Do you have fun? How often? How often do you find yourself simply laughing with friends? Playing a game? Relaxing and enjoying some time alone guilt free?
Sometimes the casualty of getting older seems to be that we have more difficulty enjoying ourselves. Now, I know that some people reading this will think, "I can't identify at all. I love having fun. It happens regularly." For you - fantastic. Be thankful. Keep on. But for the rest, perhaps some of you can identify. Here are some of the causes that I have experienced:
Busyness - As responsibilities increase, we find ourselves thinking more and more about what has to get done. We are more concerned about accomplishing the list and the next thing in front of us than anything. We find satisfaction in a job done and done well. But then it's on to the next item on the list. We find ourselves as often simply trying to get through the next season of busyness and think, "I'll relax when I am caught up." Since this so rarely happens, we don't stop to relax and enjoy.
Disappointments - As disappointments pile up over the years, we find the weight of these disappointments creeping in our thoughts more often than we'd like. Some people get cynical and have difficulty seeing the good in situations and fun. We find ourselves dwelling on situations and broken relationships. We are disappointed in others, ourselves, God and the world in general.
Expectations - When we are children, there are few expectations. We simply enjoy having fun with brief periods of having to do some chores. Sometimes the expectations of the world, of others, of ourselves, overwhelms us. We spend our time responding to what has to be done in some attempt to validate our identity.
In the end, we still have fun . . . at times. Vacation is good. A long weekend is great. But I wonder if this is enough. Some years ago I was sitting around with my family. We were playing cards and having a great time. Everyone was laughing and generally having a great time. Yet in the midst of it, I felt more like a spectator than a participant. Something in my soul said, "This is not right."
The writer of Ecclesiastes said that we don't find ultimate meaning in the things we do in this life. As a result, we should enjoy what God has blessed us with while we walk this journey. So what I am trying to do is slow down. Be present in the moment. Stop carrying what has happened in the past with me. Don't overthink things. Just have some fun.
I am laughing more. I am crying more. I am not always there, but I will say, I am having more fun. And it is great. Try it. You won't be sorry.
I will admit that I am NOT a news junkie. I have friends who love to watch every aspect of the news. They can watch it for multiple hours each day and parse articles and generally enjoy it. Yet even though I don't spend that much time on it, I do like to stay up with what is going on in our country and in the world.
I was reading some of the news on a website recently and it struck me again how negative and hopeless most presentations are. We've always known that bad news sells better than good, but the level of anger, vitriol and angst that permeates most of what I hear or read is at the highest levels I can remember.
It was on the same day that I read a chapter in Psalms and a chapter in Jeremiah. Both of them used the term hope in a way that jumped out at me, so I did some digging. The word hope in the NIV version was used 3 different times, but each time a different Hebrew word was translated to the same English word "hope."
In the midst of all the negativity of the world, I have hope. Not just a hope for eternity (although that is an amazing hope) but a hope that God's dealings with and through me are based on his character. That is worth looking forward to.
I have been teaching through a series on Sunday about the Holy Spirit. I'm not sure where you stand on God, but we believe that when a person realizes that they can not do life alone, that they are messed up, and invites Jesus into their life, God himself takes residence in them in the form of the Holy Spirit.
It is one of the most profound things about following Jesus - that the God who created the entire universe would care enough about me to reside in me and speak to me, not as an impersonal force, but as someone who wants a relationship with me.
We have explored in our teaching series what this looks like, but there is one thing that sticks out to me in all of the stuff I am reading the learning. It is the importance of what we do when God speaks. God speaks. He is not out to hide himself from me. He wants me to get to know him and to hear from him. I have wondered sometimes why I don't seem to hear from God more often. There have been times I wondered why it seemed to happen occasionally and when it does, it rarely appeared to be significant.
One of the big reasons is that when God does speak, I have often reserved the right to ignore him. If I didn't like what he was saying about me. If I was afraid to so the things he was prompting me to do. If I wanted to retain control of a situation and not look foolish, I would make some excuse to not respond to God and would continue to live "safely". The problem is that God doesn't work that way.
When I say no, or when I ignore him, his voice gets fainter. I hear him less. He is patient to wait for me. He keeps on inviting me into that relationship with him, but it is always on his terms and not mine. He will not force himself on me, but he will not give me another assignment nor will I experience his presence if I turn down the thoughts and assignments that I don't want.
I am learning to lean in. To say yes regardless of what he asks. To take him at his word. To give up control. To trust him. Every time I do, he proves himself faithful. He has never steered me wrong because he is indeed, good. That doesn't always make it easier, but most of the time it does.
I want to hear him more. I want to make a difference. I want to know him more intimately. So I am resolved to learn in. To listen. To obey. To surrender. I look forward to seeing what will happen.
Weldon Lemke has been leading Hope Chapel since 2009 with a passion to see people come to know God and grow to maturity in Him.