Tuesday, May 16, 2006
The Pleasures of the Lord
Most Christians seem to think that what God has planned for them is a life of pain. They steel themselves to bear up under it, and the whole thing reminds me a lot of how I've always lived. Cannot the living God of the Universe do better than that?
How many people really take pleasure in hedonism? I see the people here in Los Angeles who have everything: new cars, cell phones, nice clothes, yet they aren't smiling as they're driving the car while talking on the phone. I'm sensitive to these kinds of things. They don't look happy to me.
Perhaps a Christian takes off into hedonism for a time, given the freedom to live separate from the rock of sin that has always invisibly oppressed them. Freedom is a heady thing, and our culture is convinced that freedom should be kept on a short leash. Don't believe me? Watch people as they go through life, hemmed in by rules that exist only in their minds. Fashions, TV news, opinion polls and the like. Jesus comes along and offers freedom from all that, and we all close our eyes and just sort of touch the hem of his robe, hoping to be saved while avoiding the more severe effects of freedom.
I speak from experience here. Jesus lays his wonderful meals out on the table in front of me, and I skulk around the edges, just grabbing a crumb or two because I know the food will transform me. I'll become happy. I'll become more comfortable with life, and therefore shine like a light on top of a hill. I'd rather be a submarine, but Jesus keeps calling, keeps offering, keeps pestering me.
It's sort of like trying to stop the slide of a rain-saturated California clay hillside. Once it starts to move you're just along for the slow ride. Attempting to hold Jesus' hand while remaining myself is to pit my own puny psyche against the universe-spanning power of the Holy Spirit, gentle as he might be. No power at all can prevail against him, and he doesn't quit. All I can do in this struggle is make myself miserable.
It's very sad. I'm used to misery. I grew up with it. I grew up with the idea that life was something to be endured until you die. Avoiding pain was all I could do, and I've become quite adept at it. Of course, this means the death of several aspects of a man's soul, but the price seemed low in exchange for the avoidance of sharp pains. And I was just a kid when I made the decisions. What did I know?
God offers me freedom from at least one kind of misery, the dead dullness of a life that is just the process of getting through another day. There's nothing really to look forward to.
Do you see why God's offer three years ago of a new kind of life appealed to me to the point where I jumped for it? Do you also see why all the talk of Christians not being allowed pleasure is sand in my gearbox? I know that life lived purely for pleasure is a dead end. I see it all around me. I also know that life without pleasure just isn't worth living.
God knows the balance. I don't. I'm pretty far in the hole on this one. His main work is to keep me going long enough that my stony soul will catch the Holy Spirit's life and begin to glow in response. I need to learn to quit stopping it. I need to let His pleasure fill my life so that I can feel pleasure. The alternatives are to continue being a stone, or to become a pleasure seeker trying to fill a bucket whose bottom is missing. Pour in as much as you want, it'll never work. Neither path is attractive. Being a stone is familiar, so I fall that way. I don't fall completely, though, because it's God's pleasure to hold me up.
There are of course basic personality differences for all of us...I know....a book that really changed the way I thought about..well one that began to change the way I thought about 'stuff'...was John Pipers Desiring God...
I love reading about your journey the relentlessness of your being pursued.....how many miss that odd pleasure.....don't even struggle against it just miss it......??