It was our date night. We should have been enjoying our fancy meal and chatting about how nice it was to be out of the house sans kids. But instead I sat there holding my little piece of folded paper, tears starting to well up in my eyes, garnering the courage to speak frankly to my husband. I was scared. I was hopeful. I was confused. And I had no idea how my husband would react to my plan to completely overhaul our lives and start anew.
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I slowly began. “I’ve been thinking about where we are in our life and I’ve come to realize that I am not happy, at all.” I poured out the details of how I saw our life and the tears started flowing freely. At the time, I was feeling pulled in a lot of different directions and I was feeling overwhelmed by it all and out of control. I wanted a bigger house, I wanted out of debt, I wanted to save more for retirement and my children’s college education, I wanted more time to spend with my husband and kids, I wanted a different life, period.
I opened up my piece of paper and showed my husband how our lives could be different, how they could be so much better. The tears were pouring now as I told my husband that I wanted to sell our house, change jobs, move to a less expensive location, pay off our debt and live a life free of the stress that I felt had slowly been building up over time.
What I really wanted was to find the quick and easy road to happiness. What took me a while to realize was that no such thing exists.
Fortunately, my husband did not see things the same way. He couldn’t understand why I would want to take my family and move somewhere where we didn’t know anybody, where we’d have to start over, when we already had a life here. We had family and friends here, we had built up our careers and our community, and we lived in a neighborhood where we felt safe and that had great schools. He looked at my plan and started revising it so that it fit our current situation. He saw joy in our life where I saw despair. After that dinner, I went home feeling defeated and lost.
Looking back, if we had followed through on my plan I’m sure I would have just found other things that made me unhappy. I would have complained that I didn’t have any friends, that it was too hot, that I didn’t like our neighborhood, that I didn’t like the schools, and so on.
What I came to understand was that the problem wasn’t our current situation, the problem was me. The problem was in the way I was responding to our current situation. Or rather in the way I was failing to respond to it.
A bigger house wouldn’t solve my problems.
More money and time wouldn’t solve them either. Yet I didn’t know what would solve my problems. I needed to understand how I could push myself past this depression.
The next month, I spent time fasting, praying, and meditating on scripture. I needed to renew my mind by focusing on what was most important, and I had to let go of everything else.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2a (NIV).
By focusing first on God, I slowly began to release the clutch that was holding me back from choosing joy in my life. True transformation began when I let go of thinking that “if I only had (fill in the blank), my life would be better.” A bigger house, more money in the bank, and more free time did not equate to a joyful life.
To choose joy, I learned that I must first renew my mind by focusing on what is most important and letting go of everything else.
Then and only then would it be possible to live out God’s good, pleasing and perfect will in my life. Discerning God’s will is no easy task. You must have an open heart willing to accept His grace and love.
After this aha moment in my life, everything changed. I saw beauty where before I saw flaws. I saw potential where before I saw impossibility. I replaced sadness with joy. I was transformed by a renewing of my mind.
If you are not experiencing true, life-giving joy in your life, the good news is that you can choose joy. Let go of the chains that are holding you back, stop saying “if only (fill in the blank)” and start the transformation. True transformation does not happen overnight but it does happen when you allow yourself to let go and surrender.
Will you choose joy? Join me in saying yes to God’s will and begin the transformation today.
With Love and Joy,