Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding, for her income is better than silver, and her revenue better than gold. She is more precious than jewels and nothing you desire can compare with her. She is the tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy. -- Proverbs 3:13-15,18
Yesterday, I heard the radio DJ telling someone to "go to your happy place." I laughed. You know you aren't having fun if you need to go to your happy place. I had in fact tried to do that very thing recently while at the dentist getting my teeth cleaned. I tried to distract myself by imagining that I was walking along my favorite footpath to the river, near our old house in England.
The footpath begins as a narrow country road closely bordered on both sides by rough gray stone walls, which are held together mostly by the sheer weight of the stones themselves, but also chinked more firmly here and there with smaller rocks. Ivy, lichen, and blackberry brambles cover the stones -- in some places so heavily that the walls have begun to crumble under their burden. A trickle of water almost continually runs down the center of the lane.
It's a beautiful path, with many different wildflowers blooming along the edges and in the nooks and crannies of the walls. Here and there lovely shade trees provide welcome shelter from the sun or rain. About two-thirds of the way along, there is, unfortunately, a smelly sewage treatment plant. Then there is a gate that opens onto a single path, much narrower, steeper, and rockier than the one before. And then, very quickly, you are at the river, which is wide and deep and very peaceful. Here there are no walls, only meadows of soft green grass, occasional swaths of wildflowers, and a few big old trees along the banks. One ancient tree is perfect for leaning against as you take in the pleasant surroundings.
That is my happy place. And for the moments in which I could actually picture being there, I forgot about the noisy, pokey tools in my mouth. Unfortunately, those moments were very fleeting. Maybe if I practice going to my happy place more often I could hold onto that vision longer, even in the midst of noise and discomfort.
My journey of faith has been very much like this walk to the river. The Old and New Testaments, supported and sometimes burdened by doctrine, ritual, and tradition, have been like walls keeping me on the path. There is much beauty along this path, especially in the people I have discovered. Their lives and wisdom are like the flowers and fruit, most of which is very sweet -- there are only a very few sour or damaged ones. The shade trees are like the wonderful communities of faith which have sheltered me from the elements. Even the sewage treatment plant represents a part of my journey: when our church split apart. That was truly unpleasant, but I learned to walk more independently after that. Walking this narrower path means I have to watch where I place my feet; there is more risk of stumbling along here. But, luckily, this path has also brought me closer to my destination: to God, the water of life.
I am much better at tuning into this "place." For this is not a place that is fixed in time and space, fading from memory. This is where God is found -- which can be anywhere, at any time. It just takes a little practice. For me, it means tuning into my thoughts, reading Scripture, and paying attention to what comes into my life each day. Taking this time has given me a much deeper understanding and abiding happiness than I ever thought possible. Just like leaning against that ancient tree on the edge of the River Nidd, sitting quietly for a time tuning in to my life and listening for God's guidance is food for my soul, providing sustenance for whatever journey I take, even the most difficult.
I never used to understand Jesus's parables about the kingdom of heaven being like a priceless object (a treasure or a pearl) which caused someone to sell everything to buy that object. It just didn't make sense. "How would that possibly help him live, or make him happier?" But I was thinking much too literally, and so the meaning was hidden. Now, I understand that God's guidance in my life is that priceless object. That is a treasure beyond reckoning, and one that will sustain me throughout my life.
Dear God, you are my happiest place. Love always, Pam