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Romantic view at sunset time, golden light

This Lent, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I search for happiness and love – or, more accurately, where I search for happiness and love.

Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist recently compiled a list of 9 places unhappy people look for happiness, and I could nod my head in agreement while reading through it, sort of virtually checking off everything on that list, because they’re things — and places — that I’ve looked for love and happiness, myself.

Like in the next thing I buy, or in my relationships… In my efforts to be beautiful, or in my work, and in whatever else I use to escape. Like in a book, a magazine, a tv show.

I can relate to all the things he mentions.

Because as I’ve gone searching for unconditional love and unconditional happiness, I’ve grasped at whatever has gleamed at me. I’ve held on tightly to things that were shiny and passing, and all the while, I lost grip on the One who is constant and forever-here.

And every single time I reached out for those things, I started what would be a never-ending chase after fulfillment because of those things or through those things. And whatever I did feel from those things when I achieved them or got them… was fleeting. Whatever joy I experienced, short-lived. Whatever happiness I finally felt, temporary.

And in each of those circumstances, I became the prodigal son.

“I am the prodigal son,” wrote Henri Nouwen, “every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found.”

And even if we’re not at that point of turning back around and returning to our Father, the beautiful thing here is that our Father still sees us from afar.

When we’re searching for Him — even in the wrong places, He is also searching for us.

He is, “looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.” (Nouwen).

I take comfort in those words this Lent.

As I try to shake those sins of mine that keep me from getting closer to God — those sins that I fall into when I search for love in the wrong places, I know that He is merciful, that He is loving — and that He’s un-changing… and waiting for me.