Recently, Jonathan and I were driving behind an old van. The only dashes of gold that were left in what was once a shimmering, forest green paint were flecks of rust. The outdated frame was almost comical after America had seen years of updated models on the market. The most noticeable flaw of the van was its side doors. They were stuck permanently open. With its out-of-state plates and archaic condition, the van didn’t look like it belonged on the road. As it pushed its way up an incline, I couldn’t help but think that van’s days were numbered. “I’m so glad that’s not our life,” I laughed to Jonathan.
As the van disappeared into the distance, I was convicted of casting my own judgements on something I knew so little about. It seemed logical to think that the owners of the old van were down on their luck and would want a nicer van, but what did I really know? Who’s to say a life of terrible misfortune had led them to that type of transportation? What if inside the rusty walls of the van was a family laughing and singing? Though those are nice sentiments, the reality is, most people want to fit in with societal norms and be financially secure. We all want to feel accepted, successful, valuable and safe.
There’s truth in the idea that happiness is a choice, but that’s not the whole truth. The whole truth is that happiness is a journey of choices. It’s so easy for us to give people timelines to get over their adversity. We get annoyed when someone is still hurt by something that happened years ago. We’re frustrated that they aren’t happy yet and we feel like they’re missing out on life. But what about all the moments where they’ve chosen to be happy since the situation? They may still be feeling the pain from it, but don’t minimize them laughing at dinner or attending a social event. They’re not missing out on life. They’re intentionally choosing not to miss out on life even though they’re still suffering. Every day they choose to get out of bed and walk out the door they’re fighting for happiness. They may not be smiling, but that’s because they’re in the middle of a battle.
When life doesn’t go the way we think it should and we’re stuck with our past invading our present, we can feel like an old, rusty van. The people around us seem like they keep progressing in life and shine like new cars. We used to shine with the hope and promise of a future. Now we find ourselves rusting and displaying a license plate that identifies us a visitor on someone else’s road. We feel like we don’t belong. We feel people pitying us as we struggle up life’s inclines. We know people are glad that they’re not living our life.
But, it’s okay. There’s more to life than how people see us. We’re to live a life of purpose not appearance. Our days are numbered. We only have one life to live. And though the trials of life can make you feel like an old, rusty van with the doors stuck open, remember this: You are a van with wings.