I always have to “be right.” I get VERY competitive when it comes to playing board games. Sometimes I flat-out avoid people and unpleasant circumstances in a desperate effort to pretend that I don’t have problems in my life. I frequently follow my heart’s desires, I “obey my thirst”, I cave to my cravings, I submit to my natural orientation and appetites. If I planned on checking-off 65% of the “To Do” List and only 47% was accomplished then my day is completely ruined and I throw a pity-party-pout-fest for myself. Sometimes I pretend to be mysterious and I try to act enigmatic and abstruse so that people will say to themselves, “that guy is so hard to categorize, you can never really figure him out, he’s so mystifying, he is awe-inspiring, I bet he has secret powers!” Occasionally I exercise, and sometimes I even try to eat healthy, and on those days I feel really proud of myself.
What I have just described is my pursuit of happiness via 6 out 7 of the options symbolized on the COEXIST bumper sticker.
Sadly, if you’re like me, you spend WAY TO MUCH TIME in the car, and therefore you’ve encountered – on numerous occasions – the COEXIST bumper sticker. Now, I realize that the creators of this bumper sticker are attempting to suggest that, “Everyone CAN get along just fine if we simply agree to trade in all our various beliefs for the absolute belief that “there are no absolutes.” However, contrary to the creator’s intentions, when I look at this advertisement for relativism what I see is A MENU OF OPTIONS pertaining to the pursuit of happiness. As has been mentioned already, I have thoroughly tried 6 out of the 7 avenues symbolized on the menu.
- The crescent and star, historically associated with a sun God named Tanit and/or the battle-standard of the Ottoman Dynasty, represents DOMINATION (in other words, kicking-booty and take’n names, and staking claim as “king of the mountain”). Certainly this is historically the case regarding the ambition of the Ottoman Dynasty and those who borrowed the symbol – namely Islam (particularly the rise of Islam and the first 300 years of its existence). For me personally, this is perhaps my favorite path to travel when it comes to pursuing happiness! I LOVE to win! …and I especially love to DOMINATE! It really does give me quite a robust feeling of fleeting giddiness to be declared “The Winner!”
- But… I have found it exceedingly difficult to win all the time – or even most of the time – and therefore my second favorite strategy for conjuring up some “happiness” is DENIAL. Now here’s what you must know about the path of denial …it’s tricky. It’s hard to simply tell yourself things like, “Winning doesn’t matter,” or “Don’t worry, be happy,” or “All you need is ‘love’,” etc. And this is where the second symbol in the bumper sticker is of tremendous help, because it harkens to the hippie methodology of escaping – getting away from it all – and hanging out on a 600 acre dairy farm in Bethel New York, forgetting about all the harsh realities of a fallen world, and “imagining (with the assistance of certain substances of course) no war, no killing, no dying, no possessions, no hell, no greed, no hunger, etc.”
- The third symbol on the COEXIST bumper sticker is essentially meant to denote the preeminence of preference and personal choice (particularly regarding gender and sexuality), and a militant zeal regarding sexual orientation and appetite. In other words, if you wanna be happy then you must follow your heart’s DESIRES. I crave all kinds of things that aren’t healthy for me …but my cravings are so strong, they are so seemingly irresistible, so incredibly seductive, and they promise immediate gratification!!! This is perhaps the most prolific and popular of all the “happiness avenues” on the market, and it’s no wonder – you don’t have to think, you don’t have to question whether or not your heart is a trustworthy guide to be followed, you don’t have to speculate if your natural orientation and appetites are distorted or corrupt …because when it comes to desire, you simply go with the flow and the powerful currents created by your own cravings will inoculate you and take wherever they lead, no questions asked.
