Ice cream, anime, and Jesus have a lot in common. Well, maybe not a lot, but a closer look reveals more similarities than you might think. Speaking from my personal life, I tend to go to each of them for a few different reasons. When I’m feeling sad, when I’m angry, when I’m tired: I always find a different kind of comfort or peace in each of them. Ice creams’ sweetness reminds me that life isn’t always sour, the soft amnesia offered by a familiar anime tends to lessen my stress, and the time I spend in prayer always brings my focus back to Christ, my deepest comfort. The biggest similarity I’ve found, however, is in how easy it is to binge each of them.
Back in my high school days, I learned very quickly to be an efficient binge-watcher. When exams are around the corner, you’re cracking down on your most frustrating homework, or just stressing about your lazy classmates, time tends to fly away very quickly. It’s really easy to freak out, and catharsis can be hard to come by. So, immersing oneself in a fun activity for long periods of time becomes a coveted treat. By the time I was a Senior, I was a pro at efficient time-wasting. 15 minutes in-between assignments? A YouTube video can fill that gap. Got some downtime in the car? Finish that novel. Teacher takes an hour to reply emails? There’s three episodes of anime.
Entering college, I was fully prepared to continue that lifestyle of snacking on my pastimes in-between my responsibilities, but I noticed that my habits pulled me towards a certain pattern. I found it easy to go long stretches of time without indulging in my favorite recreational activities, promising myself I’d get back to them later. “They’re still important”, I’d tell myself. “I’ll just do it later.” And I would. Time management habits are a tricky thing, though, and as my schedule fills up, I don’t want to continue this way of living. In high school, my habits often led to me binging everything: schoolwork, friend, books, games – even my relationship with Christ.
The problem with the binging mindset is that it turns your life into a series of conflicting priorities. There’s nothing of the utmost importance: you just tend to slide things around in your schedule into a pattern that, while makes sense, tends to set the focus less on what you need to do, and more on what you want to do. This is harmful because the tone it sets for your overall lifestyle is tuned to self-gratification. What can I do that will make me happy? How can I push this away so that I can do what I want to do? Like water, we flow towards the path of least resistance. Yet that can sometimes take us away from the path that God wants us to walk on.
Like many of us, the Israelites at the time of Christ thought that following God was about your behavior. To be a follower was to obey the Law, which led to a lot of deliberation about how to apply the Law. Christ came to change the game; He applied the Law directly to the heart level and expected more. Rather than focusing on how to check off a list as effortlessly as possible, Christ demands a changed lifestyle. In other words, it’s not about what you do in your life, but the way you live your life.
A changed heart leads to a changed life, and your actions will change accordingly. Rather than having Christ as simply one of many priorities in your life, He is to be your primary priority, and everything else follows. God tells us to strive towards “His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt 6:33). In other words, when serving God is our priority He gives us the grace to meet the rest of our obligations and responsibilities.
So what does this “serving God” look like? Is it just going to church? Trying to be “a good person”?
Serving God is more than being a “nice person”.
When Algebra is your primary focus, you put time into it in order to understand it. If you’re in a relationship, your focus is to understand your significant other, and you’ll put time and effort into getting to know them. Making God your priority, then, means that you spend time with Him in order to know Him. Reading His Word, praying, fellowship with other believers; each of these opens up our hearts to understanding Him more and more. A constant, consistent relationship brings so much more satisfaction and joy than binging on a whim. As you head into this coming week, don’t push God to the sidelines. Put your focus on Him, and everything else will fall into place.