Mealtimes are a struggle at my home - almost like a war zone. It's as if there's a huge burden to bear, an oppressive forced atmosphere where people are left without a choice and needing to do everything they can for their survival. Am I really describing mealtimes?
Unfortunately, yes. My boy thinks that eating is one of the must do's in his life, a burdensome daily chore where he has GOT TO eat his food in order to be alive. He feels deprived of any choices, forced to eat all the multicoloured vegetables along with meat and some staple that is on his plate in order to be healthy.
While it is true that our bodies require a balanced healthy diet to ensure we grow well, hence the need for various types of food even those we are less, whether it becomes a gloomy must do or a cheerful can do in our life is entirely based on how we approach this issue.
Is it something that we've GOT TO do or is it something we GET TO do?
When we have got to do something, we assume the position of someone who is under the decision of another. We are not the stakeholder in this, as someone else has made the call on our behalf. What's left for us is just to obey.
Obeying and following itself is not a negative virtue. On the contrary, they are very good virtues for a disciplined life. Those who go for their compulsory national service or military service would probably be able to share that these aptly describe their experiences during this mandatory training. Being able to obey the commands and follow the rules keeps the order and peace needed.
When we know there are things we must do, doing it in itself is a praiseworthy act. However the difference is do we do it joyfully (enjoying it willingly even when there doesn't seemed to be a choice) or do we do it just because we need to, we are told to, we are asked to and it is required of us (done without any joy out of pure necessity)?
A lot of us will easily be able to say that we are seldom or never that extreme where it is done begrudgingly like my boy when he has his meal but even if mealtimes become just a checklist of the day, we realise that this, whether it is extreme of just slightly without joy, is very different to when we enjoy a meal and look forward to it.
There is a insuppressible sense of excitement whenwe get to do something as it is something we look forward to. It's often deemed as a privilege because it is something offered to us that we are given the opportunity to opt for.
We are the main determiner and it is usually times when we are presented a choice to decide for ourselves whether to do it or not. There's a sense of wanting to do it instead of needing to do it.
Mealtimes for me have always been a get to moment. I look forward to what I get to eat for breakfast, wait with anticipation for what lunch would be, dream of the dinner that awaits me after work, and all the morning tea and afternoon tea where there will be food in my mouth and my belly! Yum!
How can one not be excited just thinking of what we get to do each day?
Even though I know that eating is something I must do each day, it has become more of a can do for me. Why is this so? How did I turn a must do into a can do? When did eating change from just something I needed to do to be healthy to something that I look forward to?
Is mealtime no longer a requirement for me to survive? Of course not! I still need to eat to be healthy. The switch happened as I begin to value eating and to have joy that even though it is something I must do, I can perceive it as something I can choose to do with joy.
I can be the one who inserts joy in whatever I do and make it a meaningful moment instead of just a mandatory must do on my checklist. So while it still remains a mandatory must do on my checklist, it has no become more than that - it is now also something on my constantly craved for can do list.
It's not about behavior modification, as the action stays the same, but a heart transformation, as the perception and feelings towards it switches.
Similarly in our walk with God, there seemingly are lots of must do's. We've got to read our Bible, got to pray, got to worship, got to go to church,got to serve, got to forgive others, got to think of others… the unending list of got to'scan be overwhelming for some or for others it could be a checklist of things we do each day dutifully.
I'm not suggesting that we ditch any sense of responsibility and discipline we have built as we follow Christ but I'm reminding us that these things that are required of us don't need to remain as just a requirement of being a Christian but it can be a privilege that we now have as we follow God.
As Jesus encourages us in John chapter 14, verse 15, "If you love me, obey my commandments." In another version of the Bible, it reads, "If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you." It's the heart that loves that does it joyfully.
Because we know God and love Him, we get to read our Bible and hear from Him, get to pray and talk to Him, get to worship and lift Him up, get to go to church and fellowship with the family of God, get to serve and use the talents we have been given to bless the community, get to forgive others and be forgiven as we move on from wrongdoings of others and ourselves, get to think of others and extend our help to people around us…
Here this same unending list, but now of get to's,places us in a position of privilege surrounded by limitless choices instead of us being surrounded by various forced environments deprived of any choice.
As the lyrics of 'Surrounded' by Upperroom goes - "It may look like I'm surrounded but I'm surrounded by You". How powerful can this be when we switch our perspective from what's around us that we need to do to who God is and who we are in Him - we now get to do our got to's!
Esther Koh is a primary school teacher living in Christchurch with her husband and two sons. She loves people and has a passion for helping others find their purpose for living.
Esther Koh’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/esther-koh.html