I found this image on flickr. The photographer is named Joe Bollinger. I really like his work -- he has a great eye and enough photography skill to convey his vision to others. Very enjoyable. I found this and put it on my hard drive a number of months ago to use for wallpaper. After my 30 hours in Chicago in October and being reminded first hand of the wonder of changing leaves, I was drawn to this image again.
Sometimes beauty evokes from me a sense of joy and ahhhhh and wow! On rare occasions, that is not followed by much thought at all. While pleasure is not a right, I believe that God created us with the capacity to experience a purity of pleasure that reflects His own ability to do so and that He intends for us to enjoy life.
But here is where we get all mucked up in our thinking (my opinion).
Sometimes we think that our enjoyment of life is on our own terms -- whatever gives us pleasure is good because it gives us pleasure. It doesn't take much discernment to see the holes in that thinking. Truly, there are things that can give us (temporary) pleasure that are not part of God's purpose for us. Left on our own, most of us become indulgent and then addicted. The Holy Spirit had Paul write about this in Romans. Our sin nature can eventually convince us that sin is not only acceptable, but our "right."
Sometimes we think that because some things that do give us pleasure are not honoring to God -- they do not reflect His image in us -- we should avoid pleasure. All of it. In addition, because even the good pleasures -- that God created us to enjoy and, in turn, created for us to enjoy -- can become too important to us and can turn us away from right relationships with Him, we should avoid those. So, this thinking can lead us to throw it all out.
Other times we think that pleasure -- in small doses and with strict supervision -- is okay as long as it doesn't distract us from more important things.
And how very human of us to think that some pleasures, because they are not sin outright, are therefore also okay in excess?
I'm not sure where the bottom line is on this. I think that most of us have missed the mark and are, as we are in all things, dependent on GRACE and another chance to try again. I know that my natural tendency is to swing too far in either direction in ways that aren't helpful to myself or others. (Anyone else want to join me in that confession? I thought so.)
It brings me around to the great Q&A of the Westminster Larger Catechism:
Question 1: What is the chief and highest end of man?
Answer: Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.
And that makes me consider that the key is to ENJOY GOD...FULLY.
Now, what does that look like? On some days, it means pondering a leaf on a rock and finding great satisfaction that the One who created that beauty created me and loves me beyond any imagining of it.