July 18th, 2016 § 1 Comment
I’ve had a five year conversation with God. I realize how that sounds. It is however about as plain and as accurate as I can state it. It’s the truth or at least what I believe to be the truth. A few weeks ago, we arrived at what I think was the conclusion. While it was going on, I thought, “I need to write some of this down.” So, in a few posts, I am going to try to capture the highlights of this conversation. I’m writing this more for me than anyone else, but the point of the conversation might be of interest to you. It was about joy.
For most of my adult life, I’ve taken a day a week to spend some extended time with God, which is my way of saying I spent anywhere from five to eight hours reading the Bible and praying. When I transitioned to a new position at work, I let this part of my life slide a bit. My wife notices when I neglect these times, so at her behest, I renewed my commitment. About the same time, I decided to depart from my usual pattern of skipping about the Bible in my readings to read the Bible in a linear fashion from Genesis to Revelations. In those first couple months, as I read through the first five books of the Bible, known as the Pentateuch or the Torah, my attention was drawn to the repetitive phrase, “You shall do no work …” In particular, I was struck by the stern, prohibitive language.
And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement,
to make atonement for you before the LORD your God. Leviticus 23:28
I came home and told my wife, “I think God is telling me not to work.”
“If he’s telling you not to work, you had better listen.”
For the next year, one day a week, I decided to do no work. Not to touch it. Almost immediately, I expanded the definition of work to include any life giving activity. One day a week, I did zero work. No computer. No calendar. No people. Nothing. The only thing I did was spend time with God and come home to serve my family. I fasted on those days. No food. No exercise. No entertainment. No TV. No hobbies.
The surprising discovery was this: Of all the things from which I abstained, work was the hardest thing to drop. Not doing work was by far the most difficult discipline. Harder than not eating. Harder than not playing. The discovery was particularly noteworthy because I have always been by nature someone who enjoys play a good deal more than work. One of my highest values is leisure. Why was it than that when told I mustn’t work, I squirmed and fidgeted. How’d I become that guy who at every opportunity was all about frenetic activity?