Different Kinds of Happy

“Let us hope that we are all preceded in this world by a love story.”
Sweet Land

Whenever someone asks me what my favorite movie is, I can’t just give one answer. There are at least ten. This is one of them. It is about a young German woman who travels from her home in Norway after World War I to marry a man she’s never met. She finds herself in the middle of Minnesota, where anti-German sentiment is unbridled.

This isn’t a political film, though. It doesn’t dissect the social norm of mail-order-brides from our modern perspective or try to convince us of the need for the burgeoning socialism. It’s a love story, the kind that makes you want to sit at home with someone you love, after working all day, or bake a pie and drink black coffee. It’s a story about community that reminds me, in this big and sometimes disjointed city, how important it is to help each other out. It is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen.

At several points in the film, there are references to a conversation Olaf has with his best friend Frandsen while taking a photo of his bride to be, Inge. Frandsen asks Olaf what the word for happy is:

Olaf: Lykkelig
Frandsen: Lykkelig’s happy? I thought glede was happy.
Olaf: That’s more like delighted.
Frandsen:…What’s the difference?
Olaf: There’s no difference.
Frandsen: So why have two words, then?

When Inge is older, Frandsen poses the same question to her, to which she replies, “Different kinds of happy.”

In the midst of struggle—being an outsider, not being able to speak the language, a difficult harvest, and losing loved ones—this is a story about people who experience different kinds of happy; like the smell of grass and feeling the sun on your face; friendship and good pie; dancing to familiar music; building trust, forging bonds, and creating memories; the simple gesture of holding hands. This is the story they so beautifully pass on to their children and grandchildren.

This is my story too, not just because my parents have given me a love story to aspire to. If there has ever been anything compelling about the story of my faith, it is this: we were created in love, redeemed for love’s sake, transformed by love, and remain here to love. We are all preceded by a love story, a story of perfect love. And that love creates in me different kinds of happy.

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