Tuesday, June 4, 2013

RamblingsOn: Fulfillment

Okay, so the last "me and my own thoughts" post was about what gets me excited. Now I just want to explore the idea of fulfillment. Namely because I've been feeling so fulfilled lately... with a job that I truly love, among people that are wonderful to work with, and kids who are so excited that I'm there (even though it's been three months) that I'm getting hugs at least once a day!
This is more than satisfaction or happiness; it goes deeper. This is more than just contentment; it inspires me to be and do more of what gives me the fulfillment.

So what is fulfillment?

Paid In Full—The debt of our sin, paid in full. The first syllable of "fulfillment" is "ful." Just try saying those words out loud. What comes to mind? I always think of those areas where I'm not living the "in full" part: shortcomings, bad habits, neglect... What if I'm not doing stuff, God? Is it true that if I don't take charge of my faith, then in a few years (maybe even months) it will be as if I never heard the Gospel, because I've backslidden so far? At what point, Lord, do You throw in the holy towel and exclaim, "That's it! We're done; nothing's happening with you, so go enjoy the rest of your life in mediocrity and apathy—you may get to Heaven, but trust Me, I have plenty of other people with whom I am looking forward to spending eternity—you can just sit in your little corner of New Jerusalem by your apathetic self!" Or maybe... if I screw up too many times, does that mean I'm lukewarm? I don't want to be "spewed out" by God! What more do I need to do to avoid this kind of response?
Jesus grins at me.
"Paid in full," He says.
"Yes, but now what? You've paid your part, what's mine?"
Again He reminds me, "Paid in full." There is emphasis in His words, but no sign of irritation. It's as if He takes pleasure in letting me ponder the significance of what He has done. He's excited to tell me, "Paid... In... Full."
Just like that? Nothing else? It's not as if You just handled the blood sacrifice part of it, and there's another part that's my responsibility, and every time I screw up, it's because that part is not taken care of...is there?

"Paid in full."
I still don't get it. Paid? Seriously? You paid, Jesus? And not just one aspect of it—the FULL? You didn't just die for my sins and my salvation, You sacrificed every last thing for my mistakes and my presumptions, my good intentions and my habits. Before You paid, all of these were bad; they were self-centered, willful, and completely inadequate. Once my debt was paid in full by Your mercy, You had the capacity to completely change everything about me. Not just giving me the power to be who You want me to be, but You see me differently. You see Your payment, and regard the debt as full.

Fulfilled—Fully Filled, as in God, knowing us fully, knowing me fully, filled His response with love and gave of His fullness to fill us fully. He spared no expense, not even the greatest price ever paid. God went "all out" in the pursuit of a species who were "yet sinners." Is it too much to ask those who acknowledge and accept this to respond likewise in all-out worship of Him?
What does a fulfilled Christian look like? Are there any needs that cannot be met? Any holes or voids that cannot be filled? The very word "fulfilled" is made of "full" and "filled." It's more than "full," which implies that there isn't any more being added. It's more than just "filled," which by itself is only just beyond empty.
The Bible speaks of blessing being "shaken" and "pressed down", yet still "overflowing." God doesn't just fill us so that we are no longer empty. He fills to the brim.... Then He shakes it down, and fills sone more... Then He presses and packs, then fills some more... Then He piles it on till overflowing! Fulfilled is so jam-packed with God and His power and glory that there is not even one micron of room to think of anything else.

Fulfillment—the feeling of being filled with the fullness of God. A fullness so inexorably beyond our own capacity that it's like filling a thimble with a gallon jug. The water spills out of the thimble in a widening pool that spreads over everything, but there is still more water in the jug. Compared to the thimble, the gallon jug would indeed seem limitless. The more that is poured in, the more spills out. And yet, with all the amount that spills, the thimble is just as full as ever.

This is a picture of fulfillment. It is more than just satisfaction. Satisfaction fills the thimble and walks away. Once satisfaction is gone, it is not replenished. We are left with "gruntwork", the tediousness and annoyance of tasks which no longer satisfies us. Or maybe our need for satisfaction will exceed that little thimble. But how can we make up the difference if we have no more satisfaction? The longer we work for satisfaction, the less satisfaction is available to us.
Fulfillment goes beyond this. No task is too tedious; no challenge too difficult; the longer we work toward the fulfillment that fills us up and overflows to others, the further it will spread to those around us. The work of fulfillment is not for ourselves alone. It keeps on spreading out to others. That is the difference between mere satisfaction and fulfillment: one is focused on ourselves; the other turns our focus to others.

Satisfaction runs out, it's temporary. Fulfillment is a perpetual motion machine. Either you are continuously motivated to do the thing that brings fulfillment and it spreads benefit AND satisfaction around, or within that activity, you find something just a little bit different but very much the same that provides a whole new store of fulfillment. Satisfaction satisfies our fleeting wants and whims; if the pleasure does not exceed the effort, it no longer satisfies. Fulfillment satisfies our core needs; the pleasure is derived from and proportional to the effort, so that the more effort we put into that activity that fulfills us, the more pleasure we get from seeing the pleasure it brings others, and very often we actually end up enjoying the work it takes to receive the pleasure from the things that fulfill us.

FULFILLMENT: God in His FULlness, sent Jesus to bear the justice destined for us, and Jesus' sacrifice paved the way for His Holy Spirit to FILL us as we were MEaNT to be filled--but not just filled....