“Luke, I don’t know what’s wrong with me!” I had the option to go to the beach, and I decided not to. Who was I? I always love going to the beach! I was grumpy, that was for sure. I knew I wouldn’t be happy if I went to the beach, but I certainly wasn’t happy where I was.
The world tells me I need to pursue myself and be true to myself to find that peace and fulfillment. I’ve tried being true to myself this summer, giving myself space for introvert time, putting my butt on a bike seat for literally hundreds of miles, waking up and going to sleep on a regular schedule. I’ve cooked the meals I like, spent time with the boyfriend I love, bought a new tandem bike, watched a dozen sunsets. I’ve pursued beach time, helped plan campfires, worked out, and soaked up sunshine on bare shoulders.
Christianity tells me to serve relentlessly, get involved heavily in church, be a bold witness to everyone around me, defuse all the fights, always speak the truth, give myself away for the sake of others. I’ve started–and finished–a fundraiser, faithfully attended church, daily spent time in prayer and reading the Bible. I’ve served through writing encouraging letters, witnessed by being the happy dude at work, and pursued relationships when I really just wanted to hide in a dark corner far, far away.
And here I was grumpy. For what, the hundredth time this month? Grumpy isn’t just grumpy, either. Grumpy hurts. Sometimes really hurts and it hurt enough I was ready to change something.
I was genuinely disoriented and was somewhat begging my boyfriend for wisdom. Did I need to serve more? Give away more of my time? Commit myself to more relationships? The thought was exceedingly overwhelming. Did I need to give myself more space? Allow my introvert self fewer people interactions? Eat healthier? Work out harder? These thoughts inspired significant guilt and shame.
Luke 22:19 reads “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them…” Ann Voskamp explains that in the original language “Gave thanks” is translated “eucharisteo.” This word actually holds three Greek words in one. Echaristeo–thanksgiving. Charis–grace. And Chara–joy.
And Ann writes “A threefold cord that might hold a life? Offer a way up into the fullest life? Grace, thanksgiving, joy. Eucharisteo. A Greek word…that might make meaning of everything?”
And this is what Luke reminds me of in my moment of emptyness after so much pursuit. What if the joy and fulfillment came, not in the pursuit of oneself nor in the pursuit of service and witness, but in the acceptance and appreciation of what is here? Right now.
What if it made no difference to God whether I was bike riding or serving in nursery? What if neither sunsets on the beach with my boyfriend nor time reading my Bible was more important than another? What if neither one side nor the other held the key to fulfillment or happiness? What if all these things, “worldly,” “godly,” or uncategorized had no value ranking in God’s perspective?
What if the thing that mattered most, that created the most fulfillment, that brought meaning and the greatest glory to God was living in Eucharisteo? Living in the moment, appreciating the moment, finding joy, seeing grace, living gratitude in the smallest things.
Serving in the nursery, smiling broadly in appreciation of a baby’s smile–glorifying God. Planking on the ground, fully experiencing and making the most of the burn and strain of the tiring muscles–glorifying God. Praying to God with a genuineness, present in the moment–glorifying God. Flying down a hill on a bike, soaking in the breeze across my body–just as much glorifying God. Lovingly writing a letter to a church friend just getting home from the hospital–glorifying God. Caught up in watching the dancing golden flame at a backyard campfire–glorifying God.
What if daily God puts a thousand things in your life, meant to bring you joy? Wouldn’t the greatest way to be in connection with him be to accept those gifts, not labeling them more or less important, not pursuing something greater, not feeling guilty for appreciating the “selfish” things?
And then I return to my normal life.
Because eucharisteo is hard. Eucharisteo is not the way we were taught to live life. It seems too small. Too trivial. Too insignificant compared to the messages of success the secular and church worlds.
Yet repeatedly. Repeatedly, I find that eucharisteo has fully changed my life the moments I do grasp it. And, perhaps, there is fulfillment in living this life no matter where I am. Maybe it’s here that I find the joy and grace and thanksgiving that transforms a life.