Saturday, February 9, 2008

The irony of fulfillment

I have learned over the years that things that consume my interest are things that I deem to give me some feeling of fulfillment. The human nature naturally feels that energy or effort poured into something will bring results to that something. In other words, if I want to feel fulfillment, I feel like I should do things for myself that would make me feel fulfilled. Most of these things involve pouring energy into my interests and things that I like. That should make me feel better right? I mean I'm doing things that I enjoy, right? Why is it that the feeling of enjoyment lasts only as long as the exercise itself, and I feel pretty empty when I'm done. I feel as through I need to reengage in the activity again. It can produce addictive behavior.

So here's the irony. I only find fulfillment that lasts when I pour energy into other people's lives. When I become selfless and think of other people's goals and desires and work to meet them, I find fulfillment that will last. It energizes me and I can ride the feeling for some time. It's really counterintuitive. I need to pour out of myself to feel filled inside.

Now, there is a catch. You can only pour out of yourself so much before you become completely drained and the possibility of a large bout of self indulgence looms. I have a theory that this is what happens to pastors that fall into sin. Their occupation requires an immense amount of giving of their lives, their time and their energy. If there is nothing pouring into them, they risk their career and family to find something that fills them up. The generic answer is that God must be the one that fills us up. Great answer, but how does this happen? Is it Bible reading, is it prayer, is it devotions? I have found that I can "devotion" myself to and still not feel filled. So what's the answer?

This has been my dilima over the last few years. How do I get filled? I have been reading John Eldredge's books for the second time. In Sacred Romance, he speaks of "Desert Communion". It is a process where one escapes from all the influences of the world for a period of time. During this time, one relaxes and empties the mind and heart of all the things that seem to consume them. We seem to keep our minds and our hearts busy. We never seem to take a break and give our minds and our hearts a break. And they desperately need a break. Not only do they need a break, but we need to just stop and listen. Listen to God. The first time I tried this, I realized how exhausted my heart and my mind really were. I never gave them a break. It felt wonderful.

When we look at the most selfless life ever lived, what do we find? What is it that the authors of the gospels seem to continually mention about Christ's actions. He found his alone time. He made time to get away. Christ was the example.

Next how did God structure the week? Is there any day that he made unique above the other days? Of course, the day of rest. But who really rests on this day? It is another day off of work on which we can get things done around the house. Why would we waste it on rest. I am growing to a point where I am almost convinced that this day should be taken very seriously. Our lives, our families, our hearts, our minds and our sanity may critically depend on it.

I am terrible at this. I live my life allowing way too much of the world's influence. Then I buy into the world's theories and demands and I'm back in the frustrating place looking for answers that I have already found, but cannot execute. I am overdue for a major lifestyle change. I wish I could speak from more long term experience on this theory. The times I have taken Desert Communion, it has felt like a huge burden was lifted. It's surprising that I don't do it more. Again, I need to change my influences.

I'll reread and edit this post later. Right now I need a break.