Moist chocolate cakiness clumped to my fingers like fudgy glue. Licking them off would only attract a thicker coating of the gooey goodness as I held the frozen treat to my mouth again. The combination of the soft outer layers of chocolate with the cold hard vanilla ice cream inside made this sandwich my favorite summertime reward.
Earlier in the day, I and my siblings had opened pea pods methodically from the bucketfuls my mother kept bringing in from the garden. The green balls filled the bowl in my lap slower than coins mounded in my piggy bank. The cool morning quickly turned into a heat monster that spewed muggy droplets of humidity over every inch of my body, trapping the moistness in the pockets where elbows folded and behind bent knee caps. Fans' breath equaled little more effect than a toddler trying to blow out a birthday candle. After hours of shelling and my thumb nails turning green, the last pod was popped and our work was finished.
Hopping on bikes we pedaled uphill to the corner grocers. The wooden floors creaked as we stepped inside. Candy jars lined the long counter and the air smelled of both licorice and vinegar from pickles bouncing in brine in barrels on the floor. My dime was spent on the one treat I had salivated for all day; dreaming of it's goodness had sustained me through aching muscles and boring hours of unwrapping homegrown garden bounty.
My clammy skin goose-bumped as the arctic bites met my hot throat. In this moment I was satisfied and happy.
Rewards are like that. They come after completed tasks that require work and endurance. Whether they are promised and anticipated or given as surprises, we feel compensated and grateful.
I've been noticing a pattern related to my bedtime routine. I may feel touches of exhaustion when I get home from work. Then lethargy makes it's attack after supper when my belly is full and I begin to relax. Whatever the evening holds, a church meeting, bills to pay, or laundry to fold, sleep is prohibited until the bed covers are turned down and I stretch out on the comfy mattress. However, no matter how tired or yawn prone I've been, I find myself turning on the tablet to check Facebook, or reading some mail I've been wanting to catch up on, or texting a family member, or listening to the news on TV. This behavior baffles my husband who crawls into bed before me and is often snoring comfortably before I have finished brushing my teeth.
Why would I jeopardize my best chance to ward off belly fat, by staying up past my bedtime? Or why do I trade my sleep for time to do something I enjoy? Is it worth feeling guilty that I haven't acted responsibly? Or worth feeling sleepy and tired the next morning? Apparently, yes, because I continue to put off turning out the light.This is something I've had many a conversation with my Father about.
As I bedtimed one night this week, I realized I wanted to reward myself with me time before the day ended. If the day and evening was full of work and obligations, I felt cheated out of time for myself. While many nights it was legitimate to enjoy those down moments, other times I was insisting on stealing the time.
God is so faithful to get through to us, to answer a prayer for wisdom and revelation. It was as though the Holy Spirit pulled out the lesson on rewards and I was listening. He reminded me of what he said to Abram in Genesis 15:1. "I am your shield, your very great reward." God also said he rewards those who diligently seek him. Then the Teacher said, "Hey, kid, where are you storing up treasure? ...it's obvious isn't it? the place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being." (Italics quoted from Matt. 6:21, Msg)
So if I end up being on the computer because that's the place I most want to be, against wisdom that says I need to be sleeping, or I'd rather be there than having a few last words with the Father or listening to His words from the Bible before I fall asleep, do I really consider him my reward? The Greatest Reward? Am I finding him more precious than life itself? More satisfying than ice cream sandwiches after working and sweating hard?
You are so good, Faithful One! To keep drawing me closer, to keep my eyes on the prize that can never be found in this world. Please keep teaching me how to enjoy this life, receiving it and the good things it offers, as gifts from you, while you remain my greatest reward and joy. I know that I am tempted to misspend my time. Time is also is a gift from you. May I do everything to your honor and glory, not because I should, or even because I feel guilty when I do my own thing, but because you are beyond comparison. The rewards and things you have in store for me are glorious and out of this world and the life I live in you is far above the pleasures I experience in earthly things. I'm yours always, and especially in the moments before I go to sleep. Love you so much, Abba!