by Joanie Butman
Enjoying the last ‘official’ weekend of the summer is bittersweet. Though I am eager to return to a more disciplined routine with healthy eating, exercise classes and Bible study, it’s difficult to leave the ocean, my constant companion that offers so much peace and comfort during the summer. It’s a permanent reminder of the depth and breadth of God’s love. I can’t look out over the ocean without thinking of Ephesians 3:18, which encourages us “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Listening to the waves, I drift off to sleep each night with that verse on my mind and am greeted each morning by that same rhythmic sound, reminding me anew of that truth.
As glorious as the ocean is, I’m reluctant to admit that at some point during the summer I start taking it for granted. It’s not that I don’t appreciate its beauty or majesty. It’s just that somehow I become numb to its presence, no longer in awe of the blessing I’ve been given to have the opportunity to be its neighbor all summer. Now, my impending departure renews my sense of amazement and gratitude.
And so it is with God. Too often I take His constancy for granted and become complacent about His extravagant gift of love, mercy and ongoing presence. The discipline of Bible study during the school year helps to keep God in His proper position in my life – first and foremost. Studying Scripture and being in fellowship with other Christians combats complacency and rekindles my sense of wonder in His promise to be with me always, to the very end of age (Matthew 28:20).
Once again, Tuesday marks the beginning of the annual Life After Labor Day ritual – a detox health regimen for the body and soul. I’ve written about it before, but for the uninitiated, Life After Labor Day is an expression my husband uses to describe the beginning of yet another fitness program. The concept is that he can be decadent all summer, but once Labor Day rolls around, he becomes a model of self-restraint. He always tells us that we won’t recognize him by Thanksgiving. We have a closet full of infomercial exercise equipment guaranteed to bring about that Life After Labor Day six-pack. Unfortunately, we do recognize him every Thanksgiving, and are still waiting for Bob’s Life After Labor Day physique to emerge.
I’ll be joining him again this year, determined to achieve my own version of Life After Labor Day after too many lobsta dinners, long beach hot dogs and size small ice cream cones that could feed a small village in Africa. As my sister-in-law commented when she was handed a kiddie size cone at the local ice cream store, "What kind of kids do you have around here?"Unfortunately, in Glosta, quantity is king. Though my physique can definitely use the discipline, my main concern is to restore the wonder and reverence God’s love and presence in my life deserves.
There’s no doubt that getting back into my exercise routine and choosing to exert some modicum of self-control over my consumption (quality AND quantity) will establish improved physical well-being. However, those efforts won’t provide the solution to my much-needed Life After Labor Day spiritual conditioning. God will – not only after Labor Day, but any day I ask. How do I know this? Because He’s been doing it for years. I don’t need to be near the ocean to feel close to God. When I choose to be immersed in His Word, I see Him everywhere, and His presence never fails to invoke gratitude and veneration. The ocean may be beautiful, but the Lord is the living water my soul craves.