Another Day in Paradise

Do you ever wonder what clergy will do in heaven? Or doctors? It’s not as though anyone there will need further inspiration or healing. I suppose God will encourage such folks to pursue other talents He’s blessed them with. For all I know, my deceased great-grandfather, a pastor and amateur beekeeper, is busy supplying heavenly banquets with honey now. He’s probably having the time of his afterlife.

The point is, I’m pretty sure our eternal selves will have purpose and significance, something to do, goals and a mission. We will not be God’s pet rocks, just sitting around doing nothing. I bring this up because, working hard during this long, cold winter, I’ve been thinking about seven years ago when, after a relaxing, week-long honeymoon in paradise, lounging at a beautiful resort in the Caribbean, my newlywed wife and I had had enough of being idle in “heaven on earth” and we were ready to get back to lives with direction.

Don’t get me wrong—we had a marvelous time at our all-inclusive playpen on St. Lucia. How can you not, when you’re every whim is catered to? “We’d like more bottled water sent up to our room, please,” I’d order over the phone to the front desk at midnight.

“Yes, sir. Anything else, sir?”

“A bowl of chocolate-covered strawberries. And a red velvet cheesecake with one of Shakespeare’s love sonnets rolled up in each slice.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Served by a monkey on roller skates.”

“Yes, sir.”

“In a little astronaut suit.”

“Right away, sir.”

“Does the monkey do massages?”

“Not after 11 pm, sir.”

“Outrageous! I’m very disappointed in this place. ‘Five-star resort’, my tanned fanny.”

It’s true, my wife and I developed quite an attitude of entitlement there. We were spoiled rotten, and halfway through the honeymoon we discussed how difficult it would be to return to a world where we’d have to do most things for ourselves again. “I’m going to miss Virgil, that waiter who spoon-feeds us our meals with such gentleness,” I wistfully remarked on our last night on the island. My wife, her chin cupped in the soft hands of a servant assigned to do all her gesturing for her, nodded in agreement as he moved her head up and down.

But by the end of the week, something was stirring in us besides all the sea water we’d swallowed at the beach. It was restlessness, a growing sense that we were pampered out. We were increasingly ready to shake off the indolence and reactivate the skills that propelled us in our chosen professions at the time (she, a nurse; me, a cartoonist/writer/supermodel/counter-terrorism operative).

It was a reminder to us that at the core of being human is the need to live a life that matters. My wife and I were enjoying our days of temporary leisure, but we were okay with it coming to an end so that we could get on with our lives together in the “real world”. This place was Fantasy Island, where every day is a Sabbath day of rest—which is fine for awhile, but asking me to obey the Fourth Commandment, “Honor the Sabbath”, for seven days straight is like asking me to obey the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not murder” for seven days straight! Seems easy at first, but then… well, anyway…

To be made in the image of God means, in part, that each of us has been endowed with creative ability to make the world a better place, and our hearts are restless unless we tap into our unique God-given gifts and use them in honor of the ultimate Creator. It’s not enough to be; we must do. We’re meant to work. “And whatever we do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

So my wife and I gave thanks every morning on our hotel room balcony for each other, for family and friends, for our captivating ocean view and for the privilege of being able to spend so much time doing nothing. But we were also grateful to God for the work that He has given us to do. And soon enough, we returned from our honeymoon, our batteries recharged, and ready to plunge back into our jobs. Only now we’d be happily coming home to live in the same house. Just us two newlyweds. And the massage monkey.

Yeah, the Eighth Commandment, “Thou shalt not steal”… I’m definitely not good at keeping that one.

Cuyler Black