Her kind spirit grabbed my attention. But more than that, she made a profound statement that left me questioning my beliefs. Ginger boldly professed, “God wants us to be happy.”
As much as I wanted to believe her, I’ve been taught that God wants our holiness and obedience before our happiness. Striving for holiness and working hard at the Christian life precludes my happiness, doesn’t it? But Ginger was adamant that we can be happy and holy at the same time. Could it be that I’ve bought into a false dichotomy—that I can only have one or the other, but not both?
I wanted to hear more on her viewpoint but for the moment, I got sidetracked learning about my new friend. I discovered that we have a lot in common. Like me, she is uncoordinated, laughs much and loves a dog’s smooch. She also claims one of her greatest gifts is ranting (good-naturedly, of course) which I totally get—being Sicilian.
I met Ginger through our column-writing work with Positive Note Magazine. I always flip to her articles to see what she has to say. Her writing leaves me thinking deeper and presses me spiritually. So naturally, I wanted to learn more from her in our time together.
What’s your perfect day?
Any day at Yellowstone. But really, a perfect day would be discovering that somehow overnight, I’d lost thirty pounds. Then I’d head over to my favorite pizza joint.
You’ve written a number of books and magazine articles. Would you share a few lessons you’ve learned along the way?
(1) I try to read as much as I can. I read great writing to see how those writers craft their words and I read bad writing to remember how not to do it.
(2) I’ve learned that we always, always, always write for the reader. What’s in it for them? Why do they care? If we write only for ourselves, then diary writing is a great path for us.
(3) Editors are the best-kept secret to great writing. When you find an editor who makes you work and wrestle with your craft, who encourages and challenges you to be better, then you’re the most fortunate writer in the world. I’ve learned more from editors than from any other writing source.
You write a lot about joy, especially in your recent book, Your Best Happily Ever After. Why is that such a special topic for you?
Because I’ve lived without joy. I see a lot of people in that same place. We want to be happy—we pursue it and it eludes us. The world is desperate for it.
But I’ve also lived with joy—and let me tell you, there’s nothing better! Joy is wonderfully complex because it’s wrapped up in hope and faith and persistence and even a little risk.
When I wrote Your Best Happily Ever After, I wanted to show people that joy is available and abundant—even in the darkest and worst times. I know that to be true, because I’ve experienced it there. The fun part of the book is that I use fairy tales and the Bible to prove my point.
Okay Ginger, here’s the question I’m wrestling with: I’ve been taught that God wants our holiness and obedience before our happiness. Striving for piety and working hard at the Christian life precludes our happiness, doesn’t it?
It’s always tricky when we focus on one aspect of pursuing God’s best and we exclude other aspects. I don’t find anything in the Bible that suggests we can have an either/or experience. As if, as Christians we believe that we can be righteous or happy—take your pick. That doesn’t sound appealing to me at all!
I think this becomes an issue when we misunderstand what happiness and holiness look like. If we’re talking about self-centeredness, then that ain’t true happiness! Or holiness. When we strive for a balance, that’s when we achieve both. Pretty cool, eh?
How do we live in that rhythm—swaying between doing what God calls us to do and being happy? Or are they exclusive?
I find that when I do what God calls me to do, I experience a deep sense of peace and happiness. I’m satisfied. When I do something difficult, I certainly don’t think, Rah, rah, God just called me to sacrifice something, and oh boy, am I happeeeeh! That’s just inauthentic.
The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes shows us a great way to practice that rhythm: It says simply that there is a time for everything. A time to mourn and a time to rejoice. I think a lot of people would discover more strength if they’d lighten up a bit. And a lot of people would discover strength by not catering to their every whim, as though they’re entitled to a happiness that excludes everybody else’s.
Here’s the reality: our hearts were created with a longing for something more, for meaning, for deep joy that can’t be stolen. When we embrace the God who created us as his masterpiece and we pursue doing the good things he has created us to do (see Ephesians 2:10), how can we not rejoice in all things?
How have you found your best happily ever after?
My mom tells me that when I was little, I used to say to her, “I’m so precious!” She had instilled in me how precious I was, and I believed her.
Somewhere along the way, I forgot that truth: that I am precious to God. So I began a journey to consider what God really thinks about me: that he lavishes his love on me, that he pursues me with a vigilance, that he offers me grace every single day, that he never leaves me alone in my own challenges, that he doesn’t think I’m as much of a dope or failure as I too often tend to view myself.
As I’ve caught a glimpse of those things and choose to believe them—because, after all, God cannot lie (Titus 1:2)—then I find a happily-ever-after happiness
I would love to see everyone catch that same glimpse to discover their own happily ever after. And that thought makes me happiest of all.
Is there a particular Bible verse that helps you stay focused on the idea of living with joy?
Well, yes, indeed, there is! One verse I cling to, especially when I start to feel less-than-fill-in-the-blank, is Ephesians 2:10: “We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” I put the first-person pronouns in it to make it more intimate: “I am God’s masterpiece. He has created me anew in Christ Jesus, so I can do the good things he planned for me long ago.”
That’s a great verse. Why does it speak to you so powerfully?
It’s been the most freeing insight for me. I don’t have to look at other people and compare myself. I don’t have to get jealous because they succeed and I don’t. I can celebrate with others when they succeed and I don’t. Because God planned for me to do good things. I don’t always know what that is or what it looks like. But I work to better myself, I follow through, I don’t give up, I live in grace, and I know that God is working behind the scenes to make me succeed in doing good things—because that’s what he planned long ago. That’s true for all of us.
Ginger finished by saying something that has lingered with me. She said, “I’m living under the waterfall that is God’s grace.”
Don’t you just love that?
She’s abiding under the cascade of His love, washed and renewed each day by the gentle roar of His favor. I want to live in this space, don’t you?
An accomplished author, Ginger has written, ghostwritten, collaborated, or contributed to 30 books, including Your Best Happily Ever After. To learn more about Ginger, and to find your best happily ever after, visit her at www.GingerKolbaba.com