The happiness that seeks us
By Marvin Repinski
United Methodist Pastor (retired)
It’s a little after three in the morning. A couple of thoughts keep swirling around in my head. I can’t sleep, so might as well get up. Read? No, write.
After nearly two years, a question keeps coming back to me. It is a question from my daughter who lives in St. Paul. She has had a career for over 25 years, working at institutions that care for disabled adults. With some of her stories, reportage created a melting with her. I think of Frank, now deceased, whom she nurtured with great love for some years. Frank was almost completely dependent on the care of others.
The question to me from my daughter, “Dad, are you happy?” Two things in hindsight. Was it a question related to the well-being of her aging father? Yes, that’s part of it. Also, was it a question related to her own state of happiness or sometimes the lack thereof? Maybe both. I recall saying something about the many forms of happiness there are; sorting out some whys and wherefores. But I do recall saying something about happiness being a very elusive dimension of living. I did nail down what I’ve embraced for many years as my state of being. I, for the most part, have contentment. On most days, despite the craziness of this world, I have a deep satisfaction. A final thought to my dear daughter. Today I’m calm and that’s a plus! Also, I’m still telling jokes.
Now, for the present weeks — Thanksgiving, then Christmas. I think of a seasonal thought. It doesn’t pester me. It creates an atmosphere of refreshment, of peace. It’s a cradle of “things are going to work out.” The first prayer I recall speaking: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.” That’s sufficient for each day. But there is more. So let us reflect on the more.
An elegant impact
In a gift catalog issued by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, is an abundance of holiday greeting cards that one can pick out and order. I look at the pictured reproductions and of a painting of “Madonna and Child.” The description is: “ornate floral patterns adorn the Virgin’s halo and robes as she tenderly gazes upon the Christ child.” It’s a gold leaf painting by Eyvind Earle from 1966. I view it and am content. Please don’t do a Freud interpretation on me. Freud, the imaginative scholar who dug into our inner minds and souls, might have said to me if I were on his couch. “Sir, your attraction is, in fact, the reality of your life. You miss your mother.” Oh! And you, Dr. Freud, do you not miss your mother? I do miss Mildred, my mother, but I live in a larger world than your imagination, Dr. Freud!
I find a contentment in viewing moving, well-done religious art. Of all the books in the Bible, the Psalms are where I rest; I find a satisfaction. Is it that the Hebrew, Jewish authors gave us Christians the building blocks of Christianity? And so I embrace faithful Jewish people as God’s people today. (“Saved” you say? Yes!) And I pray with them: “As the deer yearns for running water, so my soul longs for you, O God.” (Psalm 42)
A beacon against the darkness
Before me is a catalog of sorts — “A Contemplative Approach,” issued by the Sisters of Saint Francis, Rochester, Minnesota. Maybe Becky and I receive these updates from Assisi Heights as a return for some financial support we share. My spiritual restlessness encourages my search.
One can be satisfied and yet be on a search. Ever heard of evolution, growth, progress, and climbing the next step? My present comfort is enhanced by institutions and persons like the Sisters. One of them, Sister Christine Stanoch, writes of the thousands of persons who have been influenced by the Spirituality Center. “Walk on the grounds at Assisi Heights. At night, it is truly a beautiful site to see the lights of the city from atop this hill.” Sister Stanoch reminds us of this welcoming community — those carrying burdens, those suffering illnesses, and others still facing difficult decisions.
We are asked to “take a look at the majestic bell tower of Lourdes Chapel. It has become a beacon of light. The lights “serve as a beacon against the darkness — it represents the hope and love for our world.”
I have personally been given many spiritual paths that are part of the Divine presence that, despite the seeming odds, can be embraced.
Maybe for some people, satisfaction and contentment lead to a never-ceasing happiness. For me, that is a possibility that lives by hope, prayer, and the support of others that I gratefully hug to my heart.
Our journeys start at various times and places. Some of my memories go back to an Assemblies of God (Pentecostal) church that enabled the early support and learning I received. Many steps and the grace of a Divine mystery have opened dozens of doors that are the paths of persons who seek and are sustained by a love that is everlasting. Some like St. Paul, the Christian disciple, state: “Now abides faith, hope, and love.”