~ LIVING ~
~ LIVING ~
“Finally! I finally have what I need to make it all perfect! We are living the American Dream! I can be happy, relax and enjoy life.”
She was so excited to begin to see all the hard work paying off. She had worked full-time while raising 2 babies and living on a single income budget while her husband finished his graduate degree. It had been a long, exhausting time, but she could see the finish line clearly now.
Her husband would be graduating on Saturday and already had the dream job they hoped for. She would even be able to squeeze in a mini-vacation to celebrate before his first day on the job! She was so excited. No more pinching pennies. No more weekends and long nights with her husband in the library instead of helping her with the family.
Finally, we are going to have it all. We have worked so hard for this day and we can now be the happy little white-picket-fence family we dreamed of years ago.
Fast forward 3 years after graduation weekend. Let me tell you what my conversation looked like this day. Her smile was a forced as she welcomed me onto the couch with a cup of coffee.
Today, she looked at me with questioning and tears in her eyes and said, “I have it all. My husband has a great career, I only work if I want to, the kids are growing up and doing great, we have our dream home and cars….so why do I still feel unfulfilled and unsatisfied?”
She did have everything. Everything from the outside, but she was still lacking on the inside. You see, my friend was only doing what she had been told. She was following all the rules for obtaining all that would deliver happiness. She had the picture perfect American Dream. They worked hard and they achieved the goal, only to find there was still ‘something’ missing.
“What is wrong with me? Why am I not happy and content? I just knew when our plan came together we would be able to relax and enjoy life??” She was confused. She knew enough to know that another trip to the boutique or salon wouldn’t fix this. She had already tried that. She then looked silently at me and waited for what I had to say.
I was ready to have this conversation. You see, I had been praying for my friend since I met her a couple of years ago when she joined our church. Her family came to church semi-regularly. At least during the school year. Summer time they spent much of the time away at their vacation home.
Back to the story…as I became friends with her, we just clicked. She was outgoing and personable. A good person. She knew a good bit about church and why she needed to bring her kids and always ready to volunteer to help with different projects. But I could tell the more I got to know her that she was missing the main thing…a personal relationship with Jesus. We had moved towards this subject before at different times, but she continued to tell me each time she had ‘taken care’ of all of that. She had been baptized when she was 11 and she was now going to get to go to Heaven.
She didn’t really care to hear much about the personal relationship part before, but I could tell that today may be different. She was truly upset and thought there had to be something more she was missing. I could sense in her voice that she may be remembering some of our previous conversations. This was my invitation!
I just went for it! I told her to hear me out before saying anything. She agreed. (we were friends like that!) I began by telling her that because of the sin and brokenness in the world, we are all born with a ‘broken’ soul that can only be satisfied and filled when Jesus comes in. Jesus then goes straight to the ‘broken places’ to mend & make whole what we couldn’t. That relationship with our Father God is then fully connected! I gave her a second to digest what I had said. I then told her that once Jesus is invited in, everything begins to change. He brings peace, joy, love and of course satisfaction and fulfillment. I told her that Jesus brings that to all, the ones with & without material luxuries as well as those who are sick or healthy. Jesus brings into our soul everything we can't.
I opened her gorgeous leather bible with a swirly monogram on the front to show her a few scriptures that may help her see it from God’s Word, not just my viewpoint. The pages still smelled new and were hard to separate, but we did it. I picked a few verses that I wanted her to see and hear:
John 3:16 For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son (Jesus), so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. HCSB
John 10:10 The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]. AMP
Jeremiah 29:11-13 “For I know the plans I have for you” this is the Lord’s declaration “plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” NLT
Ecclesiastes 3:11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. NLT
Mark 8:36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your soul? NLT
She thought for a moment and tears began to stream down her face silently. She looked at me with a small grin and said, “I had a feeling you were going to say that….and I am glad you did. I think I need the Jesus that you know instead of the ticket-out-of-hell that I wanted.”
Then I was the one smiling!
With both of us in happy tears, we knelt, a little awkwardly, and then prayed a simple prayer to ask Jesus to come mend those broken places and to plant in her the joy, peace, love and light that comes only from God of eternity. They were simple words. No special reciting or reading, just a heart that wanted Jesus and relationship with the One she would spend eternity with. It was AWESOME.
I will fast forward 12 years and update you on my friend today. She is happy. Not just happy, but filled to overflowing with joy, peace, and love for others. She and her husband are still blessed with many luxuries. Although, she has shared more than once with others that Jesus is what brings the full, satisfying and abundant life, not those things. She is very generous and quick to give God the glory for all they have been able to accomplish.
I have always remembered a sentence I heard her say years ago and it stuck:
Happiness is what I thought I was after, but it was Joy from Jesus all along!
Today, just remember, even when others appear to have the 'perfect' life, you never know what their soul may be aching for. Always be ready to share what you have!