Most people would agree that the key word for success in work is discipline.
This doesn't just apply to students, though of course it's most obvious there. After all, the good work habits you've developed as a student apply to your job as well, making discipline in work important for a fruitful, productive, and fulfilling life.
But what happens in the lulls in between, after our work's done?
Maybe some of us have grand plans for what we're going to do with our free time----which guilt trip us when we end up spending consecutive hours sprawled before the TV's hypnosis as if we don't have a backbone--
--or hunched in front of the computer's glowing screen like a modern Quasimodo.
Or maybe we happily and unquestioningly drift into the invertebrate/Quasimodo phases, without any guilty feelings to disturb our peace.
Discipline in work is a good thing; oh, of course. But how about in play?
I'm not saying that whenever we sit down to watch TV it has to be a pre-planned, allocated 15.07 minutes. Or that we shouldn't watch TV at all, but devote all our free time to 'useful, beneficial, or edifying' activities along the lines of revising homework, alleviating world hunger, or writing Elgar's Fifth Symphony. That's simply unrealistic for everyone. Obviously, we don't have to drag every piece of truth to an extreme.
Being truly fruitful, I believe, requires a certain attitude/approach to our lives as a whole--rather than just a work formula only applied to the relevant parts of our lives. Just as good health is more than merely taking the right medicine when you're sick--it's how you eat, exercise, live.
A life of true/full fruitfulness doesn't just extend to the parts of our lives we label work. But it's going to be hard to apply this idea practically without falling into the trap of becoming judgmental, legalistic--or unrealistic.
It reflects sadly on our generation and culture, that the first things which popped into your mind were probably TV and the Computer, as they did in mine.
We all know why; the truth is that both have huge potential as destructive time wasters.
They make it ridiculously easy, when we already don't need help.
But before we groan--or roll our eyes--at the idea of throwing away our 40 inch TV or taking a baseball bat to our computer, let's remember that fruitfulness (or un-fruitfulness) isn't limited merely to the activity itself.
(i.e. don't define 'unfruitful' and 'fruitful' simply by activity. That is, the parts of your life spent watching TV aren't necessarily the unfruitful parts of your life. OR that as long as you're reading a book you can feel smug that you're not wasting your life like those couch potatoes watching TV.)
I challenge you to take a look at your lives.
Consider the things you spend the most time on, or do the most often. (note: an activity is not necessarily always both, but can be either)
Consider the things you're most drawn to do, want most to do, whenever you have free time. (if only for the valid reason that you often end up doing them)
And especially consider the things you do which you regret afterwards, or feel ashamed of.
The guilt test is a pretty good sign that the activity, the amount of time you spend on it, or maybe even just when you do it, isn't helpful for you.
(Personally, the guilt test has shown me I need to kick the habit of checking my phone once I get up. After all, Facebook notifications are amusing--but not really life-and-death issues. And, 9 out of 10 times, they usually end up in me aimlessly browsing for amusement--wasting precious morning time, sometimes to the expense of my devotions.
Similarly, while watching a movie probably wouldn't prick you, watching six in a row might--and with good reason, as it usually means you've flung everything, genuinely important things included, to the wind.)
I hope I don't sound like a depressing killjoy. But honestly. The truth is, it's the well-spent leisure which refreshes and delights us the most. You feel good after it as well as during it. You're more ready to return to work--not less. And ultimately, you enjoy and use your life a whole lot more.
As Christians, especially--to whom Christ should be Lord and influence over all aspects of our lives--I believe we need to see our leisure and rest as gifts that should not be abused, gifts to be treasured and used well.
To be used--not carelessly; not joylessly; but purposefully.
And, as with all else, to the glory of God.
Think the (famous) Proverbs 31 woman, busy spinning purple and getting up early and being a role model.
I couldn't really relate to the land-buying and purple-spinning, but I knew that the modern-day Proverbs 31 woman in my life was my mom.
And I knew that I wanted to be like her; with a heart for people and the ability to make sacrifices cheerfully and wisely.
But I used to think I couldn't really live out the Proverbs 31 woman's life yet--because I was still a student; I was still living with my family, didn't own my own house; wasn't earning very much; was too young. (Rebelution red lights start flashing!) Ah, yeah, okay. One day in the distant future as a wife and mom and/or with my own home. No one as yet to spin purple for.
2 Corinthians 6:10--"...as poor, yet making others rich."
How's that possible?
A long while ago we went through a study With One Voice by Alex and Marni Chediak. Part of the study was defining godly masculinity and femininity; and out popped hospitality! Of course, so did Proverbs 31.
Here's One Voice's take on hospitality, as of my notes:
Hospitality enhances and beautifies the life of others...gives comfort to the weary and the downtrodden. The godly, hospitable woman's priority is outward, for the good of people around her.
That ties in perfectly with 2 Corinthians' exhortation. As poor, yet making others rich.
Hospitality is not merely the sharing of resources (emphasis on the gesture.)
It's a way of life, a perspective. Having the heart to share what you already have. Selflessness.
And as that, it is no longer defined by the having of something to give.
If we have this perspective, if we live our lives in this way, we'll never be obsessing over, or hiding behind 'don't have enough to give'; we'll be seeing what we can give.
