Monday, June 28, 2010

Caught Up

Crowds of people standing at hot air balloon festival as balloons are lifting off, fotosearch.com
It happens to all of us. That moment when we lose our thoughts and are caught up in something just so utterly pleasurable that words never measure up. Sometimes I watch my wife eating popcorn and I imagine when she was a little girl and the pleasure that popcorn gave her. She is so relaxed and at ease. In sports, it’s known as being in the zone.

She’s not alone. I get caught up whenever I eat chocolate. It is a pleasure for which there are no words. With chocolate there is no half-stepping. You love it or you don’t. Chocolate isn’t an indulgence for the half-hearted.

That’s what happens when you have an experience for which there are no words. I remember having that sensation when I realized I found my career path in Information Technology. There was a child-like joy which gave me elation. Often, I would catch myself smiling with the realization that I had achieved something important in my life; believing I would be able to take care of my family. That was very important to me. It wasn’t the laughter which Sarah erupted into when she heard the Lord tell her husband Abraham that he would become a father, but it was my joy blessed to me by God.

Then the LORD said, I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son. Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, 'After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?'1

Sarah couldn’t imagine being caught up in that kind of pleasure at the age of ninety. But the pleasure of being caught up isn’t just for our youth.

There are all types of pleasures we can find ourselves caught up in when we forget who and what we are. Being caught up in that moment of pleasure can be either good or bad. There is the pleasure of giving birth.

Sarah said, 'God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.' And she added, 'Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.'2

There is also the pleasure of excess. I’ve heard it said, “There’s no such thing as having too much of a good thing.” But the morgue and cemetery house many who lived in the pleasures of excess only to fall asleep and never open their eyes again.

I believe God gave us pleasure so we could have the experiences it provides but He never intended us to abuse the sensation of pleasure. There is the pleasure of a meal and the pleasure one gets from a kind word. A drink may give one a pleasurable experience and wearing a certain kind of clothing can give one pleasure. The first time you sit behind the wheel of your car may give you pleasure.

I believe there is a tremendous difference between gratification and pleasure. Gratification is purely a physical sensation which can never be fully satisfied, because it seeks to get more. The drug addict seeks gratification, the alchoholic seeks gratification, the gambler seeks gratification and the abuser seeks gratification. Gratification is in a sense a perversion of pleasure because it is driven to satisfy self; gratification is rooted in selfishness. Pleasure on the other hand does not seek to merely gratify you at the physical level. Pleasure touches your thoughts, rekindling past memories. Pleasure also seeks to touch your soul and spirit as well.

The most enjoyable pleasures are those given and received; these pleasures linger in our thoughts as long as we live. We may never acknowledge them but we may find ourselves sitting on the sofa eating popcorn without a care in the world.

The least enjoyable pleasures are the one’s which we steal for ourselves. We steal them because we are driven by our own lust to have. That lust can never be satisfied. It is demanding and unyielding. Like the blood-thirsty plant in the movie Little Shop of Horrors3, it screams the demand, “Feed me!” Eventually, we no longer find pleasure in the experience; it is just something we do. Still, we are caught up in it.

Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.4

Here are four questions to consider:
  1. Where is your heart?
  2. What are you caught up in?
  3. What gives you pleasure?
  4. Does your pleasure give birth to pain?
Have you ever allowed yourself to be caught up in the joy of the Lord? A joy you’ve allowed yourself to experience. For some it is a physical experience, for some it is an emotional experience which touches the soul. For others it is a spiritual experience. When it is a spiritual experience, it will often be a shared experience for soul and body as well. What does it take to be caught up in the joy of the Lord? Three things are absent when one experiences the joy of the Lord:
  1. The absence of fear
  2. The absence of shame
  3. The absence of regret
Fear paralyzes a person so that they are unable to experience the freedom to do what pleases God. God has set you free to do His good pleasure, so you ought to want to experience what that is like. When you let go of your fears, you find a release within yourself. When you experience that joy to do something for God or someone other than yourself, it is like nothing that words can describe.

David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might…5

David felt fearless; he was unafraid in the presence of the Lord. What happened to him was spontaneous and unrehearsed; he danced before the Lord. We are forever in the presence of the Lord, whatever we do; it should be done towards his good pleasure. When it is spontaneous, there is a special joy He shares with you. The absence of fear frees me to be caught up in the life and joy of the Lord.

Shame is the result of standing in the shadows; like when you feel the need to run and hide. There is no shame in being caught up in the joy of the Lord. Your life becomes illuminated from his presence; you are transported from a kingdom of darkness in the Kingdom of God’s own Son. Shame is replaced by God’s love and when you feel God’s love, really feel His love, you won’t ever want to feel shame as a substitute.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.6

Our shame has been removed by Christ Jesus. We can endure many things without ever giving up because of Jesus. Knowing that I can go on in spite of what happens around me gives me great comfort. But the truth is that I know my redeemer lives and because of Him, I’m alive. I live and I’m able to experience joy in my life. The absence of shame means that I no longer need to hide in the shadows; I can bask in the glorious light of Christ.

Regret is the deception that things were better back then. We are fooled into thinking that we cannot and will not enter into the promises of God. Instead of joy, we live a life of sorrow and regret.

But Lot’s wife looked back and she became a pillar of salt.7

Salt is viewed as a preservative but in this instance what is preserved is a rebellious life. How can you experience deliverance, a new life and the fulfillment of God’s promises only to look back and say:

Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place?8

The truth is that our old life is dead and buried in Christ. God wants you to experience the full joy of living…to be caught up in moment after moment; enjoying the life you’ve been given. Don’t regret it for one minute. Live in the presence of God and you will experience the absence of regret.

Footnotes:
  1. Genesis 18:10-12, NIV
  2. Genesis 21:6-7, NIV
  3. Little Shop of Horrors, Produced by Roger Corman, Directed by Roger Corman, Screenplay by Charles B. Griffith
  4. Matthew 6:21, NIV
  5. II Samuel 6:14, NIV
  6. Hebrews 12:2, NIV
  7. Genesis 19:26, NIV
  8. Genesis 20:5, NIV


References:
  1. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  2. The Internet Archive, 300 Funston Avenue
    San Francisco, CA 94118.

5 comments:

Lloyd said...

Thank you so much for this post. I really enjoyed reading it. We must keep focused on our Lord and bring Him glory. God's blessings. Lloyd

Faith Imagined said...

Excellent thoughts and I appreciate how you broke everything down. Your insights on gratification vs pleasure are especially thought provoking. I will be meditating on this article for a while.

Dean Spencer said...

This is certainly though-provoking. I always wondered why we, as Christians, are so inhibited to express our love for God like David. The things that you talk about "Where is your heart? What are you caught up in?" If they're not about God, they could easily be idols. You have written an excellent post and I appreciate your insights! Thanks for sharing!

sarah said...

this post really makes me think. Pleasure...I never associated life with pleasure...only surviving..you've given me so much to think about.

MTJ said...

Lloyd:Thanks so much for your kindness my brother.

Alisa:I am truely blessed by your blog. May our Lord open even more doors for you.

Dean:Having a passion for God should be as simple as breathing but often, things get in our way. However we choose to express our passion, may it be sincere and without regret.

Sarah:Much of what you write about is reflective of your own pain, along with your discovery and liberation from it. What inspires me is your willingness to face that pain in an effort to help others discover their own escape from darkness. I'm thankful that the light of Christ shines brightly through you.