- The Star of David is the forth option on the menu, which symbolizes the Davidic Dynasty (hands down the most powerful dynasty in Israel’s history). Much like domination, this symbol represents DOMINION. David didn’t just have “a winning record” when it came to war …David fought and won so many wars, conquering and claiming so many territories and nations that his son and successor Solomon didn’t really have to fight any wars – it was a time of unprecedented wealth, commerce, and cultivation. Solomon did fun stuff like importing exotic animals (namely peacocks and apes), entertaining Queens from distant lands, studying and writing books of wisdom and philosophy, building spectacular palaces and temples, and surrounding himself with beautiful women. With no threat of war, and a staggering amount of wealth – who wouldn’t find such a path full of, and overflowing with, happiness???
- The fifth option is that of DIVINATION. You may not consider yourself a connoisseur of the occult, and aside from enjoying the Harry Potter books you most likely don’t have a lot of involvement in the world of Wicca; but the main attraction to this route for pursuing happiness is the sensation of mystery and the feeling of super power. It is quite enticing actually …the impression that you have some secret, some special knowledge that gives you a sense of power and some transient semblance of control.
- The sixth menu option is the yin and yang. If you’ve ever felt the healthy – endorphin imbued – fatigue after a rigorous workout; or read a self-help book by Stephen Covey; or participated in some type of self-realization experience then perhaps you’ve tasted the delight of SELF-DISCIPLINE. I for one feel pretty happy (especially with myself) that one day of the month when I work out! I am certainly pleased with myself – maybe even on the verge of feeling “really happy” – when I have a salad for lunch instead of fried chicken and gravy on a bun.
I have tried and retried, and combined, and mixed and matched all six of these “happiness options” numerous times, and I’m still not satisfied. My efforts to dominate are pathetic; my attempts at living in denial are unconvincing; my natural desires are corrupt, distorted, and perverse; just when I think I’ve got some dominion I’m caught unawares by someone or something that unsettles all of my perceived “stability”; I try to be mysterious and secretive but I’m really just insecure; and no amount of self-discipline can atone for my sin or measure up to the standard of perfection.
- So we come to the seventh symbol – THE CROSS. The cross symbolizes DEATH (specifically, a torturous form of capitol punishment employed primarily in the ancient Roman Empire). This is bizarre! Why on earth is this symbol grouped with the other six??? This symbol makes no sense in this line-up! The other six all have some “logical connection” to the pursuit of happiness; all throughout human history, and in my very own life, I see all kinds of examples of the search for satisfaction through domination, or living in denial, or submitting to the desires of the heart, or delighting in dominion, or indulging in some form of divination, or practicing self-discipline …but I have NEVER seen anyone pursue happiness via the narrow door of DEATH!
What a paradox! Who on God’s green earth would embrace such a symbol? Who in their right mind would choose such a path? God would! …God Himself became a helpless embryo/God became fully human. He didn’t have to, but He chose to join us on this bent and broken planet called Earth. He passed through the awkward – angst-filled – adolescence phase of life. He dealt with family drama and dysfunction. He was tempted in every way that we are. He endured trials, tensions, tribulations, and suffering. And ultimately He elected to walk the path of death, embracing the cross as His emblem. Why? He insisted on humbling Himself in this way, and He was determined to die on the cross, in order to ransom and redeem His enemies. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Rom. 5:6-11). Admittedly you would have to be very desperate to believe such a story. You would have to be painfully honest about your wretched and wicked heart before clinging to a crucified King! If you actually believed this you would be compelled to relinquish every square inch of your life – submitting it to the renovating work of the only living and true God who has demonstrated beyond any shadow of a doubt that He loves you infinitely more than you love yourself. The death of Christ declares that happiness is not ultimately found in any of the obvious choices, but rather it is found in clinging to the crucified King, and thereby you find yourself increasingly crucified with Him. As you cling to Jesus Christ you find it more and more difficult to continue taking yourself so seriously; you experience the true happiness of humility, the joy of genuinely saying, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me!” (Gal. 2:20).
The choice is before you.
You WILL pursue happiness (you’re already doing it).
Which avenue will you choose?