This is a guest post from my friend Joanna Tao—a San Francisco flower shop owner, godly wife, and wonderful woman who I had the joy of pastoring the past 4 years:
Like most people these days, my job entails long, stressful hours of mentally exhausting work. When I get home from a typical work day, all I want to do is unplug and vegetate. It is in these moments of exhaustion that I reach for “cheap entertainment”. My personal favorites are page-turning fiction books, exciting action movies, and can’t-wait-til-next-week TV shows, but I have observed that other people find similar relief through Youtube binges, video games, and televised sporting events. Ahhh! It feels so good to just turn my brain off and dig in. But why don’t I feel relief when I am finished? In fact, it just makes me want more. I become ravenous for relaxation by the time the weekend rolls around.
In truth, I have not given these enjoyable activities their proper place in my list of priorities. God gave us the capacity to feel heart-pounding, eye-sparkling, giddy excitement for our favorite thing on the planet. He wants that favorite thing to be Him. Sadly, and embarrassingly, I often prioritize a lame TV show above God. Surprise, surprise! The TV show cannot fill that deep longing in my heart for satisfaction and relief.
As the week crawls by, I convince myself that I am too exhausted to read the Bible before bed. I am way too zapped to pray or read that non-fiction book about Jesus. If I am brutally honest, these things sometimes just feel like more work. But when I go back to my actual work the next day, I do not have a Biblical perspective to help me get through the day. Any little stress sets me off. I feel like I am struggling on my own. The weight of responsibility is heavy on my shoulders. I do not remember the love and care of God and my ultimate purpose, which is to glorify Him. I have not centered my life on Him, so all those peripheral activities get sucked into the void until my life orbits them instead of Jesus.
Thankfully, I went on a retreat last weekend. I was pulled away from the daily stressors that drive a wedge between me and God. God clearly intervened and placed himself back into the center of my life, and I have a renewed passion for prayer and reading about Him in his Word. I prayed that He would once again be the reason for my eyes to sparkle and my heart to pound, and He answered my prayer.
One of the most incredible aspects of God is that He allows us to wander and stumble, to push Him away. Yet He will always gently call us back by the whisper of the Holy Spirit. He lets us decide what our priorities will be, so that when we return to Him, it is out of love and not duress. We have incredible freedom to choose our priorities. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:23, “’Everything is permissible’ – but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’ – but not everything is constructive.” This is not legalism, rules, or religion. I do not have to give up my favorite activities. I just have to prioritize them in their proper place, behind the author and perfecter of my faith, the one who called me by name and saved me from an eternity of separation from God, my powerful Lord and humble servant: Jesus. He is the source of true rest.