While waiting at my youngest daughter’s bus stop, I decided to catch up on some reading and turned my attention to a chapter of The Law of Happiness by Dr. Henry Cloud. In it, the author told this story about a fellow graduate student who suffered from what he called a “future” mind-set of happiness: Several times, when a group of us was going to do something fun, like take a ski weekend or go on a weekend trip to Mexico, we would invite him … And he would say, “I want to, but …”
Cloud went on to say that he eventually stopped asking because he realized “that it was not the paper that had to be finished or the degree or the dissertation or the internship or the license” that was standing in the way of his friend’s happiness. It was his friend. He was standing in the way of his happiness.
The story reminds me of my own experience with a college friend who regularly declined my invitations to come to Chicago because he and his wife were too busy to get away. “I have three jobs right now and we’re not taking any vacations except for an occasional weekend away to Omaha or Kansas City,” he explained. “Our plan is to work until we have paid off our house and saved enough to retire when we’re fifty-five. Then we’ll have time to visit all the places we’ve been wanting to see and really enjoy ourselves.”
Immediately upon hearing this, I thought about all the opportunities our family has seized over the past fifteen years. There were the business trips that the girls and I tagged along on. And the long weekends when we would set out in a new direction to explore sites that were within driving distance from our home. We too were saving for tomorrow, just not at a rate that would sacrifice today.
There’s nothing wrong with saying “yes” when circumstances allow. Jesus actually encouraged it in Luke 16:10 when he said that when we make the most of the small opportunities that come our way, we will be trusted with even bigger ones. My friend did not share this attitude of abundance. Instead, his either-or mindset was convinced that any fun he had now would be at the expense of his future; and current prospects paled in comparison to the promise of tomorrow.
I wish Dr. Cloud would have been there to challenge this person’s long-term plan. To convince him to see my invitation as an opportunity. If he had, he could have shared truths like this one from pages 45 and 46 of The Law of Happiness where he said: some people feel that happiness is on some sort of timeline and depends on a later event. It cannot happen now, because there is a missing piece that has not occurred yet. But in reality, people who think this way do not magically become happy “when” the “whatever” it is happens. They just transfer that mind-set to the next “when.”
Happiness is not a destination. It’s a state of mind. And as much as I wanted my friend to stop planning for long enough to start living, I knew that nothing was going to change his mind.
Not cheap airfare between Omaha and Chicago.
Not having a free place to stay.
And definitely not having a person with my driving record as his personal chauffer.
After hearing him respond to my offer with the promise that he would try to visit some day, I thought about calling out the same words that Apollo Creed screamed in the movie Rocky III after Rocky refused to engage him in the ring.
“I’ll train harder tomorrow,” Rocky said.
“There is no tomorrow!” Apollo screamed.
Creed was right. Someday is not a day of the week and tomorrow never comes. What will come is the moment when we see God in heaven and He holds us accountable by asking: What have you done with today?