Thursday, July 12, 2007

the Pursuit of Happyness

In the 2006 movie, “ the Pursuit of Happyness” Christopher Gardner says:

It was right then that I started thinking about Thomas Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence and the part about our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I remember thinking how did he know to put the pursuit part in there? That maybe happiness is something that we can only pursue and maybe we can actually never have it. No matter what. How did he know that?

Knowingly or unknowingly, this observation sets the matter into its true perspective.

The actual words of the Declaration of Independence declare:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness --

Dear Thomas Jefferson summed up the perspective of the human race. Sadly, our perspective is blurred so that we cannot recognize the truth.

Jefferson includes four things as “self-evident”:

1. That all Men are created . . . and that they are created equal.
2. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights:
2a. Life.
2b. Liberty.
2c. The Pursuit of Happiness.

Jefferson’s statement, common to the entire human race, is flawed.

First, this statement does not define the meaning of being created equal.

Secondly, in the group of three unalienable rights the third is not what is endowed by the Creator. The Creator (God) does not endow a right to pursue happiness. Rather He bestows happiness. It is this notion that happiness is something to be pursued that has caused all of the trouble that we encounter in the world, (including the trouble of revolution).

Christopher Gardner’s words sum up the problem of discontentment shared by all sinful human beings. God created Man to be happy. Man doubted the faithfulness of God. Then Man experienced unhappiness. Moreover, Man experienced the fear of helplessness as Man could never press beyond the desire to pursue the happiness that had been lost through lack of trust in God.

In this regard, it is interesting to note where America has chosen to place the words, “IN GOD WE TRUST.” Where do Americans place their declaration of their trust in God? On their money! This, of course, is not the only place where this is demonstrated, but it does make a powerful statement about how American religion perceives trust in God and the means to happiness. To Americans, (and Americans are not alone in this), happiness is something that must be sought after and grasped for oneself.

Yet in this sweet little movie, as Christopher Gardner (CG) expends his energies in the pursuit of happiness for himself and his son, little Christopher (C), little Christopher already has what his father so desperately pursues.

This is demonstrated quite beautifully in this exchange between the two as CG puts his son to bed in the “church place” where they are spending the night as CG hopes to find the problem with the scanner that he needs to repair so as to sell.

CG: (tucking little Christopher into bed) You good?
C: Yeah.
CG: I gotta go work on the scanner.
C: Don’t go.
CG: No, no, no. I’m gonna be right outside the door.
All right? I’m just gonna be right there. I’ll leave the door open a little bit. And I’ll be able to hear you if you call me.
C: I wanna go home.
CG: But that’s why I gotta work on the scanner.
All right?
I’m gonna go out there. Uh, I’m gonna leave the door open. I’ll be right up the stairs. I’ll be able to hear you if you call me.
All right?
C: All right.
CG: You gotta trust me. Okay? (As he tickles his son.) You gotta trust me.
C: (giggling) I trust you. I trust you.

This is the true meaning of being created equal. All men were created in the image of God, created with the ability to trust fully in their loving heavenly Father. All men were created knowing God as THE One in whom all happiness resides. Living in absolute faith, the faith of a newborn child, Man created in the image of God, male and female, happiness was their life.

Then trust was broken. That beautiful faith of children to their Father was set aside in order to begin a pursuit for that which was already their full possession. The pursuit of happiness began and it has been passed on through inheritance from Adam to all of mankind. Now all that mankind really knows is the pursuit. This is also called greed, or lust, or idolatry.

While mankind broke faith with God, God has not broken faith with His children. He continues to come to us through the “church place” where He baptizes us into His kingdom of happiness (blessedness) and supplies us with all that we need to remain happy through the Holy Communion of His family. As long as we continue in this regeneration of faith in Him and His goodness, happiness is ours. But as soon as we look away from Him and His means of grace, once again we find ourselves pursuing that which He gives freely. It is truly a terrible perversion that we transform His grace into something that we must find by our own efforts.

Is it any wonder that we have this indictment included in our founding document as a nation of rebels? Is it any wonder that the harder that we strive to have more “IN GOD WE TRUST” units in our wallets and in our bank accounts, the farther away true happiness seems to be?

Yet when we hear our Father graciously calling to us saying, “I’ll keep the door open. I’ll be right outside the door. I’ll hear you when you call Me.” then we rest peacefully and learn that happiness is not something to pursue, but rather, happiness is giggling the words, “I trust you. I trust you.” But like with little Christopher, the words come not by our own choice, but rather, they come from the warm, gentle, and loving touch of our Father as He washes us clean and feeds us His Word of life and the Supper of His presence. He is the one who recreates us in His image, as faith is born in us by His careful working in our hearts and lives in His Church through His means of grace. When He is the perfecter of our faith, we are truly happy.

The pursuit of happiness is for losers who wander around in their own lost reason and strength. But for those who know the love of God in Christ, happiness is their inheritance, their birthright, their life. God has promised it. God has provided it. Do you believe it?

Christopher Gardner:
I met my father for the first time when I was 28 years old. I made up my mind that when I had children, my children were going to know who their father was.

Our Father continues to come to us through His Church so that we may know Him as our loving Father who is willing to sacrifice everything for us. He insures our safety in His love through means that depend solely upon Him so that we never have need to pursue happiness for ourselves. Looking to Him with the faith that He supplies, Happiness is ours.

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