When the Toils of Life are Over

Christians, let’s be honest for a minute. Pretend like it’s just you and I, sitting alone on a desert island, with no hope of rescue. We’re past small talk. We’re past mere survival. It’s time to bare your soul, lay down your burdens, and just wait for the inevitable. Here, have a coconut. It won’t sustain you, but you’ll feel better after drinking its sweet milk. I wish we had some coffee…

Anyway, since we’re out on this island waiting for death to quietly swallow us, there is no sense in building walls to protect ourselves anymore. What’s the worse that could happen, anyway? I might judge you for some horrible sin that you may confess to me. Maybe you’ll look down on me for my failings as a husband and father. Admittedly, we’ll probably learn things about one another that we don’t like. But I’ll still be your friend. After all, you’re all I’ve got for the rest of my few short days.

Forgive me if this is getting a little uncomfortable. I’m not alone with you on an island. I’m actually sitting at my own desk, typing by candlelight, and enjoying Josh White’s album Absolution (it’s free, check it out!).

Life is good. I’ve got a belly full of food, with fridge and pantry to match, there is gas in my vehicle, and coffee in my canister. If I so choose, I can afford to go and buy ice cream. I have a wife who adores me, children who pretend to, stable employment, consistent bowels, and comfortable shoes. You know, you might say that I’m too blessed to be stressed!

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But don’t. I loathe that sort of cliche. It’s dishonest, after all. Because you know what? I am stressed. I worry that I’m not a good enough father. I often look at my checkbook and scratch my head, wondering how we’re going to make it until pay day. I worry that people will actually read this and Christians will think I’m a fraud and non-Christians will think I’m hyper-spiritual. I read my Bible, often only to realize that God must really think I’m a schmuck. It bugs me to know that His love is so great for me, and all I can offer in return is my inconsistency. I’m trying, but some days, I really miss the mark.

We Christian types like to hide behind cliches, though. I’ll pretend that not all of my readers are avid church goers who are familiar with the language of “Christian-ese,” so I’ll try and interpret:

“I’m under the blood.” (Translation: ‘God will forgive me, so who really cares!’)

“I’m too blessed to be stressed!” (Translation: ‘I’m so freaking stressed I could pop, but don’t talk to me. I have to appear to have it all together or God will be disappointed.’)

“I’m not perfect, just forgiven.” (Translation: ‘I sin a lot, but I’m going to make excuses. I enjoy the bad things I do too much to stop. I have no intentions of ever being a better person.’)

“God is in control.” (Translation: ‘Shut up. Your whining is getting old.’)

“I’ll pray about it.” (Translation: ‘Not happening. Seriously, just no.’)

Okay, I really hope that most people are really as rude as the translations often imply. I mean, Christian have the living God inside of them. We should expect more from them, and ourselves. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve used Christian-ese to make myself look good. It’s not often a lot of fun to be honest about mistakes that are actually just bad choices. I’m not often a victim of circumstance, but of my own selfishness.

In reality, the Christian life is really hard. It’s not a casual stroll down God’s gold-paved holy highway. It’s more like a war. Everyday is a new battle. We have legitimate spiritual attacks from a very real devil, and we also work pretty hard at sabotaging ourselves. The love of God is a powerful force, but only if we allow it to work through us. Too often we hang our hat on the anti-Bible verse “God helps those who help themselves” and do the best we can for who we are. With that sort of attitude, you are sure to fail. I should know. I fail a lot.

Okay, back to the island. Life is short. We’re probably not going to die today, but we’re both going to die soon, and likely sooner than we expect. We all like the thought of growing old, sitting on our front porch, drinking lemonade and telling stories well into our nineties. Unfortunately, this is a better dream than reality.

So here, have a coconut. Take a nice, reflective sip of it’s milk, take a deep breath, and just let it out. Will people judge you? Probably, but life is too short to worry about that sort of people.

The following is taken from “When the Toils of Life are Over,” by Charles Widmeyer, circa 1911.

How I long to gather you to myself!
As you cry out, one by one,
You are washed,
You are accepted,
You are mine.

The world will despise you.
You will feel abandoned, betrayed, and forsaken.
People will hate you.
It’s not you: it’s me.
But it won’t always be this way.
You’ve got hope. You’ve got a future.

There is a home I’m building for you. A home
Without sorrow,
Without tears,
Without the sins that bind you.
And we’ll live forever.
We’ll love forever.

As you tread this fallen world,
Know that you are never alone.
I am with you
Always and
Forever.

The original is available for your pleasure here.

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