I wrote yesterday about the sermon I that had me feeling like my spirit had been twisted into pretzel. Duty to delight in and pursue joy God? A delight to pursue my duty? What? And what does this really mean on an ordinary Wedesday morning. The other day at lunch I felt like a little piece of my puzzle snapped into place.
Sometimes I say to myself "I am going to eat whatever makes me feel happy" and I eat donuts and yet pizza and those foods don't love me back because I have a wheat intolerance. Other times I tell myself "I'm going to eat whatever makes me feel happy" and I eat salads because salads make me happy and they make my body happy.
When I was pregnant with Grayson I was super sick. In an attempt salvage what was left of my life I decided to be more strict with my diet and gave up all things wheat. I decided that the headaches and the tummy problems I had accepted as normal were really not worth it. I had finally hit a point where enjoying the doughnut wasn't worth the headache and enduring the stomach problems weren't worth giving into the craving. At first I felt like I could not survive without it but gradually I found solutions that worked for me and my body started to heal itself. The surprising thing was that after a while I even stopped craving the things that had made me feel sick.
Maybe duty and delight are a little bit like that. Sometimes I say I'm going to pursue God but it feels almost exactly like going on one of those awful diets where I hate every minute of it. Sometimes I say "forget this I'm going to do what makes me happy" but I end up paying for it later.
Maybe life in Christ is like making my body happy with a salad. I'm eating what I should and I'm happy about it. I'm not always happy about it, like as I pull all the ingredients out to make my salad, when what I'm craving is the pizza, but I'm usually happy with the salad by the time the plate is empty. I am not living by my feelings because I'm not always eating what I feel like in the moment but I am making the choice that I know will make me happiest in the long run. I am choosing happiness. I'm just not choosing immediate gratification. Does that make sense?
What I am pretty certain of is that God isn't asking us to live a life of self-deprivation. He doesn't want to deprive us of anything except for the things that are making us sick - physically, emotionally, spiritually... He wants us to deprive ourselves of the things that are making us sick so we can be filled by the things that bring life to our souls. His "no" is for the sake of a better "yes". Duty is, I guess, the beat between when we say no to the things that make us sick and yes to things that bring us life. It's all of the minutes between when we say yes to tithing and then watching God provide. It's all the heartbeats between when we begin to pray and when the Holy Spirit is drawing near.
I guess duty is kind of like lacing up your running shoes or grabbing the gym bag or driving past the drive through (without stopping!) - because we have confidence in the delight we'll eventually get from making the better choice. It's dragging yourself to small group, even when the morning has already been a disaster, it's showing up for the coffee date wholeheartedly even when you'd rather hide behind "sure, I'm fine. How are you?" It's sending that message, engaging with that friend. Sitting down with your Bible, lifting up your heart in prayer.