In addition to further discussion of Wine, Women, and Song (the phrase on my Mardi Gras cards from last week) I would like to look at the phrase “eat, drink, and be merry.” Both phrases are commonly used to refer to seeking to indulge oneself, the seeking of pleasure or happiness. Unfortunately, in seeking (short term) happiness, we are often really just trying to escape. We want to escape the struggles or pain that make us unhappy or depress us. The phrase above is often used on wedding invitations.
Take wine for example. If Jesus’ first miracle was to turn the water into wine, it must be important. When they commented that the normal was to serve the good wine first at a party or wedding banquet, and then after the guests were somewhat happy, substitute a cheaper wine, they were making it clear that they were indeed talking about wine, not unfermented juice. But for thousands of years wine has been one of the most common things abused in attempts to escape when we are not comfortable. Bertrand Russell, in The Conquest of Happiness observes that at times we try to make life more bearable by becoming less alive. He goes further and says that “Drunkenness, for example, is temporary suicide: the happiness that it brings is merely negative, a momentary cessation of unhappiness.
The painting of Adam and Eve on my card shown last week represents what that artist thought in the 16th century about the source of all man’s ills. Eve was the temptress, and seduced Adam into eating the apple. Woman is the source of man’s problems with lust. This thinking is alive and well today, in the form of declaring myself a victim because all my problems have been caused by someone else and I have no need to accept responsibility for anything. And “anything” includes my happiness. I shared earlier what The Myth of the Other (Woman) is all about.
In the book of Ecclesiastes we find the command eat, drink and be merry (glad) v8:15, or A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work, v2:24. But again, what we are talking about is trying to escape negative feelings and emotions and the writer of Ecclesiastes likens all that to the worthless activity of chasing the wind. For me it has always been easier to bury myself in my work than to face what makes me uncomfortable, what I need to change.
I find that this all comes into clearer focus when I consider time. I have a limited amount of time on this earth. I have struggled with procrastination. The Spanish coworker who asked me if I wanted to learn Spanish, and if I knew what the meaning of “mañana” was, corrected me when I said it meant “tomorrow.” The coworker said, “no, mañana means “not today.” It may be tomorrow, or it may be the next day, but it is not today. My wife observed that in some areas of my life “mañana” really meant “maybe sometime before eternity.” I’ve told her that she has such areas in her life as well.
But beyond procrastination, time is important as a point of reference as well. The Mardi Gras card I shared last week mentions the deceit in my heart. Our root problem is that The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jer 17:9). I said that when I sing open the eyes of my heart, I want to see You, He will shine a light on the deceit so that I can see it and take appropriate action. But it is not a one-time occurrence. I have to search daily, ask daily for my self deceit to be revealed to me.
Relationships are like that – there’s not really a one-time act that makes a good permanent relationship. Building a relationship is a continual process. Not saying one time “I do,” but daily doing what I said I would. Not a one-time decision to accept Christ and now I’m safe, secure, saved, but a daily examination of Who and what my choices and decisions rest on or are based on. I want a living and growing relationship with my wife and with Christ, not a certificate or legal status. I want to rest in these relationships to find solutions to my struggles. I don’t want to run from or try to escape them with the deceptive “happiness” of wine, women, and song or eating, drinking, and being merry.