The Secret to Happiness: Want What You Have

I know the secret to happiness. Do you?

If you don’t, just ask my daughters. I’m forever telling them. Which is super-annoying, I’m sure.

“Want what you have.” Isn’t that easy? Four words that lay out the path to happiness. Embrace what you have.  Don’t want what you don’t have.  Find the gift in this circumstance.  This relationship.  This job.  This season of life, whatever it is.  Want it, and dig into it.

“Want what you have.” Four words that are easy to say, but difficult to live.

For the past three weeks or so I’ve really been struggling. I haven’t wanted what I have, I’ve wanted something different. It’s pretty non-creative actually. I want to have more money. I want my book to be a bestseller. I want to have a flat stomach. I want to be the minister of a congregation again, but not a real congregation, a dream one that doesn’t make any demands on me.

The truth is that I’ve made some difficult choices in the past few years, by leaving ministry to write. To earn some money I do administrative work on a part-time basis. I answer the phone and take care of correspondence. I’ve learned Excel and Quickbooks. The work is for a worthy organization. But sometimes it’s hard to work for an hourly wage after I’ve had the status of being “the minister” for so long. I’ve been the one giving the administrative person directions, not receiving them.

But I want/need to contribute to the family income. I have been going halve-sies on income with my husband for almost 30 years now. We have an egalitarian marriage and that has always included finances.

“Want what you have.” But the truth is that I want things I don’t have. Money. A bestseller. Professional status. A flat stomach.

But there is a deeper truth. What I have is enough. We have enough money for our modest life. My book is not a bestseller, but the writing between the pages doesn’t embarrass me. And while I’m grateful for my decades of ministry experience, I was also ready to move on. The reason I moved from parish ministry into writing was because I felt called to it by God.

And do I really want to fall into the female pit of thinking that how I look — a pound or two around my middle — is the difference between happiness and unhappiness? Would I want my daughters to think such a thing?

I’ll tell you what clarified this muddle for me. I noticed a posting for a ministry job and immediately had a surge of powerful feelings. I thought: I could do that, I need to do that, I would be somebody if I did that.

Then my Sub-conscious spoke up. She said: Don’t you have a book to write? Don’t you want to love what you already have?

It was an epiphany, like popping a bubble.

So I’ve decided to love what I have: the work.

And I will exercise my faith, and trust that God will lead me to the next place. Seems like the thing to do during this season of Advent.

About Ruth Everhart

I'm a writer and a pastor. My book "Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land" was published by Eerdmans a year ago. I recently self-published a short book about my family's adventure of riding mules to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I'm working on a memoir (isn't every writer?). I believe life is full of adventure, most of it internal.
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4 Responses to The Secret to Happiness: Want What You Have

  1. Mainecelt says:

    Wanting what I have… it’s a daily discipline, sharpened by the blows against the ice on the cattle trough, opening space for thirsty beasts to drink on a frigid morning. It’s hard work, this life I’ve chosen and embraced, bringing the tired soil of an old farm back to life and serving as part-time pastor of a rural church. I fall through the cracks of so many systems, check the “other” box on so many forms…yet, here, where we must feed the land so it can feed us, and here, where the house stays cold unless we bring in wood and light a fire, here, in this place, I am absolutely clear that I am living out my calling. I live with someone who loves me wholly and deeply. I do nothing in my day that brings shame, and–though it feels tenuous sometimes–I have enough: enough shelter, enough food and water, enough health and food for my spirit and companionship and laughter. Yes. By society’s standards, I am impoverished, but by global–and, perhaps, cosmic–standards, I am surrounded by treasure.

  2. Ruth, this rings so true! I am on the cusp of a life change that will bring me what I have always wanted, the career to which I feel truly called – and, at the same time, remove from me some things I have greatly loved, including status.

    It’s 1.5 years down the road, so I have quite a lot of time to ponder these things and (I hope) come to peace with them.

    I’d really love to have a flat stomach, too. :)

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