Rather, we'll see ourselves, with all that God has blessed us with--
little as it may be in our own eyes and the eyes of others--
as stewards of His love.
Almost everyone, I'm sure, has had to deal with loneliness at one point or another in their life.
Though God gave me an awesome family and church family, I had my lonely stint too; going through the usual gamut of thinking everyone else had more friends than I had; I just needed to meet people more like me; and finally, (mark the self-esteem dropping!) that I had problems, I couldn't and didn't 'socialize' the way everyone else seemed to so effortlessly.
So many people struggle, to different degrees, in different ways, but with the same problem--sometimes without even realizing it.
Thanks be to God, I got over that tough 'trough of despair', solely through His help. I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't known that God was real and Christ loved me--really loved me. If I hadn't known--despite how much I felt otherwise--that important as they were, people relationships weren't the main thing in life.
Truly, the great lesson I learnt from that experience was how all-sufficient our relationship with God should be and can be--even though it usually isn't. Sometimes the good gifts of close friends and happy relationships start taking God's place as what fulfills us, how we define our happiness, even our so-called spiritual status. Rather than the other way around.
For me, as for the many others I've heard of, God brought me out from this, helped me to realize what was really, and should really be, important, by taking away all the distractions so I was left with Him alone.
As if I was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by beautiful scenery--floating on a raft. Without it, I would be drowning, no matter how beautiful the scenery around me is.
But I've gotten so engrossed enjoying the seagulls and pink clouds that I've forgotten just how important the raft beneath me is. And I only realize this when all the beautiful scenery disappears, and there is nothing left to distract me.
The seagulls and pink clouds didn't actually disappear in my case; they were still there, only hidden temporarily from me in a mist of my my own making.
I wrote in my journal that God had taught me to know myself better. But most of all, to love and value Him more.
God, by definition, is perfect. We and this world are not. Therefore it is only logical for Christians to believe that ultimate satisfaction, ultimate fulfillment, and ultimate joy, should come from Him.
Steve DeWitt encapsulated this thought so well: " When we wake up to the fact that no relationship can fully satisfy, we realize that we are lonely for God."
There! That was it. I was lonely--I knew that--but what I didn't understand was what actually I was lonely for. I thought better relationships, closer bonds, more friends, were the answer.
In truth, these things are only gifts, reflections of the Giver. They are good, but they can't really satisfy us in the long-term any more than a photo can substitute a person. They can temporarily assuage the ache, the emptiness, the craving we have; like painkillers that temporarily stop the pain, but only for the four-six hours the medicine box can promise. After that, when the painkillers die away, or they're are all gone, we're on our own. Hurting, again.
Our loneliness, needs, and desires are meant to help us--not distract us--realize our loneliness, needs, and desires are for God.
We are lonely for God.
looking through old prayer journals, I found this, unexpectedly...
v.1 'I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.'
I want to be like the Psalmist, Lord--able to bless and praise You at all times, continually. Even when I'm sick. Even when I'm panicking, or discouraged, or worried sick about the future. I need to remember that if I seek You, You will deliver me from all my fears; I will not be ashamed of trusting in You.
v.2,3 'My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together.'
Why 'the humble?' Because those who boast in anything or anyone but the Lord is proud; not because the other things are not good, but because they are not wholly good, and not anywhere near the goodness of God.
Only the humble, those who trust only God and see Him as the only truly, wholly good thing, will understand and be glad; and praise Him for His goodness.
v. 4-6 'I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces were not ashamed.
This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles.'
Even if I feel like a poor man--even though I am a poor man.
v.7 'The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them.'
I can't see You. I can't always realize that You're all around me--not just hovering around, but 'encamped'; poised, ready for action at the first sign of danger--but You are, all the same.
v. 8,9 'Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!'
Yes, You are good! Truly, all I have to do now is trust in You and taste, to find that You are good.
v.10 'There is no want to those who fear Him.
The young lions lack and suffer hunger,
But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.'
'I shall not lack any good thing with You.' What a presumptuous, ridiculously impossible claim for a human to make. Which makes it even more amazing, but wonderfully possible, when You say it.
v. 11-14 'Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Who is the man who desires life, and who loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.'
Yes--I want to live, to live a full and beautiful and joyous and useful life, to see good. I will try to obey what You tell me to do in order to live out that life I desire; how to have that life I desire.
v. 15-16 'The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.'
And You hear me! You repeatedly do--always do--even though I would never, and could never, call myself 'righteous'. Oh lord, You are gentle and compassionate and You yearn with love and mercy for us. You know when our hearts are broken. And You are there--when we don't realize it, even.
v.17 'The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.'
You know when we have suffered wrongfully at the hands of others.
v. 18 'The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.'
You know when we've sinned, when we've repented with guilt and tears and true anguish of soul--and You save us.
You forgive us, because though sinful, we are repentant.
v. 19 'Many are the afflictions of the righteous; But the Lord delivers him out of them all.'
We suffer, as Your people, but we have You through it all.
v. 20 'He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken.'
Ultimately, we will come out unharmed--stronger, even--while those who caused our suffering suffer.
v.21 'Evil shall slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous shall be condemned.'
Putting our souls in Your hands;
v.22 'The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.'
...putting our hope of salvation in You, trusting You for it, is not in vain.
Trust, in You, is not in vain.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are