I thought I ordered the Happy Meal

I saw this quote printed on a card in my local bookstore and it made me laugh, mainly because it is so shockingly true.
It’s not uncommon to grow up thinking the best way is the happy way, and that there will be a “happy ever after”once you get to a certain undetermined point in the future. However,¬† my personal experience and my general observations of life can now inform me that it is not true.
There is no fixed point, no definite destination or a particular age that gets you there and there is rarely a “happy ever after” without a lot of ¬†hard work here and now.
The way we raise our children, especially girls, to believe that there might be a hero or Prince Charming coming over the horizon of their lives and providing and producing the “happy ever after ” is simply a fantasy.¬†Furthermore, all the money and time spent at Disney World promoting happy endings and fairy tales makes me believe there might be an awful lot of princesses in ordinary houses, living ordinary lives believing they have been sold short and feeling disappointed.
I believe I was very fortunate to have a mother and father that raised me somewhat differently. My father subscribed me to feminist magazines and bought me Simone de Beauvoir books. He said he didn’t care what I did as a job or career so long as it paid enough for me to support myself and any child I might have, sustainably and realistically as a single parent; very good advice.

Even with this realism I have to confess that during my life there have still been a few times when I thought that being happy was my answer and if not that at least the avoidance of pain would be better.
I don’t like pain. My personality is definitely designed to side step it and I was very successful in my early years to do just that. However, I soon discovered it’s simply not realistic, pain is unavoidable but how you deal with it is not.
There have been a few clear moments therefore when I chose to embrace the pain, just like grabbing hold of a crown of thorns knowing there will be blood and tears but doing it anyway.
Sometimes the “Happy Meal ” no matter how bright and shiny it looks, with the fun distracting toy in the bag is not the healthy option.
Sometimes just choosing the other meal, the one that will keep you satisfied for longer is the right choice. Sometimes recognizing where our need for being happy comes from helps too.

One day when Mike and had been married just a few weeks, he found me crying and moaning to God about something. In that moment, he looked me straight in the face and said: “Why do you think you have a right to be happy?” It was the best gift he ever could have given me. I believe in that moment he spoke heart burning truth to me.
I have spent the last 35 years trying to wrestle that answer to the ground but the pain and the sadness that I have embraced have been so good and glorious if viewed through the lens of eternity and faith.
Sometimes although we think we ordered the Happy Meal, what God promises is so much more than the fleeting fantasy we peer into the McDonald’s box hoping to find. If we are able to look up and around we can realize it is just an illusion created out of our brokenness and dreams.
Happy is not what is promised but we can choose joy even when it’s hard. We can choose to look with a long perspective on life, not a quick fix and then find a way of understanding God’s grace and mercy in it all.
Although there is no way of ordering a “Happy Meal” either for yourself or those you love, talking about the realities of life and how God meets us in that place is probably better preparation for us all.

One Comment

  • Emma says:

    Thank you for so eloquently putting into words, what I have often tried to explain to people! As a single mother, I’ve often encountered the pitying expressions from well-meaning people, while they deliver that standard line: “don’t worry, the right one will come along, there’s plenty of fish in the sea.” It makes me cringe every time. Women have been brainwashed from infancy into believing that finding a husband is their destiny; the be-all and end-all to being a whole woman, the key to happiness. As such, those of us who are living the single life, are seen as having not made it yet. We’re incomplete. Not trying hard enough. Trying too hard. Perhaps there’s even something wrong with us.

    I grew up in a family with a long history of women marrying young. It’s just what we did. So along came the first man to show an interest in me, and I snapped him up. It’s what I was supposed to do. My destiny. We had two babies…I parented, he worked long hours. I loved being a mother, caring for my family and home. But I was slowly dying on the inside. The secrets. The constant lies. The emotional abuse. The general disrespect. The disinterest in the children unless they were annoying him. The grand gestures that fooled me into thinking everything was okay…until the next hurt happened. I was too scared to leave. Seven years into our relationship he suspected I was close to leaving, but he assured me if I did, he would take our son and disappear. Our children would be separated. Better he continue to hurt me, than hurt our children like that.

    It was about that time that I really came to know Jesus. I took my children off to church on Sundays, hid in a seat near the back of the room, and always left feeling a little stronger. A year later, when that breaking moment came, when I discovered yet another thing I would need to forgive him for, when I saw the damage it was doing to our children, when I just couldn’t live that life any more, and finally saw through his empty threats…I had the strength and courage to leave.

    Ten days later I gave birth to our third child. I like to think his conception and birth were perfectly timed. I was so busy falling in love with this beautiful new life, and caring for my 5 year-old and 3 year-old, that it helped a little, to ease the blow of my broken heart, the lost dreams…my failure.

    Many would argue that God doesn’t like divorce, so leaving my husband can’t have been His intention in building my strength. Perhaps they’re right. I’ve prayed on it, and asked for forgiveness many times, but I don’t have any regrets. Six years later, God has brought me to where I am today. He has blessed me with the care of three amazing children who know and love Jesus. God’s brought many friends into my life, where once I didn’t (couldn’t) have any. He’s opened doors for me to be a blessing to others. He’s healed my heart and body, and he’s promised me a great future. With Him, I feel complete in my brokenness, and content in my singleness. Yes, life can still get overwhelming and stressful. People get sick. Broken hearts happen. Life’s not perfect, but it is beautiful. I believe Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the key to our happily ever afters…which we will experience at home, in heaven, with the Father. In the meantime, if a fish happens to jump out of the sea and hop along the beach to pop a ring on my finger, well he’d better be sent by God, or I’ll be throwing him right back.

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