Enjoyment doesn’t come naturally to me.
I am much more inclined to think about getting through the things I’m supposed to do. In any given situation, what do others expect me to do? What are the tasks I’m supposed to accomplish?
The Ever-Lasting To-Do List
My focus has often been on doing the right things, as though my works prove my worth.
At family reunions, I’ve spent more time trying to arrange the potluck offerings and wash dishes than I have enjoying the chance to visit with great-aunts and cousins.
When my children were small, I volunteered in the nursery more than I allowed myself to sit in the worship service and have my heart fed.
My adult life has seemed like one to-do list after another: pay bills, clean the toilet, juggle the ever-changing family calendar, figure out holidays with our families, cook dinner, wash the dishes, do the laundry, buy the gifts, and an endless number of other tasks that needed to be crossed off my list.
I would sit down after a difficult stretch and think to myself, Whew, I made it. That event/season/project is over. I’d take a deep breath and then ask myself, Okay, what’s next?
Sometimes I had a niggling awareness that although I had gotten through something, I hadn’t experienced it.
In January, I would think about the rush and stress of the holidays for the past six weeks. I’d managed to get through my entire to-do list, but instead of feeling accomplished, I would feel just a bit empty. I got through Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I didn’t enjoy it at all.
I pretty much had the same attitude with my marriage, especially when it came to sex. My husband and I would do things together because we were supposed to. My marriage to-do list included attending dinner events with my husband, discussing Christmas gifts for the children, deciding on what events to attend or host, and even having sex. It was all a big to-do list. I would get through the list, but I would still feel empty. I was more concerned with checking everything off my list than I was with actually enjoying the experience.
Our Lot in Life
My family had an early Thanksgiving feast this past weekend. I spent several days cleaning, shopping, baking, and cooking. I had a big to-do list, and I found myself drifting toward a focus on getting through the items on the list—at the expense of my relationships with my family. My kids would attempt to have a conversation with me, and I would respond absent-mindedly as I thought about what dish I needed to work on next. Big Guy would reach out to give me a hug, and I would give definite “don’t bother me” signals. I had to get through my list, after all.
In preparation for a podcast recording session last week, I’d found myself drawn to two verses in Ecclesiastes. These verses came to me Saturday as I was peeling potatoes. (Peeling potatoes seems to open my heart to God.)
So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun. Ecclesiastes 8:15
Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. Ecclesiastes 9:9
Life is full of tasks and labor. It is our lot in life. However, God’s Word tells us that life includes so much more than the work. It includes more than my to-do lists.
We are told to enjoy what God has given us. Enjoy food and drink. Be happy. Husbands and wives should enjoy each other.
It hit me, right there in the middle of the potatoes: I have spent a great deal of my life focused on the toil and labor at the expense of enjoyment.
I’d been looking at my tasks as completely separate from joy. I washed the family reunion dishes as a task, without enjoying the connection with my female relatives as we took our turns at washing and drying. When I volunteered in the nursery, I cared for the children—but I didn’t enjoy them.
Standing at the sink as I worked my way through the pounds of potatoes, I realized that I was missing out on joy at that very moment.
I took a deep breath to clear my mind of the to-do lists. (Besides, I already had a written list I could refer to if necessary.) I began to listen to the conversation coming from the other room. Big Guy and the kids (and a significant other) were talking about football and their jobs. I smiled to think about how wonderful it was to have all the kids together.
A while later, we sat together and ate a feast. Afterward, I even enjoyed the post-feast bloat as a reminder of our meal together.
Enjoyment doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s something I must be intentional about.
I still need to-do lists to help me be sure I do the work I need to do—but I need to remember that God has given me far more than just task and toil and labor.
When I allow myself to experience enjoyment in my daily life, my toil is accompanied by a joy that feeds my heart and soul.
As I washed dishes later, my husband wandered into the kitchen and put his arms around me. I allowed myself to melt back against him for a moment. The dishes weren’t going anywhere. They would wait while I enjoyed my husband’s strength for just a moment.
As you navigate the to-do lists that come with this time of year, remember that although there are many tasks and much labor, there is also much to enjoy.
God has given you enjoyment along with the toil.
Eat, drink, be merry—and be sure to enjoy your husband.
Image credit | kaboompics at Pixabay.com