The immersion back into the work environment seems to get more difficult with each passing year. Plopping papers upon a desk just doesn’t have the same thrill as it used to. There’s nothing wrong with the job, but rather, the way of living. With each swipe of a page, I am reminded that this is normal for me. It is normal to toil.
As one set of sheets disappear, a new set finds its way to my desk. There is nothing sad about this. This continuous work means I will continuously get paid. There is no lack of work to do. It is a glorious thing. Yet, for some reason, I feel sad. The stack is neither higher nor lower than it normally is, yet I am melancholy. I know what triggered it, but I don’t know how to not be triggered by it.
This past weekend I witnessed a great many marvelous things. I saw a child trust me with his entire being as he leaned towards me for me to hold him. I witnessed a son drive hundreds of miles to see a dad and share red velvet cake. I saw children prove that they are leaders as they trekked off alone to walk around the manmade lake. I watched another son stand over a flame for hours to feed his family steaks, chicken, sausage, hot dogs, asparagus, salad, and more. I saw two old men converse their evening away, talking about life, Christ, family, and cooking. I saw cousins share their desire to be closer as a trip to Ireland was planned. I witnessed family again.
There is always a certain moment of bliss when I am experiencing my family. This time, it was seeing an old, Black man with white, fluffy hair smile ear to ear with a cigar burning in his hand and a glass of tequila and a tomahawk steak on the table. I realized that this image is what King Solomon spoke of in Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 and 5:18-20:
“I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God”.
“This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.”
Watching my uncle rest on his patio couch with a cigar in his hand and a drink on his table was, I feel, exactly what that gift God gives looked like. He was not without troubles. He was not without work to do. There were people not at the party that he still needed to reconcile himself to. Yet, for a moment, he could enjoy his birthday.
His son brought him a tomahawk steak from the grill. He wife refilled his glass of liquor. His friend sat there talking with him about life. His nieces, nephews, sister, son, daughters, great nieces, great nephews, grandson, and cousins all sat around his house enjoying a feast he could afford to give them. That day, he was a king, and it showed rather easily. There was not a person in the house that did not show him love for his birthday. We all honored him.
I chose that image of my uncle as a way to show you that life is meant to be enjoyed. We are not meant to work endlessly. America would like to have you believe that 50-70 hours of work a week is the life you should have, but that is far from the truth. Your goal should always be to take multiple rests to enjoy the fruit of your labor. As the saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
I encourage you to take multiple vacations yearly. I dare you to rest one day out of the week, at least, and take care of yourself. I implore you to take four days off, from time to time, to reflect and assess the state of your mind and emotions. You cannot bury everything in a job, and your job will certainly replace you without remorse once you are gone. Don’t give yourself to people who will forget about you the minute you are gone. Enjoy the fruits of the toil. Obtain your God-made gift.
Refrain from listening to people who fight sleep to get rich. Money comes and goes, but sanity tends to stay gone once you have lost it. Do not let your goals revolve around material blessings. As the Bible says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal.” There is a certain way to toil that brings a blessing greater than material things.
My uncle toiled on people. Everyone at that party, and others, have been fed by him, given a place to stay by him, and always given the Gospel by him. He invested into people, and just for a moment, God granted him the ability to see the fruit of that labor. All he had to do was sit on the couch and be loved, fed, and celebrated. I know what it is like to experience that glory. To be the king for a day, and enjoy the company of people I love. Though I cannot do it often, it is something I have come to enjoy.
Over the past month, my brothers and my father have come to stay at my place for the weekend. I have experienced many birthdays events, and have been able to enjoy people that I truly love. It is a place of bliss that I have been starved of because of work. So, when I enter the doors of my job after experiencing that bliss, it is no surprise that a feeling of sadness comes over me.
We have created a system that forces too many relationships to fail. We have established a work-life balance that destroys humans rather than lets them enjoy the fruits of their toils. We have made a system that makes making money the point of our lives rather than making our lives better. We have complicated life.
I am sad, because I know I will not see some of my family for months, if not a year. I am melancholy because, though my social battery had run low, I was enjoying the food, the laughter, the conversations, and the love. I am upset because I spend 247 days out of the 365 days we have in a year working. Most of those 118 days that we call weekends are spent resting to help me get through the 247 days I have to work this year. Many would consider this schedule to be a blessing, as they work upwards of 350 days a year. Something about the way we do life, or have to do life, seems wrong.
Now, I expect to be sad when a person I love leaves to return to their home. I don’t know why. It has been going on for some years now. The more aware I have become of my emotions, the more I have recognized the numbing feeling that is the first day back to work. I hide it very well, but every time the family visit concludes, I go home and sulk for the next two days.
Some would say it is because I value the right things. Some would say it is because I love deeply. Some might even say I have abandonment issues, which would be hilarious to me because I can always move on and get over sadness. But what I want you all to say is, “Next time my loved one is in town, I will enjoy God’s gift and truly immerse myself into the experience of spending time with them.” We spend enough time working, or resting for the next work week. Next time you have a moment to rest and enjoy the spoils of your labor, do it with excellence.
It is not every day that you get to spend time with the people you love the most, especially if you’re single. So, appreciate the moments that God gives you to enjoy those people. Don’t walk into a get-together thinking about the moment after it is over. Look for ways to enjoy the people in your life now, because one day they’ll be gone and you’ll wish you had taken every moment in to the fullest.
You are meant to toil all the days of your life, but you are also blessed to share moments of rest. Make the most of those moments of rest as God intended when He gave them to you. Take nothing for granted. What was once expected can always be taken away. Don’t let all of your moments of rest be about work. Go and enjoy the people you love. Demand it.
Go get your gifts,
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