Ringing in a new year with the phrase “Happy New Year” feels backward.
Because happiness is effect rather than cause, a symptom rather than source. It is fleeting and easily imitated; I can paste a smile on my face, laugh in all the right places and fool most into believing I’m happy.
Holiness, however, is another thing all together. As the source of happiness and love, goodness and truth, who could hope to pretend holiness? And if they did, what would it look like?
To be holy is not the same as being religious. Pray save me from religion — which at best is symptomatic and at worst, best not to say. Nor is holiness found by reading the Bible (or praying or whatever) but by being found in reading the Bible (or praying or whatever.) And I really do mean whatever.
To be holy is to become more whole — closer to that precious one-of-a-kind being I was created to be and become. To be holy is to be ‘set apart’– to love myself and others and God in a way that only I can and no one else is able. In that order. We only work up to loving God, by practicing on ourselves first and others second. And if we did just this, we’d be loving God too.
So my new year’s blessing for you today is, “Holy New Year.” I invite you to clear space in your mind and heart and life to practice those things which make you feel most at home in your own skin — so much so — that you forget yourself and get lost in something bigger.
Unlike happiness, the tracks of holiness are everywhere; this gorgeous sunset on a lonely stretch of Oklahoma highway found me yesterday.
Maria Clara Paulino said:
Janell – another thoughtful, beautiful post. Of all the powerful images, I will certainly remember the one of the road finding you, in your last sentence.
Thank you Clara.
I am so often lost in my private world that it seems natural to think I am constantly being sought and found by the Holy.
Yesterday, it was at my brother’s wedding. Today, it came served with a simple meal — a no-guilt break from the traditional large, sit-down New Year’s meal with black-eyed peas. Tomorrow, who knows? But I trust something good will catch my attention, to cause me to pause ordinary life.
I read this post via my mobile phone. I had to spend new Year in hospital, but am now nome to recover.
I found this post so very beautiful it brought tears to my eyes because of its wisdom. Thank you so much.
Thanks for your kind words and tears.
I’m sorry to learn of your return to the hospital but glad you’re home again — I’ll carry those words of wholeness especially for you, as we make tracks into the new year. May you soon recover your health.
Rest and get well.
I could quibble away about happiness and holiness – I don’t have a bit of trouble with wishes for a Happy New Year. I do agree that happiness is effect rather than cause, though I disagree that it’s fleeting. I’ve been happy for a couple of years now – so much so that I’ve been known to utter the words, “I’m so happy”. It’s more a state than an experience, which of course brings us back to the holiness you speak of.
The one commonality I’ve been thinking about is this: both holiness and happiness require self-forgetfulness. People who set out to be either happy or holy spend a lot of time and energy trying to create something which comes only as a gift.
And now that I look back, I see you mentioned self-forgetfulness, too. It may be the hardest challenge of all in this society that tells us every day in a thousand ways that we should think always and only of ourself.
If we were sitting across one another right now in one of those wonderful booths at the Dairy Bar — “breaking bread” to borrow words from my good friend Ann — and you told me, “I’m so happy”, I’d immediately want to know more.
So don’t leave me hanging. Describe it for me. What is the source of your happiness — and why has it had such staying power. Do tell.
Life would be just about perfect if I had a banana milkshake to drink as I listened to your words and “listened” to the myriad expressions cross your face as you shared your story. Ah, forget the milkshake — I’ll settle for the story.
Holy Happy New Year.
You know, this could require some thought. And perhaps an email rather than a blog comment. The banana milkshake would be best, of course, but that’s not in the cards for a while, I suppose.
Anyway, I didn’t want you to think I hadn’t seen and absorbed your comment. One of these days…..
One of these days is fine…I love living open-ended. To a fault.
But you know…as much as I’d enjoy hearing your answer to my question — by email OR in person — I also realize it’s less important for me to know than you.
Yet someday, it would be nice to share a cheeseburger and a milkshake at the Bar. You’d find me quiet. I listen more than I talk, even with close family. And that happy story of yours would make great listening.
But let it steep. And if you decide you’d like a listener — even my email — you know where to find me.