Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

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

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

Enjoy.

Enjoy life.

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

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9 Comments on “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry”

  1. Great post. I read your posts to try to understand my wife better. Your post really helped. I can tell you that your post captured the feelings that I have as husband about my wife, when she just does not seem to want to engage with me when I just want to get close, be physical, and feel that she is enjoying my embrace. Most of the time she is, well, just not there, clearly something else is going through her mind and my touch cannot cause her to break away from whatever it is. I used to see this in my mother too, especially in the holiday season. No matter how much we offered to help or no matter how much we did, she would find one more thing to do and would rarely settle in and relax with us. If I had one bit of advise to the wives and mothers reading your blog, it would be to enjoy the man and the children in your life by being PRESENT. And, regarding your man, let him know that you appreciate his presence and attention when he tries to give it. Men have to chase and pursue in most of what they do at work and at play most of our lives. Therefore, as a man there are few things that make you feel better than when your wife pursues your touch or your affection, or at least responds when you seek her. That is something a mentally absent wife pretty much cannot do.

    1. It really is hard to engage when there is an ever-present to-do list. Many of us operate from a sense that failure is lurking just around the corner. If we don’t make sure everything happens just right, we will be marked as failures as women. Also, if we grew up watching the women in our family never sit and enjoy, we might not even know there is another way. We feel an unproductive day is a wasted day. There have been times I have wanted so much to sit and enjoy, but I can’t let myself until I have earned it by making everything just so. It is so, so hard to combat these views.

      1. I totally understand what you are saying. That is what my wife has said/suggested in the past and the feelings only seem to have intensified now that the kids have left the nest. Now when they return she is obsessed with making the atmosphere “just right.” The truth is that the kids don’t care about the trappings, they just want a memory of everyone being together and having fun. I know that is how I felt when my mom, the ultimate hostess, was still alive. I wish we had more time with her at the table or in the den, rather than in the kitchen or scurrying around the house. As for my wife, I would just love to have her snuggled up beside me on the couch or ready to engage when we reach the plush comfort of our marriage bed, not cycling through to-do lists in her head.

        1. I think in some ways it is harder when the kids are grown. It’s like I’ve stored up all my mama urges to feed my babies, and it all comes out at once when they’re all together.

        2. Think about this for a second: how much could you impact and model your now grown kids by showing affection to their dad, or by letting him show his affection to you? Think about how reassuring it is to them to know that their parents are not together because of them, but that they are here because of their parents love for each other. What a lifetime gift that is to your children and perhaps that they can pass along to your grandchildren. I am just talking generically – not to you. I just know that when I saw my parents holding hands or hugging, or even snuggling, it made me happy – much happier than a pretty flower arrangement or perfect table setting. Thanks so much for your post!

        3. We can understand all this, but those old scripts about what we’re supposed to be doing are just so powerful. It takes intention to move past them. I know better, and I still get sucked in. I would suggest that you pray for your wife to experience peace and joy during the holidays–for her own sake as well as for the sake of those around her.

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