Happiness always seemed shallow and selfish to me. And for the longest time, it seemed impossible.
I still haven’t made up my mind. There are more important things, in my opinion. Love, for instance, and sacrifice. Taking up your cross and following me. But misery itself is not love. There is no special virtue in misery, and it is a vice for people with scars on their wrists or their souls. It is easy, too easy, to sink into sadness. It is too easy to die on a cross that no one asked me to, that will bring life to no one.
To seek out the peace, quiet the shoulds, empty my hands, and live–that is the hard thing. That is sometimes the sacrifice, the thing that feels like the cross.
My maid of honor read this poem during the toast at our wedding reception. Josh’s dad had passed away a month before, just a few days before our original wedding date. This poem, “Happiness,” felt like a prophecy to two people who were grieving, who had both laughed and cried so hard that it felt like we would never be able to do either again.
Call it happiness, if you want. Or maybe there’s a better word. Joy. Peace. Healing. It comes, like the prodigal come home. It comes, and thank God it does.
There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.
And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.
No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.
It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.
This post is part of a series, 31 Days of Healing. Check out Day 1 or the complete list of posts. If you want to follow along, you can also subscribe by email or subscribe in a feed reader. Or “like” the blog on Facebook. (We’re all about options here.) And thanks for reading!