Friday, February 12, 2010

Two of the Most Important Thoughts on Pleasure

Since I've been talking about letting go of our desires in order to find our deepest desire satisfied in God, this seems like the time to share these. Following are two of the most important quotes I have ever read outside the Bible on what pleasure is and why we get into so much trouble trying to find it in the wrong places. I hope they inspire you the same way they have me.

"The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. 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 desires 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" from The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis, p. 25)

Now read Lewis's insight on how God can be in favor of pleasure, yet give us so many rules that seem to place limits on things we find pleasurable. We make ourselves miserable by pursuing pleasure clumsily instead of the way it was meant to be enjoyed (Note: Lewis wrote the following as the words a supervising demon might use in explaining the art of deceiving humans to a novice demon, hence the speaker refers to God as "the Enemy").

[Screwtape's advice on temptation:] "Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy's ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He had forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula."
(The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis, p. 44-45)

An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure - doesn't that grab you as a perfect description of how we stubbornly go about chasing after sins? It sure convicted me.

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