Here is a question that I have often wondered about our current world: Is it possible to enjoy something merely for what it is and not for what its outcome will be or what good it serves? Are there some things that are enjoyable just because they are good and you need not explain why?
It’s becoming very hard to find much of this anymore. There is much pressure today to enjoy something beyond mere joy. Being happy and enjoying isn’t enough. We not only need a deeper reason, but we need that reason at the forefront and to be explained to us. We are moderns, which means we break everything down to explainable parts that work and make sense. But when we can’t find the answer to our happiness or we find out that we like something for reasons we aren’t sure of or that enjoyment is the end for which we are looking for, we start to sweat. We need more reasons, more efficiency, more results. “Because its good”, just isn’t going to cut for us. This is modernity in all its microwavable glory. Like microwaves, reasons, efficiency and results are good things that have a place. They help us understand and make better decisions, but shouldn’t be the guiding motive of in all that we encounter, participate in, people we meet and places we go. Should we cook and eat all of our meals in microwaves? No, but at times its nice to have grits in a quick fashion and not all the mess to clean off the stove.
Similarly, it’s nice to know that what we are doing is making us stronger, more mature and sanctifying us. But we do not need these at the forefront of everything we do. We need to enjoy things for what they are and be ok with enjoying things for what they are because God made them what they are as they are. It’s part of the good life in God’s world. God is a happy God and is satisfied with His people because He’s satisfied with His Son. It’s not a sign of health, but rather of sickness to examine and question to the degree that we do about the benefit and long term good each time we read a good book, or the Bible, or meet with other friends, family, co-workers and others. Can we enjoy reading the Bible or any other good book and not see it as fuel to get me ready to encounter the world or to live a better life? Do we have to have plans and goals for all reading, or can the gift of reading be the goal? Can we get together with people because we like them and not be because we’re on mission? Can we talk to them about sports and not wonder and nothing more and not wonder we wasted this visit? Why does every visit have to be to make contacts or to advance our church, business or practice? Thinking this way elevates or lowers our lives in ways they aren’t meant to be and can become a form of self justification or self pity. We are becoming obsessed with intentionality that we forget that people are gifts from God that are to be received and not used for selfish gain. We forget the Bible is God’s revelation to humanity and reading it is a gift to be received and enjoyed, not merely spiritual food or exercise that makes me healthy. Most certainly it does make us healthy, but thats not its stated goal and seeing it this is dangerous, just as seeing people as service projects or ways you can practice mission is dangerous.
Certainly there is a time and place for Bible reading, defense of Christianity, making contacts, growing the church, business and practice, but not every time, in every situation or every page. There is a time and place for everything under heaven as the Preacher once said in Ecclesiastes. There is a time to consider why but, after awhile we know why. And when we know why, we need to say “that sure was good”, give thanks to the Lord and be done. We don’t have to consider each time we eat why God gave food. To do so goes beyond when God said to enjoy every tree and plant that yields fruit. If you want to be faithful and appreciative to God for the Bible, for food, for friends or anything else, then enjoy it and say thank you. This world has more than time and tools given for efficiency and profitability. They are necessary and needed, but our modern world and church needs more rest, more joy, more laughter, more koine Greek. Yes I know there is an immense amount of goofiness and silliness in the world and in the church. Its’ a strain on the soul, and a stain on the church. The response isn’t to become serious stoics or to behave like caricatured Puritans. We need to be Puritans, (or any other Christian group that fits this description), as they really were: happy, joyous, laughing and appreciative. This is what makes the good life good because it reflects the Triune God. He is happy, joyful and laughing. He is happy knowing that some things are good just as they are, so we should enjoy them just as they are.
Life is better when things are enjoyed because they are enjoyable, even if we don’t know why or we cant explain why. Imagine going to the zoo and underneath the arm or tied to every animal there is an explanation as to why that animal has that pattern of fur, those colored feathers, that face with that nose, or those fins. Isn’t the mystery and peculiarity the fun of the zoo for children? Why shouldn’t we enjoy things the way they are and consider it a gift of God that each time we say “wow!” He doesn’t stop to explain why He made toucans with such weird looking beeks, or why He made pasta so much better than beets or why He’s made countless other things great just the way they are: shaded in mystery. God is known and knowable but only what He allows us to know can be found. There is much of God that is still a mystery to finite creatures. It’s time we believe this and by believing this we can enjoy God’s world the way we are to enjoy Him.