Would my mother Ah-Ma come to my wedding? I didn’t know.
One morning, seventeen years ago, I stepped into my Western bridal gown as American Bonnie for our church wedding ceremony, where my husband and I would exchange our vows. Later that night, I changed into my red Chinese wedding silk dress as Asian Bonnie at our wedding banquet.
The traditional silk dress is called cheongsam in the Cantonese dialect spoken in Southern China GuongDong where my parents are from. They escaped to British Hong Kong when the Communist party rose to power during the Cultural Revolution launched by Mao Zedong.
In Mandarin, the silk dress is called chi-pow. Brides wear red to symbolize good fortune and happiness for a new life as a couple.
That day was significant for me. Choosing happiness for myself was very different from the expectations I grew up with. I was taught to focus on the greater good, on what would be helpful and loving for others. Up to that point in my life, most of my life decisions had revolved around making choices for my family — my mother, who was a single mom, and my sister, who was five years younger than me.
I didn’t grow up in a cookie-cutter family that had a mom and dad, so I wondered if I could have the kind of whole-family happiness I’d always longed for. Did I deserve it, or was that selfish?
Happiness was more of an afterthought for me. It was nice when happiness was a part of my experience, as a side benefit to the responsibilities I shouldered. But to choose something simply because it gave me happiness? That seemed too extravagant.
Was I even worth happiness for my own sake if it didn’t serve other people?
So, choosing my husband — a soulmate with whom I’d define happiness together as a couple and later as a family — was a new territory of faith for me.
The morning of my wedding day, I wasn’t sure if my Ah-ma would be there, but I felt God’s peace as the sunlight sparkled through my window to greet me.
A Scripture came to mind, and I heard my loving Savior Jesus whisper,
You are precious to me
and I have given you a place of honor.
I love you.
Isaiah 43:4 (ERV)
The rest of that day was complicated, juggling so many different expectations from various people, but the one thing I remember most about our day was this Scripture from my Heavenly Father.
Happiness is not just important in the Chinese culture but in every culture God created. It gives God joy to see us blossom with happiness. This truth seems so simple and so obviously true to our minds, but will we take steps to embrace it in our hearts and live it out as God’s beloved?
Especially now, as we emerge from the pandemic, we need to keep choosing joy because in a world filled with doubt and division, choosing joy is a step of faith.
When we feel lonely, longing for companionship, we need to remind ourselves that Jesus understands our desire. Lean into Him. He can make a way for you because nothing is impossible for Him. He’s not holding back from you but wants to see you blossom with happiness. I don’t know what that might look like for you, but the truth is we’re all on a journey to find belonging out of loneliness and beauty out of brokenness. We all want wholeness and love, and God sees that.
Friend, you are worthy of happiness in the unique way that speaks of God’s love, joy, and peace to you personally. What might that look like for you as we emerge from the pandemic? Could it be renewed friendships, a dating relationship, traveling, or simply doing more of what you’re doing now? Whatever it is, go and do that. Joy is meant for us in Christ. God delights to delight you because you are precious to Him.
Choose to believe His joy is for you.