Read while you’re alive!
Five years ago, when I was living in Sheffield, the leader of our weekly Bible gathering started one evening by telling us all that she’d had a dream the night before. I sat attentively while Chris spoke about her dream…
She said she loved reading crime novels, especially those by Agatha Christie, and had realised in her dream that there would no Agatha Christie books in heaven. I sat intrigued, wondering what eternally minded insight she was going to share. We all broke out laughing when her revelation turned out to be: “So I realised I need to read and enjoy as many of them as possible while I’m alive on earth!” Needless to say, that was not the outcome I’d been expecting!
I’ve mentioned before that I can overthink things, and that little anecdote rises to the surface again in the wake of a seafront conversation I had the other day with a friend. It seems clear to me now that over the years I’ve allowed myself to become bogged down with asking the meaning of everything – everything – to the point that simple pleasures, like decorating my office or playing with my cat, can frustrate me because I can’t see the greater meaning in them.
Often I will ensure that I see at least some meaning in the things I do in order to make them more palatable; reading, for instance, is not therefore just about enjoying the novel but also about developing my skillset as a writer. Mentally I’ve added gainful value to something I’d want to do anyway. And the point is not that there isn’t other value to many of the pleasurable things I do, but rather that I feel a need to find that other value, and I am not satisfied if I can’t.
So the other day, what my friend said was this: “God created a beautiful world, and I think it pleases Him when we spend time enjoying it”. Wow! That seems an almost ridiculously obvious thing to say, but to this 30-year-old, whose mind has in some ways been twisted into knots through too much tertiary analytics, and who has combined that with a Puritan-ish bent, it has the potential to be ground-breaking. Could the purpose be enjoyment? Ephemeral, earthly enjoyment?
When we’re kids, we know how to live in the moment. It’s all we do. That’s why being told to wait till later, or the next day, or the next month, is so gut-wrenching, because if we can’t have what we want now, it seems we’ll never have it! But that living-in-the-moment mentality is hard for adults. Our minds our filled with the future, with contingency plans, with schedules, and, in my case, bigger questions about the meaning of it all. I’ve often found myself in amazing places or situations, thinking: This is it. This is the stuff of aspirations! So why can’t I stop worrying about x and analysing y, and just revel in it? I have to fight hard to live in the moment.
And part of that for me is about shedding the mind-set that seeks the eternal value in every little thing I do. I am beginning to realise what seems almost farcically apparent now that I say it: God likes it when we just have fun, no thinking involved. I know this, because when I watch my nieces and nephews gallivanting about, giggling, playing, laughing – my heart is happy over how happy they are. I am so pleased that they are having fun! I don’t demand improving or eternity-focused activities from them 24-7, so why do I feel it necessary for myself, someone who is older, yes, but is still equally a child of God?
As our Abba, I bet God looks on our fun (when it’s innocent, of course) and is delighted. He made creation with beautiful beaches, jokes and laughter, quiet meadows, music, family gatherings, senses of touch and smell, fresh air, creative ability, and so on, because he wants us to enjoy them, and there are times when that enjoyment is perhaps the point, and nothing else.
And so the conclusion I’m hoping will settle firmly into my being is this: it’s okay to do things that you enjoy even when you can’t find a single ‘useful’ purpose behind them. In essence I’m freeing myself up to have hours and days in my life where I do things that don’t have a value I will carry with me into heaven, but are done simply because I have fun doing them. I am going to read many, many of the novels I like reading, walk along countless mountain paths, and take daily hot baths in winter, not because of an Oprah-esque mind-set that says I deserve them after a long’s day work, not even because it’s good to get fresh air, etc., but just because they are things I enjoy doing. Moving ahead, the reason for much of what I do will be fun, and I will work hard to forget that there is even that reason to it!
Do you agree? Please share your perspective if you’d like 🙂