“3 Easy Steps to a Happy Life” or “The Path to Getting Rich” or “How To Beat The Odds in Vegas” Over and over again we are inundated with this or that “formula” to “be happy” or “rich” or any number of wonderful things that will finally make us content.
And these formulas or advice books or courses or seminars are all, to varying degrees, either helpful or a waste of time and money.
But they all feel so gimmicky, don’t they? There doesn’t seem to be a true insight into how to actually realize our truest selves in any of these programs. What if I told you there is one path that will do what all the other “formulas” fail to do? And it’s just $19.95! OK, I’m kidding about that. It’s actually free, but it will cost you everything!
Look at our lesson today in Ephesians 5:20-25:
Brethren, always and for everything give thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father. Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
St. Paul gives us the clear Path to peace and contentment in this passage, and look, it has everything to do with relationships!
First, Be Thankful. It is no mistake that the first step in becoming truly human is the ability to be grateful. Gratitude is the foundation of all the virtues and invites me to see my whole life as gift; even the tough parts! Maybe especially the tough part! And that’s because a human heart gripped by pride and self-centeredness always expects, but never humbly says “thank you.” A life lived in the darkness of ingratitude always wants more, is never satisfied, and constantly sees others as problems in their life. But to be grateful means to turn your eyes to heaven and first admit God made you. God gifted life to you. God sets you on a lifetime journey where not one tear is wasted, not one mistake is ever fatal, and not one joy is ever taken for granted.
Second, Be Subject. This gets tricky, but gratitude will help us get here. First St. Paul says that we should be subject to one another, then he launches into a teaching about the Orthodox Christian understanding of the Divine Mystery of Marriage and he applies this same word to wives. Careful, don’t get distracted by modern society’s delusions. This is all about relationships. What does Paul mean here? He means to consider the other as the object of our love and service. This is nothing less than the antidote to self-centeredness and a freedom from the neurosis of ego. What better way to kill in my own heart the power of selfish expectations than to say I’ll focus on the one outside myself SO THAT I can come to know myself. A paradox, I know, but the only medicine strong enough to heal my brokenness!
Finally, Be Loving. Paul turns his gaze and wisdom to husbands when he tells them to love their wives just like Christ loves the Church. This setting of the bar in love dismantles any notion of servitude or the ugly notion of dominance. No, this is stronger than the language used for wives. It is a love that thinks nothing of itself and focuses only on the other. It is the antidote for the sickness in our hearts to assume that we should get anything in return for our love. This kind of love gives expecting nothing in return.
Today, are you willing to embrace the last self-help advice you’ll ever need? It’s free and it will cost you everything! And it all starts with your ability to be grateful, to thank God for all things, even the things that are painful. This is the Path to be Orthodox on Purpose!