroyed from within and become unrecognizable as a source of goodness and strength. It is what the Bible refers to as damnable, the “holding of truth in unrighteousness.” The perfection we see in creation around us is meant to be mirrored in our lives. Yes, there is forgiveness offered when we fail, and we all fail. But we are called to a higher place. A place where rivers of living water flow out of our belly. A place of fruit-bearing. A place of hope and joy and peace.

You will see that this flies in the face of popular culture. This is because God has a real adversary and people can choose with which side to align themselves.

Whenever I pray for the whole world when I have a personal need, I feel the burden lift. But it is not a victory without a battle. There is a relationship we can have with our Creator that exceeds the beauty and fulfillment of a marriage. I have lived this for decades and I have found “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” It is the glory of God we are seeking, even more than marriage and happiness. When we experience the glory we will not be satisfied with anything less. We will have a “continual feast” and it will make us the kind of people in whose company others desire to be. It will also give us patience during the times of waiting. And much of life is waiting.

I am amazed at how confrontational these simple observations are today. We have moved so far from the simple understanding of believing in a life-giving God and living a life according to godly principles in the way we were intended to live. All of nature around us is an example of the beauty and simplicity of a life lived according to the original blueprint.

Recovery from Moral Injury

In Canada we set aside November 11 as Remembrance Day. Flags are lowered and there are ceremonies across the country honouring veterans, along with a minute of silence at 11:00 a.m. This year I was deeply moved as I read two articles posted on Facebook by relatives of veterans. One relates to the Battle of Vimy Ridge, in the First World War. The other is about the D-Day Battle at Normandy, in World War II. Both were turning points.

It struck me that many of the men on the beaches of Normandy only had field experience and, as was reported, “were already in the boats when they learned it was no exercise” that awaited them. Only four of the eleven member company of Abe Goertzen (below) returned.

As we commemorate Remembrance Day I think of those who gave their lives and the loved ones they left behind. I think of the ones who returned and try to comprehend what soldiers endured. I know I will never fully understand.

In an article by Charlotte Cuthbertson, in the Epoch Times, entitled, After War, the Journey Home Takes a Lifetime, we read that the community has to share responsibility for what happened in a war. Psychotherapist Ed Tick, who has worked with veterans for 45 years, puts it this way, “You acted in my name, I paid the bills, I sent you. You didn’t do this on your own. And it wasn’t your decision, you were doing it representing me and our country, and you thought you were protecting me. So I take responsibility for you. And for whatever you did, and I’ll carry it with you, and I’ll help you come home.”

As a community we often don’t even begin to know how to help veterans return home. This became very clear to my husband and me some years ago when we discovered a veteran deceased in his room on Remembrance Day. He lived in the townhouse complex we managed. We were alerted to something being wrong when the tenant beneath him called to tell us the music had been on all night in the suite above him. The tenant seemed distressed earlier in the week and related some of his wartime experience in the Korean War to my husband. We were deeply concerned, but didn’t know what to do beyond offering compassion and lending a listening ear.

Moral injury is defined as a wound to the soul caused by participation in events that violate one’s deeply held sense of right and wrong.

After the War The Journey Home takes a lifetime – Epoch Times

The Epoch Times article outlines six therapeutic steps to recovery from wartime trauma and it is worth the read. It points out that moral injury is the most difficult to process. From the article, “Moral injury is defined as a wound to the soul caused by participation in events that violate one’s deeply held sense of right and wrong.” According to Tick, “Even witnessing morally questionable acts will cause moral injury….Moral injury is at the heart of PTSD.”

The article states, Moral injury symptoms include profound shame, guilt, betrayal, grief, and alienation.

In the words of Dr. Tick, “We really have to get our warriors in service and our veterans afterward to feel safe and secure so they can deeply explore their own conscience and their own value system and how they feel about what they did. And then give them opportunities for restoring and recovering those more esoteric moral dimensions of their being.” Tick relates the moving story of healing that happens when he takes vets of the Viet Nahm war back to Viet Nahm where they meet their fellow “warriors.”

What stood out for me was the view that veterans do not become normal citizens but are instead warriors. “Traditional cultures didn’t call somebody a warrior until they could carry the experience without traumatic breakdown. Because warriors are supposed to become community elders and leaders and teachers after service,” states Tick.

I recently heard Jordan Peterson allude to the necessity of a higher “spiritual” experience in the context of recovering from addiction. This revelation draws a person out of the depths to a higher plane of experience. I see a similarity of experience here as veterans view themselves as unique contributors to society.

