Sitting with my dad on his Riviera 40, we relax on the blue velvet waters of the Swan River, enjoying the shimmer of the city and the backdrop of limestone cliffs and native bushland. He turns to us and says, as he does every time we are out on the boat, ‘It’s just another day in paradise.’
In Perth, ‘living the dream’ is a real and attainable thing. We have a stunning coastline, forests, bushland, and river, as well as abundant opportunity to eat good food. We live in comfortable houses and drink clean water. We are a lucky people.
I am astonished, however, by our relentless pursuit to create the perfect experience to capture the perfect moment. It seems we think that if we create the perfect moment, we’ll be happy.
By moments, I mean postcard memories. Like going to a concert and sitting in the first row, dressed like a supermodel and being the star of our own movie rather than an ‘extra in the sequel of the movie to your life’, which is how life quite often really feels (thanks, Pavement).
Or going to the beach, right at sunset, with crispy fish and chips, a trendy blanket and a gorgeous, well-behaved family. We create moments like these in a bid to convince ourselves we are the happiest people in the world.
Ever seen Vanilla Sky? Tom Cruise invents a whole lifetime of perfect moments in which he experiences the perfect life. Unfortunately, it’s fractured by his own imperfection and eventually the reality of who he is causes life to literally crash down around him.
A quick glance through Instagram or Facebook is enough to confirm that as real as we like to think we are being, we often tend to share the ‘good’ things of our existence. The experiences that make us happy. In contrast, we know that in sharing our weaknesses, we will cause people to scroll on by as fast as their fingers will carry them.
Other posts that do cause us to pause are often the fresh realities of life. People who are prepared to state the way things really are, like Constance Hall, Queen of the Queens, a popular Perth blogger. She brings great humour and reassurance to many women and mums around town by keeping it real and reminding us of our humanity.
While her voice has given many of us relief at times, there isn’t enough of this reality, to silence the deep narrative that causes us to pursue the perfect moment.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong, by the way, with wanting to share the things that make us happy. Certainly our family and friends, near and far, revel in seeing their grandchildren enjoy the good fruit of our lives and the restful holiday you’re experiencing in another part of the lucky country. Our Father Himself takes pleasure in seeing us happy.
Happiness is a wonderful emotion, and it’s more fun to live there than in anger, grief or fear, but it’s the pressure of having to create the perfect moments to experience ‘the happy life’ that bothers me.
It causes us to be crazy busy. To go beyond our capabilities to fit in. To feel valued, to feel fulfilled, to feel satisfied. The ‘perfect moment pursuit’ is causing immense stress to our families, our health, and our finances.
So, how do we overcome ourselves? How do we slow down and find contentment in what we do have? How do we enjoy the moment that is? We are already well on our way by just living in the ‘lucky country’, but where do we learn to stop and enjoy what we have right now?
St. Augustine, in his letter on prayer, states that, before we can pray, ‘you must account yourself desolate in this world, however great the prosperity of your lot may be.’
Timothy Keller echoes this in his book, ‘Prayer’, by saying that ‘the scales must have fallen clearly from your eyes and you must see that no matter how great the earthly circumstances of your lives come, they can never bring you the lasting peace, happiness, and consolation that are found in Christ.’
Our first step to living the dream without the ‘perfect moment pursuit’ is to recognise that enduring happiness is found in Christ.
Psalm 27:4 says,
‘The one thing I ask of the LORD— the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, delighting in the LORD’s perfection and meditating in his Temple.’
This Psalm is Augustine’s prayer for happiness. He goes on to say that we should then pray and ask God to give us a happy life. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be happy. It’s up to us to realise, though, that lasting happiness is not to be found in the ‘comforts and rewards of fleeting excitement.’ (Keller).
Living the dream in the lucky country is something upon which many of us have just stumbled. However, in knowing Christ first, we are in the ultimate position to honestly take hold of a happiness that isn’t found by creating the perfect experience for the perfect moment.
It is a happiness that will nestle itself deep into our heart, realigning our paradigms and redefining the way in which we live our lives.
The ‘perfect moment pursuit’ is then overcome by the rest we have in Him.