“Holy–And Happy”

Years ago, while in seminary, we visited what was then called a psychiatric institution. I had the opportunity to sit in on several group therapy sessions, and the one that impressed me the most was the group with the older teens and young adults who came from different race, social, and religions backgrounds.

At the start of every session the group leader would go around the circle and ask the same two questions to each one capable of participating. The questions were: Where are you on a scale from 1 to 10 today, and what are your goals for today?

Not surprisingly, the answers were the same almost every day. They all answered, “I am a 10,” (then usually repeated it), “I am a 10 today.” Their goal for the day was always the same, as well. “My goal is to take my meds and to go home.”

I knew they weren’t a 10, and I knew they weren’t going home, but some of them were so medicated they couldn’t possibly know who they were, or even where they were. They just sat there like zombies.

However, the one exception was a young man of about 17. His answers were different. He would say, “I’m about a 6 or 7 today, and my goal for today is to have fun.” The instructor would always if he had any other goals, but he would reply, “No, just to have fun.”

After each session, we had the chance to pair off with one of the patients and spend a little time with them, so I choose him. He didn’t have much to say until I pushed his magic button—sports! He loved sports and had probably forgotten more than I will ever know about it. When I asked him what sport he played, his eyes began to water as he told me he used to play football.

“What happened,” I asked. “Did you get hurt?”

“No” he said, “I made a B.”

I wasn’t sure what he meant, so I asked, “Why don’t you tell me what happened?”

He told me he’d always wanted to play sports, but his parents wouldn’t allow him to do so because they said it would interfere with his academics. All he ever did was study and go to school—but no outside activities other than church. Then, during the past football season, he went out for the team and made it with outstanding results.

His parents were furious and told him that if his grades dropped, he would be off the team. He had made As all his life, but, for the first time, he made a B—in trigonometry. They demanded he quit the football team, but he refused and left home. When they found him, his parents had him committed. He had made a B.

Then he told me something very profound, but very sad. “Living in the institution is easier than living at home with my parents trying to live their lives through me,” he said.

He knew I was a Seminary student, so I wasn’t surprised when he asked me a question about God. However, the question did surprise me.

“I know God wants us to be holy, but don’t you think He also wants us to be happy?”

Personally, I believe He does. So now, my goal for most days is to have fun.

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” Proverbs 17:22

 Pastor Hal Steenson

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