Dismantle the illusion

Life, as I’m sure you know by now, is not easy. It takes us to places we’d rather not go and along roads we’d rather not travel. In light of this we’ve become adept at making our worlds as secure and safe as they can be through our own means. We can do this in a vast number of ways and we come to rely on these props to help us along. We’re often so deep into these self-made programmes for happiness that we don’t even notice them. We’ve been carefully constructing them our whole lives and they are often as much a part of us as the hearts beating inside our chests. We are under the illusion that they serve us well whilst in reality they cover up, contain and restrict us. They demand a great deal of energy from us with their constant need for feeding and attention. They are prevalent and even though their guise is to help us out, they are takers, not givers.

We often turn to these illusionary programmes as a pretence of keeping us safe – if I shore up my life with pensions and savings my future will go well; if I wear a mask that covers up the vulnerability I feel inside, my heart will stay safe; if I never let my guard down, I won’t be hurt. We are huge consumers prone to fill our lives with food, people, money, stuff, (the list goes on) things which have kerb appeal, but which ultimately never truly satisfy or give us what we really need. It’s not our fault, it’s the human condition, the ache inside of us drives us to such lengths, whilst inside our true-selves wither.

It’s not even that money, food or people are unnecessary, there’s nothing wrong with pension schemes or having food in the cupboard. But those things become unhealthy when they are used to fill a hole in us or bring a sense of security that is meant for God alone to answer. Going on a spending spree to fill an ache within will not bring long-term answers, turning to food to provide comfort will not lead to fulfilment. Jesus is the answer to every ache and longing within and yet it can take a lifetime for us to grow into that truth and in doing so, rely less on our own answers.

I have been confronted many times with my own programmes for happiness, and am still very much on this journey, and in the process have discovered a few things that have helped me rely on them less and welcome God more:

There is a deep longing within all of us that nothing on this earth will ever fill. It will only be filled when we fully return to where we originated – the heart of God. This longing has an eternal heartbeat and it is only beyond this earth that it will be fully satisfied. There is an invitation to accept that there is an ache inside of us that will remain whilst we continue to breathe oxygen.

It seems vital that self-compassion is present on every step of the journey but especially when we are aware of turning to false comforts. Papa God is relentlessly compassionate towards us even and especially in our failures and shortcomings, He understands and meets us there with great grace and love. We need to extend the same grace and compassion to ourselves, as we can often be our harshest critics.

The contemplative practice of silence is a powerful resource when it comes to identifying our happiness programmes. Silence allows space and within that space the things that we’re not aware of in the noise of life are given voice. It is here we can be confronted with our walls, comforts and unhealthy default mechanisms. It may not always be comfortable but silence does allow these things to surface and the wounds that hide behind them to be healed.

Rest creates space. Giving ourselves downtime, time to be, to have nothing in the diary, to mooch takes us away from the demands and busyness of life. Just as silence does, rest creates the space in our lives into which things hidden can emerge and find release.

There will always be a cry, a desire or a wound that is hiding behind our happiness programmes. There are some questions we can ask in these moments, “what emotions am I experiencing right now (if shame or guilt are present try to move beyond those to deeper yearnings – perhaps a desire to be seen, to know love in a deeper way)? What is my heart telling me about what I need? What is yearning to be heard that I’m not giving voice to? Welcome the healing of Holy Spirit into those places that hurt.

Finally, remember that we are on a life-long journey (back to great self-compassion that mirrors Jesus’) and freedom comes a step at a time. Surrendering to the process is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves. As our programmes for happiness fall away, space is created for our true-selves to emerge and for us to live more authentically. There is such joy and freedom to be found in this way of living – saying yes and going on the journey hand in hand with the One who never leaves us will take us on the greatest adventures of discovery, healing and restoration.

“Thou hast created us for Thy self O Lord and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”

St. Augustine