"I don't want the life I have."
The line glared at me in a friend's e-mail. She had recently divorced. She was angry, lonely, and disappointed. I wished I could reach across the continent and hug her hard enough to end the pain.
My mind skipped to a different tragedy that had brought a similar reaction a few days earlier. An Indian who had lost his son in the tsunami was quoted in the newspaper asking, "What is there left in life?"
The rawness of his grief had made me think about his question. Can the absence of certain relationships take away our enjoyment of life? There appears to be an ideal life-model that some are lucky enough to attain and keep while others never achieve it or lose it too soon.
Still, many people won't let their happiness be bound by that model. Even through the toughest times, they hold on to a conviction that God is constant good, loves each of us, and causes our lives to be fulfilled.
A single friend of mine whose life wouldn't fit most people's definition of ideal finds a lot of inspiration in the Bible's statement "Thy Maker is thine husband" (Isa. 54:5). To her this isn't just intellectual comfort. She delights in telling me about ways she feels husbanded. People appear, sometimes out of the blue, to help her when something needs fixing in her house, when she needs advice, or just good conversation. Her keen appreciation of these small incidents magnifies her enjoyment. She accepts them as evidence of God with her.
She doesn't pretend her life is always easy. When she feels alone, she says she often prays, "God, please show me how You are loving me right now." And she's grateful for good, in whatever form it takes - as the cheerful antics of her pets, or a good movie she watches, or an idea that comes to her of how to cheer up someone else. She inspires me and many others with her trust that God is her intimate companion and friend.
The Monitor's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, related strongly to people who faced a void in their lives. By the time she was 30, her closest brother, her mother, and her husband of only six months had died. A later marriage ended in divorce, and circumstances forced her to live far apart from her son. Yet through these trials she forged a dependence on God that blessed and carried her through many years of an astoundingly productive life.
Speaking frankly from her experience she wrote: "Would existence without personal friends be to you a blank? Then the time will come when you will be solitary, left without sympathy; but this seeming vacuum is already filled with divine Love. When this hour of development comes, even if you cling to a sense of personal joys, spiritual Love will force you to accept what best promotes your growth.... The author has experienced the foregoing prophecy and its blessings. Thus He teaches mortals to lay down their fleshliness and gain spirituality. This is done through self-abnegation. Universal Love is the divine way in Christian Science" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 266).
This statement is right in line with Jesus' teaching to depend on God rather than on material sources for good. Some of his followers found these teachings too hard and left him. Most of us find it hard to loosen our grip on the idea that happiness must come in certain ways or relationships that we outline. Perhaps one reason it's hard is that we're surrounded by models of the romantic ideal and happy life. Is it wrong to want these things?
The only truly helpful answer I've found to this question is to wake up more to the larger promise that universal Love offers. Companionship, affection, and a feeling of belonging are good things and natural to desire. And it stands to reason that to know God as all good and all Love would reveal that we can't be cut off from these blessings. Jesus said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33).
The friend who e-mailed me in anguish has since told me that she is glimpsing more of this spiritual promise and trying to trust it. The life we all actually want is a life of trust that divine Love will bring love into our lives unfailingly. Our part is to look for every evidence - no matter the form - that this is happening every day.