"Will I never find a job?" I screamed into the empty air of our apartment. Sinking into a pity party, I bemoaned the money, time, and energy spent obtaining my degrees. No one wanted a new hire with no professional work experience, who was overqualified with education.
Still, I couldn't cry for long. There were other goals to pursue—I needed to prepare dinner for Dan, my new husband, since it was our three-month anniversary. At least he had a job to support us. Praise God I didn't have to worry about rent, food, or electric bills.
Cookbooks spread across the table, I lost myself in recipes. Far from a chef, maybe I could find something simple enough. At least I'd achieve a goal!
Lost in creative cooking, I didn't hear Dan return home. He entered the kitchen, took a big sniff, then asked, "Are you happy?"
As his finger snuck into the meat sauce, I playfully slapped his hand, but replied in my professional voice, "I can't think about happiness now. I'm focused on the goal of creating an exquisite meal for you, my wonderful husband. Today's our three-month anniversary." But then tears crept into my eyes, and my voice cracked as I said, "I feel totally useless being unemployed, so I'm focusing on a nice dinner."
"I appreciate your focus." Dan smiled, put his hands on my shoulders, and turned me to face him, giving me a heartfelt hug.
As I placed French bread in the oven, I reexamined Dan's question about happiness. Didn't he know I was unhappy because of my failing job search? Why ask if I'm happy when he knew my career goals sat in ashes?
"Actually," I admitted, "since you asked. No, I'm not happy. I can't find a job. When I think there's a fit for my skills, I'm told I'm overqualified. I hate that word!"
I'm Not Happy if You're Not Happy
During dinner, while buttering his bread, Dan shared, "At work today Norm said he and his wife retreat yearly to discuss their goals, plans, wishes, and wants. They call it their 'happiness check.' That's why I asked if you were happy. Other than not finding a job, I'd hoped you were."
"Your happiness is partly based upon my happiness, right?" I said, reminded of the Scripture, "A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one" (Ephesians 5:31).
Affirmed, I continued, "Doesn't happiness come when you've achieved your goals? You should work at goals, not happiness."
"According to Norm, we create our happiness," Dan responded. "I don't know. What works for them might not work for us." Dan pushed back from the table. "Your focus on a dinner goal sure worked tonight! It was great! I'm happy you're my wife."
"Thanks, I'm glad dinner was good and I'm happy you're my husband. However, I've never thought about happiness separate from achieving my goals. I need to ponder that."
Moving from My Goals to Our Goals
The longer I looked for a job, the more I sank into a funk. Dan tried to help by suggesting we look for a house. I brightened. It was a different, new goal to pursue. Could a house make me happy? We searched neighborhoods close to our new church and found a house for sale.
I wanted a house, but I really wanted a job. I just wanted God to answer my prayers for a job like he'd done for a house.
Then came The Phone Call.
"Jan, the university loved your résumé. There are opportunities for someone with your qualifications. Would you be willing to move?"
Remaining professional, in spite of my excitement, I replied, "I'm certainly open to the possibility."
My knees were shaking when I got off the phone. Finally a potential real job. But 100 miles away. Oh no, what about the house and our new church? What does God want for us?
"What do you think of me finally having a job?" I broached when Dan returned home from work, explaining that it was 100 miles away.
Dan graciously said, "It would mean scrapping our house purchase. We haven't closed, so we don't actually own the house yet. I'd have to quit my job and get another, but, yes, I'd consider the move. Would it make you happy and do you believe this is God's answer to your prayers for a job?"
I watched my husband drink his tea. "Wait!" I shouted, my mind jumping from thought to thought. "I've wanted a job more than almost anything, yet you'd leave your job for me to find one somewhere else? Because that would make us both happy? You've achieved your professional goal, but you aren't happy because I'm not happy …"
I realized a happiness check included us both because we're "one flesh."
"But would moving and getting new jobs elsewhere be what God wants for us? The house we're about to close on is close to our new church. Would moving defy what God wants? Or is moving to another location an answer to prayer?" The more I talked, the more confused I became.
Dan laughed at my word flurry. "Let's take one step at a time," he advised.
We discussed our goals, dreams, future, and God's calling on our lives long into the night.
Making Goals Together
Goals, simply discussed and recorded, gave us direction and focus. I turned down the job opportunity, and we stayed in this new city. God blessed me with a good job two weeks after we moved into our home.
Conducting a yearly happiness check has helped us grow closer during our 32 years of marriage. We've shared joys and sorrows as we've communicated about goals both reached and unreached. Sometimes we've retired an unreachable goal, which can be hard.
Several times our making goals together guided us through a major move; other times it's helped us make small corrections, such as deciding on a book to read together or changing the Bible translation we study. We've enjoyed sharing this concept with friends and family as Norm shared it with us.
Jan Lazo-Davis is a freelance writer from Leawood, Kansas. Thanks to Norm Bruvold for the concept of a "happiness check." Jan and Dan have been married 32 years. www.secondstar.us