"I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil - this is God's gift to man." - Ecclesiastes 3:12-13
This is not the message I have carried in my heart my whole Christian walk. I was taught to live with the mind to only please God and that in doing everything for Him I would find the only satisfaction man could have in this life.
Yet when I look back on the years I practiced this kind of theology, I'm sorry but I don't think on the seeds that were sown nor the fruit that I saw come from my toil; but rather, I remember the countless tears, the fist-waiving swearing prayers I shouted back to God, the heartbreak of sacrifice and the pain of confusion. I remember how hard it was, how unnatural it felt, and how bottomless the work made my heart- nothing was ever enough.
But, this was it- this was the epitome of life, the highest form of living; what other choice do you have? Quit?- No, not an option. And so you toil on hoping that if you sacrifice enough, take a firmer grip on your cross and make it a bit heavier, your flesh will quit making this holy lifestyle so difficult; difficulty, of course, brought on only by your sinful nature resisting your righteous call. Dig deeper and bleed the poison out.
Sure it sounds foolish, it sounds morbid and a bit masochistic, but this is what so many of us tell ourselves.
And here's the kicker: Yes, love does require sacrifice, but love also requires self.
God did not, out of love, create you a unique individual in order for you to, out of duty masquerading as love, contort yourself into a common image by way of killing all that feels natural and pleasing to you. God does not want the best for you in order that He might get the best from you. -No. He wants the best for you because He wants the best you.
This is His gift to man, that you may be joyful, do good, eat and drink, and take pleasure in your work. This was the place in which He wished for us to know His love and love Him out of; a place of joy, pleasure and fullness. If you think that you can better love your God and fellow man by way of bloodletting, then my friend you will die before ever touch it.
Do you enjoy your work? Are you taking pleasure in your toil? If not, you are missing God's gift. And if your praxy is anything like mine was then, sadly, you are rejecting God's gift.
I dated a man who was always telling me, "You know I would die for you." To which my response was never sentimental nor condoning. There is little weight in death. What is it to die?
Die for me? Why on earth would I want you to do that? Say you'll live for me. Say you'll live with me. And by that I'll know the true measure of your love.
The power in Christ's sacrifice of Love is not that He died, but that He lives. So live, my friends, as Love would have you live. Love, my friends, as He would have you love. Take hold of the gifts that He has given to, both the gifts He gave to you and the gifts He has given to mankind. Take hold and holdfast. Be joyful. Do good. Eat and drink. Take pleasure in your toil. And receive the good gifts your Father intends for you.