Happiness is for Babies

By Cindy Koch

My six-year-old son tugs expectantly on the back of my shirt. It is usually quite hectic around 11:30am in my kitchen, making lunch for 9 people. I shift the baby to my other hip and peel the two-year-old off of my leg so that I can kneel down to speak with him in the middle of food preparations. “Mom,” he says urgently, “I just want to be a baby again.”

I laugh. I know exactly why he is so very serious about this idea of regressing back to helplessness. It is lunchtime. He is hungry, and there are two other ravenous babies that have the upper-hand in the lunch line. He realizes that his happiness and satisfaction must be put on hold for the sake of the younger children. He might even remember the time when his needs were first. But now, in this crazy kitchen, he must wait.

In our house, a child lives in blissful happiness until he is two. As a baby, his diaper is dry, he is fed when hungry, comforted when sad, and rocked to sleep when scared. The world seems to revolve around his happy little life, but only until he is two. After the toddler years, our child will slowly learn that he is not the center of the universe. He will begin to feed himself, dress himself, and speak for himself. Soon enough, he will learn to share, work, and love. His happiness will naturally be challenged as he matures into a life of relationship with others.

My son is in the process of learning how to grow up. He is only beginning to see that his infantile wants and desires must take a backseat for the sake of others. He is learning how to love his neighbor, especially when he doesn’t want to. His six-year-old reasoning concludes that if he could be so helpless and ignorant once again, then perhaps his happiness would again be the priority. He would at least be on the road to fix this hunger at 11:30am.

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Two thirty-something girls sat next to my husband and I at the local happy hour spot this past Thursday. Drinks were poured, and conversations ensued. Quiet gossip was interwoven with loud passionate bar polls among the ladies as they counseled one another (and really all of us) in relationship advice. During the course of our never-met-you-all-too-personal conversation, I noticed there was a haunting theme repeated over and over again. A chorus that everybody else seemed to nod in agreement when proclaimed, “I just want to be happy.”

I felt the six-year-old tug, this time on my heart. I got it. I just want to be happy, too. I wish everyone would line up behind me and wait for my turn to be over.  I want to feel like the most important person in the world. I just want to be happy all the time.

But it mattered that these ladies were talking about leaving their husbands. It mattered that they would smash the security and trust of their children. It mattered that there are families and communities about to be broken because of this selfish and infantile wish. It mattered a lot more than a fleeting happiness. I laughed in shame at our tragic six-year-old reasoning that never grew up.

Happiness is for babies. It lasts for just a moment. It is a selfish and vain shadow to chase. But you have been created for so much more. You have been matured into a hope that endures even through pain, sadness, and an unhappy world. You remember: to honor the god of happiness is to forget about the story of our God on a cross.

But He forgives you even when you just want to be happy.

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2 comments

  1. Maturity really is all about dying to yourself and living for your neighbor. It’s sad how selfish we’ve become in America. What we miss is the fact that there is great happiness in serving others. We think that what ever is immediately easiest for me will produce the greatest happiness. What we fail to realize is that there is greater joy and fulfillment in sacrificing short-term comfort for long-term fulfillment.

    Making a marriage work is a perfect example of doing what is hard in the short-term, but fulfilling in the long-term. We may not even “feel” that we love our spouse when we’re overwhelmed with crying babies, fighting toddlers, and financial insecurity. But if we make it work, our children will be happier and more well-adjusted, we will personally mature much faster, and we will grow to love each other in a much deeper way.

    That’s true happiness, if you ask me. It might be hard and it might entail short-term sacrifice, but it is bound to produce far greater happiness in the end.

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