I recently returned from Belize where I had the great delight of flying in the heavens on a 747. I’ve always been quite taken with the clouds and all the other beauties that often elicit great feelings of awe and delight in people. As I flew, I decided to read some articles in the United Hemispheres Magazine. I came across one that caught my interests entitled “The Age of Reason” where the writer confesses, “As a young adult, I spent my travels composing elegies to fallen leaves; today, I’m more concerned with whether the person next to me is hogging the armrest.” I knew right away that this article was going to be a bad one in a good way.
Chris Wright, the editor for United Hemispheres Magazine, sought to describe the journey of a man who likes to travel the skies and has been doing so for quite some time. Yet, he is a changed man. When he was younger, the world was fresh and undiscovered. The twenty-something found himself writing poetry over fallen leaves, chasing a plastic bag for three miles while pondering the nature of free will, and having conversations with women he met about what he deemed important matters. He once “…searched ticket stubs for clues about the human condition.” He is not that man anymore. He is now middle-aged and has shed the wide-eyed wonder of an existentialist youngun who flew the skies. He notes, “People my age aren’t supposed to indulge in melodrama, egotism, and brutally tortured metaphors. We’re supposed to buckle down, get on with it.” Yes, just get on with it. Chris isn’t dead to the world around him though. Finding an old journal from his twenties, he writes, “For all the buffoonery and bluster in its pages, there were passages that made me wonder what I might have lost in the process of growing.” He closes the article in a moment of lucid and honest uncertainty. “Therein lies the trade-off. Where once a journey might have brought in a swirl of impressions and emotions, fantasies and false memories, today I am more like those frowning column-watchers, intent on knowing the world to the extent that I sometimes forget to be in it. Ask me about the places I have visited over the last decade, and I will provide you with a thorough inventory; ask me what I felt while I was there, and I’ll probably have to make something up.” It might not have been a fair deal.
I ripped the article out of the magazine so I would remember it. As I looked out the window, I thought to myself, “How in the world could a man who often soars the skies see these white, majestic sky mountains and not be moved?” Where had the feeling of transcendence gone? How did he lose it? Why does he now just have to get on with it? It is likely the feeling has gone away because it is now common to the point of boredom. No longer do created joys meant to wean our hearts off the poisonous temptations of the world move Craig because they are like the carpet in your house. It is just there.
Believer, is the world around you just there or does it still move you? The world is meant to do this. As John Calvin said, “it is a theater for God’s glory.” The psalmist exclaimed, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. (Psa. 8:1).” “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein. (Psa. 24:1)” “O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. (Psa. 104:24)” The world is made for this. Pastor-scholar Sam Storms remarked,
“The physical world is a window to the beauty of God. Nature or creation or the cosmos, however you wish to put it, is here, not primarily that we might exploit its resources to enhance our comfort, nor as a means to expand our control over those weaker than ourselves, nor as merely the platform on which we might live out our desires and fulfill our personal vision. The physical world exists pre-eminently to display for our eternal joy the artistic creativity, endless power, and manifold wisdom of its Creator, the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Because God is beautiful, what he creates is beautiful. Because God is a joyful being, he offers joy through his creation to people. Joy is not in things but is mediated through them by God.
Mr. Wright has possibly lost his sense of wonder because he does not quite recognize the purpose of Creation. The world is like a ladder going up to a lofty mountain top. The feelings of delight, transcendence, and wonder you feel are you working your way up the ladder itself. You keep seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting until you reach the top. Once you’re at the top, it only gets better! The peak affords you the opportunity to see for miles whereas the ladder only thinly expressed the beauty of the cosmos. Why does the peak bestow such radiant gifts? Because God is at the top. The psalmist wrote, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psa. 16:11)” Eternal pleasures. Those are pleasures that never end. They do not end after a long day at the office. They do not end when the baby has colic at 2 am in the morning. They do not end in the midst of cancer or other destructive disease. They go on forever.
Reader, can you see it? Taste it? Smell it? Hear it? Touch it? I can remember after I first became a believer having a sense of joy in everything. Faith does that. Faith is a steadied gaze upon the goodness of God in the Gospel. It is being satisfied with all God is for you in Jesus. It is resting in Christ. An elder believer could tell there was a wide-eyed delight and awfully told me one day, “Don’t worry. You’ll lose it eventually.” I’m not sure why he wanted to dampen my spirits but he was wrong. I’ve met men that have been moved by Christ for decades and still tear up when they talk about him. They are still moved by sunsets. They write poetry for God and work their way up the ladder to the peak. Christian joy isn’t the smoke in the room that vanishes when you open a window. Christian joy is the walls of the house and is sure because God is the chief architect and builder. Christianity provides a basis for wonder and joy in the person of God. As long as God lives, moves, loves, sustains, and provides, joy is there.
If you are estranged from God and do not know Christ, the world may lack luster because you have not walked up the ladder. C.S. Lewis remarked, “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.” Paul says in Romans 1 that the knowledge of God can be seen in the created realm (1:18-23). He is there and he is not silent. The problem is not out there. The problem is in here. The apostle says we have suppressed this truth to the point of sin and have exchanged the glory of God for the glory of man. Why does the world not move you? Your idols have blinded you. The psalmist laments, “The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them! (Psa. 135:15-18)” You become what you behold and your iniquity has crusted over your eyes. Sin dulls the heart. Paul cries, “For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them. (Acts 28:27)” The solution is to come to Jesus, the source of immeasurably joy and love. He will take you back. He will satisfy you. He will forgive you. He will give you new eyes and a new heart and a new sense of taste. If the Gospel is true, today is the day of salvation and the dawn of joy has arrived. There’s a meal waiting for your enjoyment.
If you are a Christian and have lost your sense of wonder, the solution is the same. Come to Jesus again. Over and over and over we must come to Jesus. Walking the isle ten years ago is not enough. If someone were to ask you if you were alive, you would not run home to find your birth certificate. You would breathe, sing, ride a bike, jump over a log, throw a ball, drink a glass of water, and wink. You would do what alive people do! Jesus told the Church at Laodicea, “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. (Rev. 3:18)” He fixes us so that we may commune with him. Again, Jesus promises, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Rev. 3:20)” Seek the Lord where he may be found. He is everywhere and always working. Wipe your eyes and begin looking because the heavens declare the glory of God (Psa. 19:1).