Welcome back to my Precepts series—inspired by meaningful thoughts, insights, and discoveries I have during each week, and intentionally designed to help make your life just a little bit better. Enjoy!
You can find the Precepts series in its entirety here.
Precept 75: Mud Pies
In his book, The Weight Of Glory, C.S. Lewis says this of many humans:
“It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
I agree. Just think about it: despite how much glory, pleasure, and bliss we have been offered for free, we can so easily spend much of our lives simply passing by and turning down that eternal glory for far more fleeting, more temporary, and less significant short-term pleasure and bliss in our daily lives. We play with mud pies while sitting in mud puddles and ignoring the vast ocean beyond.
This all-too-common practice of trading long-term glory for short-term pleasure is so silly and senseless, yet so easy. I don't know about you, but I often find it tempting to trade the delayed gratification and the eternal glory of heaven for the temporary earthly enjoyment of a hedonistic trip to Las Vegas, missing church to catch up on work or household projects, skipping a monthly tithe or gift to the poor to sock away just a bit of extra cash for a rainy day, jumping into the pressing business task of the day prior to meditation, devotions, and prayer, or using workaholism, exercise or personal hobbies as escapism from a more meaningful focus on, say, faith and family.
Yet, as the saying in Mark 8:36 of the Bible goes, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet loses his soul?”
The heavenly afterlife I describe here is so mind-blowingly glorious that you'd think it'd be somewhat simple for you and me to resist temptation and the tendency to engage in less eternally meaningful activities, but we silly humans just…don't do that. It's as though a plate of warm, chocolate chip cookies were placed in front of a child, and the child was offered the cookies now, or a hundred billion dollars in a year. Most of us are the kid who dives right into the cookies, with chocolate smeared across our faces in a temporary, hedonistic mouth pleasuring, rather than opting for a far more significant and meaningful prize. The cookies are like Lewis's mud pies, and the hundred billion dollars like his holiday at the sea.
This irrational human psychology is why Matthew 7:13-14 so aptly states: “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
So you and I have a choice. We can pursue earthly pleasures and possessions that are temporary and fleeting, getting choked up by the thorns and worries of this world while engaged in the pursuit of money and wealth. We can be easily pleased with mud pies, or we can be focused on infinite joy and pursuit of heavenly treasures that are lasting and satisfying for all of eternity.
Which would you choose? I challenge you to truly imagine, visualize, and meditate upon how overwhelmingly glorious it will be to enjoy pleasures forevermore in the presence of God, then to ask yourself if anything you are doing in life that is holding you back from that is really worth it. Here is how to begin engaging in such glorious meditation.
Precept 76: Memory
Proverbs 3 is one of my favorite passages in the entire Bible because it is brimming with meaningful wisdom on topics such as wealth and longevity, including in verse 3, which reads: “Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.”
This is sound advice, but how exactly does one effectively and systematically bind such words of Scripture around the neck or write mercy and truth on the table of one's heart? Simple: by memorizing Scripture, which is one of the most beneficial practices you can engage in on a daily basis if you want to pour forth the tender fruits of the Holy Spirit throughout your day. One method I've found to be incredibly helpful for binding God's word around my own neck and writing it on the tablet of my heart (learn more about why that's important here) in a quite simple routine that involves the use of the Spiritual Disciplines Journal I designed.
Here's how to do it: for the first two to three minutes of the journaling and meditation practice I describe in detail here, you simply think about and memorize the short Scripture verse that appears at the top of each page. Morning meditation time with a journal is a perfect opportunity for Scripture memorization, and with repeated practice, you can train your brain to easily memorize a short, digestible bite of the Bible within just two minutes.
If you adopt this practice, it means you will be able to place around 365 portions of the Bible upon your heart during the course of a year. Furthermore, you'll probably be surprised at how simple it is to memorize an entire verse within two to three minutes, and how much more quickly the brain is able to memorize with frequent practice. Scriptures placed upon the heart come in handy at many times, too. For example, I've also found that if I wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep, I'm presented with a perfect opportunity to recite the verse quietly in my head over and over again like a mantra until I gradually fall back asleep. When I'm stressed, I can recite verses about anxiety or trust. When I'm in an argument, I can think about verses related to love and forgiveness. With each passing day of memorization, you'll find that you, too, have an increasingly deep well that you can draw upon when you need encouragement, relaxation, peace, sleep, love, hope, joy, and much more.
Precept 77: Dull Boy
“All Work And No Play Makes Jack A Dull Boy”
Perhaps you're unfamiliar with that witty little proverb. The saying first appeared back in 1659, in James Howell's writings called Proverbs, and has since been included in a variety of subsequent proverbs and sayings.
Intuitively, it makes sense, right? We know that hard work and an industrial mentality are quite necessary to be meaningfully impactful with our purpose in life. Yet—as is often voiced by successful yet regretful executives later in their years or even on their deathbeds—pure focus on work alone with a relative absence of recreation tends to make one dull and unsociable. Heck, one of the top five regrets of the dying is that people do indeed wish they'd worked less.
See, our mind’s constitution is such that it can engage in “deep work” for a certain period of time (according to neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman, around an hour and a half before we need some kind of quick break), but at some point, both our mind and body need some kind of a “break” to keep us from being understimulated, becoming low on creative input or output and transitioning to a dull personality state.
Just think about the stereotypical “bookwork” child. Sure, they may be smart, informed, and productive, but they're hardly the most engaging social butterfly, and, in fact, may often be neglecting the fostering of social skills, dynamic and engaging personality traits, or even outgoing creativity mannerisms that go beyond being able to imagine math equations, grammar rules, poems, dragons, hobbits, and fairies inside their head. In the same way, the busy executive who can make oodles of money with natural ease may often find themselves unhappy and unfulfilled if they're not taking breaks during the week for social tennis or golf outings, fun family dinners, or tossing a frisbee around the park (although as I write about in Fit Soul, even those activities can at the end of the day be unfulfilling unless paired with a belief in a higher power and some form of spiritual feeding).
Furthermore, in the same way that a good night of sleep allows for memory and learning consolidation, flushing of brain toxins, and neuromuscular system restoration, periods of play woven into periods of work allow for much-needed daily mental rejuvenation, restoring our brain's capacity to return to deep or hard work.
So how much play do you need to keep from getting too “dull”? Based on my own personal experience and what I've seen in the type of research here, you'd most likely benefit from having at least two hours of unstructured free time each day, and, furthermore, I'd highly encourage you to make a list of activities you'd love to engage in (e.g., for me, guitar, ukulele, piano, pickleball, tennis, a book of fiction, shooting my bow, etc.) so that when that free time strikes, you're less likely to be scrolling through an Instagram feed or Netflix selections, and more likely to be engaged in activities that, at the end of the day, will result in you feeling more fulfilled, more creatively stimulated, and more energized and impactful.
Finally, remember: it's not all play. Indeed, some writers have added a second part to the proverb, as in Harry and Lucy Concluded, published in 1825 by the Irish novelist Maria Edgeworth, who wrote:
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,
All play and no work makes Jack a mere toy.
So don't be a dull boy. But don't be a mere toy, either.
That's it for this week! If you have questions, comments, or feedback below, please leave your thoughts. I read them all!