Are we supposed to enjoy life? Are we supposed to appreciate the pleasures that life can offer? Or are we instead to be ascetics, denying ourselves anything and everything that enhances this experience called “life”?
I do believe God calls us to be disciplined. We don’t run into a hedonistic lifestyle in the way the world does. However, there can be an opposite danger when we never appreciate the pleasures God provides—when we become so obsessed with our Christian “duties” to the exclusion of godly pleasures.
Whenever the Christian life becomes a list of rules and regulations rather than a deep love of God and great joy in our walk with Him, we degrade the faith into a type of legalism that stifles true devotion.
But aren’t there bad, unlawful pleasures? Certainly there are. But in calling them “bad pleasures” I take it we are using a kind of shorthand. We mean “pleasures snatched by unlawful acts.”
It is the stealing of the apple that is bad, not the sweetness. The sweetness is still a beam from the glory. That does not palliate the stealing. It makes it worse. There is sacrilege in the theft. We have abused a holy thing.
The pleasurable thing itself—the sweetness of the apple, for instance—is a gift from God. It is to be enjoyed, appreciated, recognized as one of His many blessings. The misuse of the blessing—in this case by stealing it from someone else—is what undermines the original pleasure and God’s intent in providing that pleasure.
We should be grateful that God, in spite of the sinfulness that rocks this world, has maintained His provision of pleasures of all kinds. Recognition of His gifts should lead us closer to Him. Lewis continues,
Gratitude exclaims, very properly, “How good of God to give me this.” Adoration says, “What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations are like this!”
One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun.
The gifts/pleasures from the hand of God should make us think of the Giver more than the gift. While many can appreciate the gift itself, how many then “run back up the sunbeam to the sun” itself? Are we more focused on what we receive from God than on the nature of the God who gives it?
We need to be grateful for all that comes from the hand of God, from the least of blessings to the greatest. More than anything, though, we need to learn through those blessings to truly adore the One who offers them.
We—or at least I—shall not be able to adore God on the highest occasions if we have learned no habit of doing so on the lowest. At best, our faith and reason will tell us that He is adorable, but we shall not have found Him so, not have “tasted and seen.”
Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are “patches of Godlight” in the woods of our experience.
May you see those “patches of Godlight” in your life today. Accept them, appreciate them, but don’t stop there. Allow them to be the sunbeams that lead you closer than ever to the sun.