WHICH COMES FIRST, HAPPINESS OR FULFILLMENT

Stan is my sister Connie’s husband. Stan is my husband Eric’s older brother. He loved the Bible and taught himself to read it in Greek. Eric and Stan were close, meeting every Saturday to discuss pretty much everything from theology to the next invention. Stan has Alzheimer’s disease and is very near the end of his life. This brain deterioration robs a man of greatness changing him into something different. Like a mantel, sadness covers all of us who looked up to him.

Stan and Connie had many happy years together as newly married, founding a family, raising children and as a mature couple. Connie found work she loved as a church secretary and as a leader in women’s ministry. She was happy in that job. However, she gave up the job she loved to care for her dying husband. Alzheimer’s has cruelly distanced her from her love, Stan. She stays by his side. Happiness is not her priority right now.

Happiness is a sense of pleasure and satisfaction in the present moment. Fulfillment is the sense of satisfaction that comes when a person arrives at a noble and good goal. Connie is not pursuing happiness right now, she is pursuing fulfillment. She is submitting herself, as she always has, to the welfare of her husband; to the welfare of her family. She seeks to meet the goal of being a good wife and mother, and to be a godly woman. She has had much happiness along the way, and perhaps will have much more in the future: but now is a season to work for fulfillment.

My sister, Connie, has always had the ability to do funny things, say the word that brings a laugh. Wherever she goes she is center front. She is a leader, a speaker, a teacher. Now, she is not a happy woman — but I think she will agree that eventually she will be fulfilled.

On the porch over coffee, Eric said to me, “If Stan had been a controlling, despotic husband, would Connie now have the strength and ability to carry the mantle with such grace now?” Indeed, Stan gave her freedom to think, to grow, to be Connie. And Connie had the courage to be herself.

She chose to be submissive to the destiny of Stan her head and husband. They worked closely together for 40 years. Now she is making all the decisions, thinking ahead, providing and ministering to her husband in such tender ways that we can only watch in awe.

If happiness is an immediate sense of gladness; if fulfillment is long-range determination to do the good and noble, then fulfillment and happiness met Stan and Connie many times. The struggle for fulfillment carries them through this journey, and into eternity. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” (Psalm 23)

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Stan’s son Seth, my nephew, maintains a website that documents some of Stan’s writing on spiritual subjects. It currently also shows the status of Stan’s journey to heaven to see Jesus, and its meaning to the family. Here is the link: The Mosquito Machine.

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