"Feeling something is off" can mean different things to different people: I feel tired or unfulfilled. I am bored, restless and want an exciting challenge. I feel far from God - spiritually dry. I wonder if there is suppose to be more to life than this? I just don't know what I need ...
The woman who originally asked the question - giving voice to so many of us - described her current life as really good. In many ways it was all she could or had ever asked for. She even felt a little guilty at times for how well things were turning out for her. Yet contentment proved elusive.
I wonder if that isn't because we tend to have a mental list of "I'll be happy when _____."
For many the list goes something like this. I'll be happy when I lose 10 lbs, get a great job, get married to an adoring husband who earns enough money that I can quit my great job while we have a couple of kids, and raise them together in a really nice house that the housekeeping service cleans once a week for me.
Maybe your list is different. Maybe you are certain you will be happy once you get rid of your job, or your house, or your spouse. Maybe you don't want any of those things. Maybe you want to move to Paris where you will sit in French cafes and write best-selling novels - and then you'll be happy.
My point is, we imagine certain circumstances will be our happy points. Some of us are fortunate enough to get most of the things on our happy list, or on the culture's happy list (otherwise known as the American Dream). And when the contented bliss we expected doesn't roll in with the reaching of those circumstances, we're left confused. Feeling a bit disillusioned. Something seems "off" here.
And we wonder with a slight sense of panic, if I am not content and happy now - with all of this - will I ever be? Can I ever be? Is this as good as life gets? Or have I missed the boat somewhere? Should I have pursued another career? Should I become an outdoorsy travel adventurist? Would I be happier if I took up yoga, ate granola and went green? Or maybe if I moved to the beach ...
I call this mental happy list achievement followed by letdown the "Perfect on Paper Syndrome." On paper - if you were to list it all out like a resume - your life looks pretty good. (Especially if someone mentions starving children in 3rd world countries.) So, therefore, you should be happy, right? Only you aren't quite. And you're not sure why that is or what to do about it.
I know what I speak of. I've fallen prey to this syndrome too, and found myself in a mild depression like a constant low grade-fever.
A couple years ago I went on a quest through the scriptures to find out what the Bible says about a good life. What is pleasing to God? What does He say will please me? What does He intend me to be pleased with? Are you able to answer these questions?
After that I settled on a mission for my life: To craft a life that is pleasing to me and to Christ. I want to conform my mental happy list to God's mental happy list for me. Hence the motto in my devotion last weekend: When I stop striving to create a life for myself, I find the life that God creates for me.
CREATE, by the way, is my one word for 2012.
So what's on your mental "I'll be happy when ..." list?
It's vital to realize what's on your list. Write it down and examine it. Because it is driving you. It's driving your expectations and (re)actions. It's determining your ability to find contentment and gratitude in today - whatever today looks like.
There's nothing wrong with having goals. In my last post I said it may just be that our "little bit off friend" now has too much free time and not enough challenge in her life. I'm not suggesting we abandon planning or goal-setting, hobbies or even dreaming. But when things feel "off" we have to examine what is going on beneath the surface.
I like to ask:
1) What expectations are driving me? Are they realistic? Can I expect to get this from that? Are they biblical? Because our expectations - for what we need and how we should get our needs met - affect our emotions.
2) What's the current status of my soul? Have I been neglecting it? When did I last connect with God? Am I remaining in Christ? Am I engaging in any spiritual practices? Because we often mistake spiritual issues for material ones.