Yesterday, I experienced happiness to a degree that could hardly ever be surpassed. It was the height of happiness. In fact, I was so happy it hurt.
As we do every fall, we went to the Fryeburg Fair in Fryeburg, Maine – which is pretty much the granddaddy of Maine fairs, featuring more agriculture than any other fair in the state. It was a glorious day. The weather was perfect fall weather – sunny and in the high 50s.
But about halfway through the afternoon, I stumbled upon bliss somewhat unexpectedly. We had just found our way into the section that had all the kids’ rides and had purchased a pass that would grant access for our two oldest children to any ride. As we brought Camden and Acadia around to the various rides that enticed them, my mother volunteered to take Winslow – too young and too short to go on any of the rides – into the little toddler section, where she could ride little see-saws and push around little cars.
After about ten minutes of running around with Camden and Acadia, I told Camille that I was going to see how my mother and Winslow were doing. And that’s when it happened. As I rounded the corner and saw Winslow, I stopped in my tracks. She was sitting in a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe car with the biggest smile. And it didn’t subside for the whole time I stood there watching her.
She was in heaven. And I was too.
I just stood there for probably a minute or two, watching her from a distance, just soaking it all in. I honestly didn’t want the moment to end. I was so happy it hurt.
This is not a unique experience to me. Every parent has experienced it. Sometimes routinely. Indeed, even though this particular moment seemed to be a heightened moment of ecstasy for me for whatever reason, I enjoy such moments every once-in-a-while as I observe the happiness of my children.
The truth is, the greatest happiness a person can experience is seeing someone else happy. It’s not rocket science. God has created us as relational beings, and the fuel that propels our happiness engine is witnessing the joy and happiness of others. We, unfortunately, forget this more than we remember. But every now-and-then God gives us reminders.
Ironically, and quite sadly, after I pulled myself away from watching Winslow, and started back to find Camille and the two older kids, I came across my cousin Alison, who was experiencing the exact opposite feelings. She had just discovered that her youngest son, Westin, who is not quite three, was a single inch too short to go on any of the rides and he was bawling his eyes out. She was doing all she could to refrain from crying as well.
The high I felt was matched by the low she felt. The emotions of our children were ours. This, as I said, is what every parent knows. We never feel so deeply as when we see and experience the emotions of our children.
But here’s what suddenly dawned on me: such vicarious emotions seemingly always go in one direction. Parents experience the highs and lows that their children do, but does it ever happen the other way? Even more to the point: God experiences the highs and lows of His earthly children, but could we ever get to the point where those feelings go the opposite direction? Could it ever be possible that the greatest happiness we could experience would be to see a smile on the face of God?
I want this: “You will show me the path of life,” the Psalmist declared, “In Your presence is the fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
It seems almost impossible. But I want to be so close to God that the most acute emotions I feel are the emotions that emanate from His heart. I want His happiness to be my highest aim, His sorrow to be my greatest pain.
Postscript: I was unable to get a picture of Winslow in her little car, since I wanted to stay at a distance, lest she see me and want me to watch her. But my mother was fortunately able to capture a little bit of her bliss.