Solomon states in Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 that one of the keys to surviving the brutalities of life is to relax . . . chill . . . drink some wine . . . recreate . . . and have a good laugh.
According to some scholars, Solomon didn’t say that at the beginning of his prodigal period when he went off the rails on a crazy train with the idols and the hookers and stuff. No, he offered this advice at the end of his life when he had already experienced massive highs and debasing lows. It was after he had penned the Proverbs, written the Song of Songs, departed from God and had come back to reality that he summed up life as vanity in which one would do well to 1. Fear the Lord (Eccl. 12:13), 2. Enjoy the ride, and 3. Drink some wine. In other words, keep it simple, stupid.
I’m sure most folks get the “everything is vanity” stuff from Sol’s pen. I’m certain most of the faithful get that “life is hard work, a sweat of the brow” subsistence (except, of course, the metrosexual 30-year-old males who live with mommy and won’t get a job). I am also equally positive that most sincere Christians understand the crucial requirement of the fear of God for worship and well-being.
But relaxing? Enjoying the ride? Seizing life? And wine? Drinking wine? Giles, have you gone nuts?
When one begins to go through the meat grinder of life, the first thing to evaporate like a pack of Camels at a crack house is joy. Joy is serious business because according to God, without it you’re oh so lame. You and I won’t be able to stand against the forces of hell and our rotten desires or endure God’s discipline without getting happy in God. Yep, without the gravity-defying virtue of joy cranking through our spirits we won’t be able to pray the fuzz off a peach.
I find it really interesting that Jesus safeguarded His soul by going to the mountains, boating, fishing, getting around people in the marketplace, chillin’ with His boys, hanging at parties and eating and drinking with the best of them. He ate and drank so much He was beginning to get a rep that He was a lush (Matt. 11:19). Yes, Virginia, Jesus was anything but a weepy, ascetic, moody, vapid and pouty lone wolf monk.
What follows is what I do to keep the Churchillean “black dog” from nippin’ at my arse. This is my trip. My salvo. These are my vents and liberties. To each his own. Since I’m writing this column and you’re not, I am going to tell you what I do and why I do it without telling you to do the same. What you do to blow off steam is between you and Hey-Soos.
Nothing, as far as I’m concerned, does more for me than getting away and going hunting with my family and friends. Putting massive distance between me and the mall, my cell phone and my email and going beyond the pavement in pursuit of the planet’s magnificent game animals or birds is b-e-a-u-tiful to me.
Just getting out in the wild connects me with my primal spiritual and physical roots. God didn’t create Adam to live in a condo; He made a feral crib for His first man to live and whup it up in with Eve. There is something that the undomesticated does to me that no Lysol-disinfected, five star hotel or “amusement park” can provide. Everybody say, hotel! Motel! Holiday Inn! Uh, not me.
Nope, I’m going hunting. You can go to Disneyland. I will go to Alaska, Texas or Africa. I’m cool with that.
2. Oil Painting:
One of the things I like about the hobbies I pursue to stymie my insanity is that they demand, in order for me to fully enjoy them, a massive change from the grind that produces my stress—especially my top two exorcists, hunting and painting; they require a set of skills and a way of thinking that is different from my madness of ministry and work as an author and professional smart ass. Hunting and painting to me aren’t simply amusements; they are occupying passions that bring me deep satisfaction and relief from the other things that I equally dig but get weary from obsessing over. That’s the key to my decompression—i.e. diving into that which is different. And art is way different. You can check out my artwork at DougGilesArt.com.
I exercise for health reasons, for uncut vanity purposes, and to get the stress out of my 170 lb body. I also try to work out, as much as possible, in the great outdoors and get away from the hum of fluorescent lights and idiotic people who have somehow found a way to do squats while yellin’ on their cell phones. If you’re maxed out with anxiety, go to the gym and work your anxious butt out for an hour, and I guarantee you’ll sleep like a baby at night versus having those regular panic attacks at 3:30 am.
4. Sex (this applies to married couples only):
One reason you might be red-lining is that you’re not having a regular dose of red hot relations with your spouse (1 Cor. 7:5). Sex is a huge stress release. Keep the chase on, ladies and gents. Mix it up. Play cowboys and Indians. Life is too short not to delight in your wife’s breasts, boys (Prov. 5:19, Song of Sol. 1:13; 4:5; 7:3, 7-8). Buy The Joy of Sex and take the next year and try everything in the book.
We throw a lot of parties at my house. My wife is the quintessential hostess. My daughters invite their friends and we have our buddies over and sing, dance, shout, eat, drink and laugh for hours at a time in the warmth of our home. Here’s a caveat: Make sure you invite cool people to your house and not wacked downers who’ll suck the life out of the atmosphere.
For me, having a change of atmosphere by hunting and painting, having the poison sucked out of my system through exercise, regular doses of romance with my lady and a nice steak, stogie and a glass of wine sharpens my axe and makes it easier for me to tackle the monsters in the path of my earthly pursuits.
I suggest in 2010 that you get serious about getting joy in your life, finding a passion that has nothing to do with what you do vocationally, while exercising, entertaining and enjoying your mate. These simple little things will help you to keep going when you start going through hell.
*The above is an excerpt from my latest book, If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going!