…war is brought about by those who violate their consciences and do unconscionable things. When there is an aggressor there is correspondingly the defender.

As I contemplated moral injury, I was reminded of the words of Jordan Peterson, in Beyond Order, Twelve More Rules for Life, where he stresses the importance of not doing anything that would make you “contemptuous of yourself” or that makes you “weak and ashamed.” In other words, “Don’t do anything that violates your conscience.”

Wartime causes men to violate their conscience. I venture to say war is brought about by those who violate their consciences and do unconscionable things. When there is an aggressor there is correspondingly the defender.

While we are privileged to live in a society where we are not compelled to violate our conscience, we want to value this freedom and guard our hearts and minds to avoid moral injury and its devastation. There is an old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Read the article for more insights. As the title states, After War, the Journey Home Takes a Lifetime.


Not Alone on Easter Sunday

It is strange to think that churches are closed today and there will be no corporate Easter celebrations. I regret to admit, my husband and I have not been faithful attendees at church for some years. But I cherish memories of Easters past. As a little girl my mother would sew beautiful Easter dresses for me and my sisters for Easter Sunday. As adults we would gather after church at my grandmother’s home. She always had marshmallow Easter eggs for us and Easter Bread.

In my mind Easter is associated with spring flowers, freshly scented Spring air, birds, and robin eggs. I recall the special hymns of the season and my heart is stirred.

Yesterday I wrote a poem. It was Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter.

A Gray Day

An agonizing cry splits the skies,

As he hangs his head and dies.

Doom hovers

The sun is darkened

The earth quakes beneath the weight.

The curtain is rent.

Graves yield their dead.

As life is suspended

Between an empty cross

And a sealed tomb.

A sunless day.

Too quickly the bright rays burst,

And birds sing in chorus,

Resurrection songs of morning,

While blood-stained spikes

Lie on the ground,

A remnant of a gray day.

We move so quickly from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. Such stark contrasts. I was reminded, yesterday, of what a bleak day Saturday must have been for Christ’s followers. There is not even a hint that they looked forward to a resurrection. Although Jesus told them what would happen to him, they couldn’t grasp it. Saturday was a gray, sunless day indeed.

What gets me about the Easter story is not only that his disciples did not believe, but the fact that it was religious leaders that stirred up the mob to demand that Pilate crucify Christ. Religious leaders. Get that.

It wasn’t the prostitutes and sinners. It wasn’t the atheists. It wasn’t even the political leaders of the day, although they went after the disciples later, and had John the Baptist imprisoned earlier.

People can be cruel. We can be cruel. The other day someone said to me, “Compassion can be cruel.” I thought about that for awhile and decided he was right. In our obsession to defend one cause we can be totally blinded to another need. The religious leaders thought they were defending the faith. Their religion was being threatened. So, the correct thing to do was annihilate the perceived threat. This was completely contrary to the teaching of their faith, to love God and to love others…and not to kill. But they couldn’t handle a little bit of controversy in their midst.

We are told Pilate believed they delivered Christ to be crucified out of envy. That is an interesting thought to ponder. In the book of Proverbs we read, Wrath is cruel…but who can stand before envy…. Jealousy is more dangerous and cruel than anger.

My thinking is that the religious leaders felt they had something to lose and it was probably fairly wrapped up in their pride. As we have heard, Pride goeth before a fall.

My husband and I tried to continue to go to church but after a time we found we simply could no longer “keep up appearances.”

“Please come home,” someone begged us. That is the point. Church no longer feels like home. We no longer feel like we belong there. It shouldn’t be this way. But it is.

So, on this Easter Sunday, we are not alone. Strange thought.

Have you ever asked how this life was meant to be lived? Outside my window birds flit from branch to branch. They peck at the ground. They build nests. They lay eggs. They fly south for the winter. They return. Seems pretty simple.

The coronavirus isolation has made me see how we have complicated life. For some reason the high-rises I see grouped together, casting their long shadows, leaving streets in gloom all day, are halting my attention. I keep looking up at them. I keep thinking about them. I think about the elevators. About how complicated it is to get in and out of them now. It is as though they are symbolic of a bigger problem.

What Easter means to me is that every life is of infinite value. We must save lives. And life is worth living. Sins can be forgiven. We can have new life. And the question remains, How is this life meant to be lived?