A cold wind blows down from the Sierra’s. I pull my scarf up around my head, hoping to ward off the chill. I’m walking in the fold of the day where the morning turns into the fullness of the afternoon. A handful of leaves scatter across the street and then settle. Their small racket stirs within me memories of winters past; nights spent in front of crackling fires with friends. I hold their faces in my heart and I’m warmed. Overhead, the warning of a crow, a shrill crisp note, breaks the quiet. Further down the road, I walk past a woman sitting in a rocker on her front porch. She waves to me as if we are long-lost friends. I smile and return the wave.
Today is a good day. I’ve heard the sounds of nature. I’ve remembered friends and waved to a stranger. These small things that seem so inconsequential are the things that make life worth living. I give thanks for them. I’m glad to be alive on this blustery day.
“Tell me about happiness,” I asked God in a particularly unhappy moment.
“Oh, yes, happiness. One of the most misunderstood emotions,” He replied.
“I don’t misunderstand it, I just miss it,” I grumbled.
“There, there, my little Sparrow,” God said softly. “I’ll explain happiness to you.”
“I’m listening,” I said, as I focused my attention on God’s words.
“People search all over for happiness as if I made it hard to find. They look for it in relationships, in their bank accounts, in the way their body looks. They even look for it in mac n’ cheese,” God chuckled. It’s not in any of those things. No, you don’t have to go looking for happiness. I made it easy to find. I put it inside of everyone so no one could lose it. But people don’t think I made it that easy. They don’t think to look inside of themselves. So, they keep looking outward,” God explained.
“But where is it inside of me? I can’t find it in me,” I said honestly.
“It’s in your heart, not your head. You can’t think your way to happiness; you must feel your way there.”
“How? All I feel is chaos today.”
“Take a deep breath. Can you smell the hints of spice from the cedar next to you? Can you feel the comfort of the sun on your skin? Listen. Hear the birds on the telephone wire singing? See the flowers in your garden dancing on the breeze? That’s happiness,” God said. “Happiness is life. It’s a beating heart. It’s breath in your lungs.”
“But…” I started to argue.
“No buts, Sparrow,” God stopped me. “Happiness dwells inside of you because I dwell inside of you.”
I took a deep breath as I put my hand over my heart and felt its steady rhythm. I exhaled into the moment. Finally, I understood. God put Himself inside of us and that is where our happiness resides. In Him. In the gift of being alive.
“It’s the most important work you’ll ever do,” God said to me as I weeded my flower garden.
“Pulling out dandelions?” I asked, incredulous.
“No,” God laughed. “Seeking the barriers to love and dismantling them. Like every baby that comes into my world, you were born with a whole heart. But as people wounded you, you learned to fear. You learned to protect yourself by putting others down, or worse, vilifying or demonizing them. You stopped seeing them as my precious children.”
“How do I heal my wounded heart?” I asked.
“Forgiveness, humility, and helping others,” God said.
I thought about my family and friends that annoy me—their difference in opinions and perceptions—and I wondered how I might turn towards them, instead of pulling away, or worse, not listening to them at all. And I realized that God was asking me to not only do the obvious work of not hating or harming others; He was asking me to work on the subtle, almost imperceptible feelings and opinions—the judgements—that barricade me from loving fully.
Our journey here is all about learning how to heal our wounded hearts so that we can love fully; so that we can take a whole heart home.
I’m so dutiful and obedient that sometimes I forget that God isn’t some heavy burden my heart must carry. I forget that God created all the beauty in the world for my delight— that God is the light and the love, the joy, and frivolity in the world. So today, I will walk over to God’s house and knock on His door and ask if He wants to come out and play.
Hafiz, the Persian poet wrote, “Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe me.’ Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.” Let us all be like the sun, never keeping score, for love isn’t in the accounting business. It’s in the giving business. Let your heart be a sieve, rather than a measuring cup.