Lately, the two of us have been contemplating life as we know it. We have been thinking about our jobs and the struggles that come with it. Everyone has to work, we know this is a thing. We also are blessed to have the jobs that we do, though its not always something that we are extremely passionate about. We understand that "work" is an essential blessing of life that shapes us, and is a vessel that carries us through to providing a service, a good, or a craft for others to benefit from.
As members of society, it is easy to clutch at whatever security is available by doing what ever we feel like we as members of society should do. We are taught that other things (i.e the arts or creatives) are celebrated, but should be held at arms length, as not to distract you from working a stable job that will provide...even if it is something you don't enjoy doing.
We find ourselves in this very place. We are not passionate about our jobs. We have the discernment to know that the season of life is still valuable and purposeful, but what do we do with that? How do we go about improving upon our situation when sometimes it feels like its easier to just put our head down and continue to power through the 9-5 work grind, and cling on to the 10 days of vacation time we have per year?
Sometimes we just have to choose to believe that God actually wants us to do something we love, and that he gave us the things we love for a reason, not just as a break from our "real jobs". There are some bible verses in Ecclesiastes that really remind us of the gravity of work and how it's actually really tragic to not enjoy what you do.
"So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless." Ecclesiastes 2:22-23
I often feel like me and the writer of Ecclesiastes are soulmates these days. I'm constantly scanning my environment looking for meaning. My eyes feel like a laser trying to penetrate through the seen to the unseen. "What's the point of this? Why do we do this? Does this actually matter? Is there any meaning behind this?" There are a few themes in Ecclesiastes that really resonate with me and the philosophical life questions that I love asking.
"Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless--like chasing the wind." Ecclesiastes 4:4
We live in a very fast-paced society. We are busy busy busy, driven by money to buy things we don't need so we can impress people we don't even like. We envy other people and spend our time and money trying to get what they have. Our jealousy makes us unhappy with our own lives and so we live vicariously through others via reality TV, Facebook stalking, blog obsessions, and our Instagram heroes. We end up sacrificing relationships and family so that we can work more to earn more to have more, and yet it's still not enough. Whenever we are motivated by other people, we are robbing ourselves of the dreams and gifts and talents that are uniquely inside us. I believe every person is an amazing story being written. But if we spend our time lusting after someone else's story, we are dulling our own dreams and chipping away at our sense of purpose in this life.
"We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us. And this, too, is a very serious problem. People leave this world no better off than when they came. All their hard work is for nothing—like working for the wind. Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud—frustrated, discouraged, and angry." Ecclesiastes 5:15-17
Frustrated, discouraged, and angry. This is the inevitable outcome when we work to keep up with culture instead of working for what we love and believe in. If we choose to value riches more than purpose, we will come to the end of our lives realizing we never truly lived. Sure, we may have had the house, the clothes, the cars, and the comforts... but all for what? We can't take anything with us to the grave. There are no greater regrets than not pursuing a life of love, fulfillment, and relationships. I love nice things and am a believer in quality and convenience, but I also believe much of what we think we need is an illusion.. like chasing the wind. We can easily become obsessed with that thing we have to have, and once we attain it we are satisfied for only a short time until we are chasing the next thing. Hundreds of items are marketed to us on a daily basis. It all has the promise of "This will make your life better. You need this." But those promises don't deliver and so the thirst for more continues.
I believe we are all made to prosper and have an abundance so that we can bless and provide. The question is what we are rooted in. If everything tangible were stripped away, how much would you be shaken? If you live to maintain your social status and tangible surroundings, you'd fall apart in an instant. We are made for something deeper. The reality is that everyone is looking for connection, for purpose, and love. And those things are intangible.
"So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work." Ecclesiastes 2:24
"So I saw that there is nothing better for people than to be happy in their work. That is why we are here! No one will bring us back from death to enjoy life after we die." Ecclesiastes 3:22
"Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life." Ecclesiastes 5:18
Ahh, the best part of Ecclesiastes. It's scriptural to be happy in our work. We should enjoy what we do and feel like our work is connected with our purpose. And that should bring joy. Every child has big dreams about their future until they're taught not to. As we get older, we feel more inclined to succumb to cultural pressures and the conventional way of success. There is so much fear attached to stepping outside of the mold that we often don't take the risk. We can easily settle for something less enjoyable because we don't want to fail in reaching for what we really want in this life. Boxing ourselves into the status quo will always result in stifled creativity. When creativity is stifled and we feel stuck in a box, life becomes less enjoyable. It's not worth it to give up on the dreams that God has put in our hearts. Those dreams are there on purpose.
These are verses that inspire me to invite people over, open a bottle of wine, and enjoy heart-stirring conversations while being fully invested in the present moment. Enjoying life is one of the main messages in the entire book of Ecclesiastes. If we don't enjoy our lives, every little thing will start to stress us out. When stress starts accumulating in our lives, often the first thing we let go of is our joy. The second thing that usually happens is relational disconnect. Removing joy and connection from life is a sure pathway to personal misery. Life shouldn't be miserable. Jesus was anointed with joy above all his companions. He was the happiest man on the planet, and we've been invited into that same joy. I think joy is a very high priority in heaven. The Kingdom of God is one of righteousness, peace, and JOY (Romans 14:17). If we don't learn the art of celebration and enjoyment here on earth, we are in for a rude awakening up there. I find it interesting that joy is one of the first things that gets stolen from our churches... the least valued fruit of the spirit. I find it even more interesting the amount of believers who are actually offended by joyful congregations. Honestly, if we don't have joy then what is the point? But that could be an entirely different blog post!
To be completely honest, Ryan and I feel like we've been stuck in the rat race of life this past year. We are both in less than ideal 9-5 jobs right now but we know this season is purposeful. We are working hard, downsizing, and building our savings so that we can reach our goals and hit the road again in 2018! We may not be thrilled with our current lifestyle, but we are getting closer to our dreams and that brings us great joy and makes the sacrifice worth it. We are, in a sense, living our dream right now even though it doesn't feel like it. We are just in the beginning stages of pursuing the ideas and creativity that make our hearts come alive. It's like we've been watering a small seed that God has placed in our hearts. We are allowing it to germinate under the surface as we spend this season in preparation of what is to come. God has been so faithful to us in every detail right now and we are so encouraged to continuously unfold the story of our lives. May we always be rich in love, deep in our relationships, and may we always be people of joy and gratitude.