Becoming more “ordinary”

The churches I attended had stressed the dangers of pleasure so loudly that I missed any positive message. Guided by [Gilbert] Chesterton, I came to see sex, money, power, and sensory pleasures as God’s good gifts. Every Sunday I can turn on the radio or television and hear preachers decry the drugs, sexual looseness, greed, and crime that are “running rampant” in the streets of America.

Rather than merely wag our fingers at such obvious abuses of God’s good gifts, perhaps we should demonstrate to the world where good gifts actually come from, and why they are good.

Evil’s greatest triumph may be its success in portraying religion as an enemy of pleasure when, in fact, religion accounts for its source: every good and enjoyable thing is the invention of a Creator who lavished gifts on the world.

Of course, in a world estranged from God, even good things must be handled with care, like explosives. We have lost the untainted innocence of Eden, and every good harbors risk as well, holding within it the potential for abuse. Eating becomes gluttony, love becomes lust, and along the way we lose sight of the One who gave us pleasure. The ancients turned good things into idols; we moderns call them addictions. In either case, what ceases to be a servant becomes a tyrant…

“I am ordinary in the correct sense of the term,” says Chesterton, “which means the acceptance of an order; a Creator and the Creation, the common sense of gratitude for Creation, life and love as gift permanently good, marriage and chivalry as laws rightly controlling them . . .” Under his influence I too realized the need to become more “ordinary.”

I had conceived of faith as tight-lipped,
grim exercise of spiritual discipline,
a blending of asceticism and rationalism
in which joy leaked away.

Chesterton restored to me a thirst for the exuberance that flows from a link to the God who dreamed up all the things that give me pleasure.

–Philip Yancey

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