Sunday, April 17, 2005

Mud Pies or Beach Vacation

Looked into the mirror this morning to see a man glaring at me. He looked vaguely familiar. A lot older than I remember, bags under his eyes, needing a shave and a shower. I don’t think he was very nice at all – he mimicked everything I did. I reached out to smack him and jammed my finger. On his finger. “Who let the old man in our bathroom?” I yelled to Sheila. She ran in thinking I was in trouble. She looked in and realized I really was in trouble. Walking away, shaking her head, she was mumbling. I only caught a few words, something about “I must have a hole in my head” and “what was I thinking” and “the day she got married.” I think she was expressing her amazement at having the intelligence to marry such a wonderful man.

Turns out it was me! Well, it wasn’t really me but an image that looked just like me. The reflection was real, but the reflection wasn’t me. No matter how hard I tried to do something to the reflection, I couldn’t because it wasn’t the real me.

Everything in life is a reflection of God.

I dare you to name anything that is not. Oh, sure, many of them have been so distorted that they don’t look anything like God. That doesn’t negate the fact. This truth has rattled and thrown me against the wall once again.

Think about this for a moment: everything that we enjoy is a reflection of God or His creation. Every pleasure, every desire, every longing, every delight, every wish, every joy. Every experience that warms or breaks our hearts. Everything that makes us laugh or cry. Everything that pulls or drives us. EVERYTHING. Without exception.

How do I know that? Because God created everything, without exception. The enemy has created nothing. He cannot. Rather, he attempts to pervert all of God’s creation to pull us away from Him and into destruction. Satan wants to convince us that the reflection is all there is. Do you see it?

The enjoyment, pleasure, fulfillment …

  • of eating is perverted into over indulgence
  • of work is perverted into workaholism or valuing tasks over people
  • of play is perverted into a selfish pusuit
  • of wholesome laughter is perverted into empty comedy
  • of relationships are perverted into self-seeking expectations
  • of parenting is perverted into a desire for children to make us happy and live through them
  • of the greatest gift of intimacy of a husband and wife is perverted into a self-centered act of lust
  • of intimacy with God is perverted into empty, dry, ritualistic religion
  • on and on and on the list could go
Problem is that we don’t often glimpse the reality behind the reflection. It’s not that the reflection doesn’t exist, it is that it is incomplete. We inhabit the reflection, though it’s promises fall short and its pleasure is short-lived. However, we perceive the reflection to be reality. What else is there? So we settle for far less than God longs to give us here and hereafter.

God has created so much more. Earthly life is a pre-cursor to the forever life. Selfishness is culprit. When we follow our sinful, human desires without embracing the connection with the eternal behind them, we miss it. Oh, how we miss it!

C.S. Lewis understood this truth and expressed it well…
“If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desire, not too strong, but too weak.
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
The Weight of Glory and other addresses, by C.S. Lewis. (The Macmillian Company, New York 1949).

It’s not that we want too much, but that we look for fulfillment in all the wrong places.

It’s not that we are never satisfied, but that we look for satisfaction in things that are incapable of delivering.

It’s not that God denies us what we seek because it is wrong, rather He denies us because He knows that what we seek is destructive.

The Bible tells us that Jesus is perched at the edge of our lives in the excitement of giving us what truly brings pleasure and fulfillment. He is longing, hoping, offering to give us far more than we can ask or imagine. It is not that He is willing, it is that He WANTS to.

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)
"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come." Ephesians 1:17-21 (NIV)

We can experience a slice of the true on earth and revel in it completely in eternity by surrendering the reflection and embracing the reality of Christ behind it.
  • eating as a reflection of the enjoyment of the future feast
  • work as a reflection of accomplishing the work we were created for
  • play as a reflection of the unquenchable joy of God
  • wholesome laughter as our God given inner delight escaping
  • relationships as enjoying the second greatest gift of God
  • parenting as participating in the creative and formative process of God
  • the intimacy of a husband and wife as experiencing the vulnerable connection and pleasure God gave and a prologue of the depth of relationship we will have with Christ
  • relationship with God as restoring our purpose stolen by sin, that connection that alone brings what we were created for. Not dry, but the most moving experience possible.
  • on and on and on the list could go

Mudpies or holiday. Putting it that way makes it a simple choice. The challenge
is to live it. Will you join me in doing so? Now, go put on your beach hat and
let’s go!

Boldly, Herb