Many of us are chasing shadows and never feel the warm breath that pushes forth from living lungs. It is easy to miss the truth in the midst of consuming shadows. But it is there, in the eyes and behind the eyes of those who are being remade in the image of God.
That the mansion is broken-down is obvious by its warts, failures, and blemishes. Rather than dealing with the brokenness it is easier to look away, to chase after shadows, and never really embrace truth, purity, and reality.
Christmas decorations are storytellers. For the person whose heart strays from God, decorations are a vain attempt to dress up a mirage, to hope against hope that a shadow will bring warmth. However, like a virtual fireplace, a mirage lacks oxygen. For the person who loves God decorations are flowers planted in good soil, they indicate reality, a deep reality with a beating heart.
Think about Christmas shopping. Do you shop from real hope? Or do you hope in your shopping? What about your decorating? Do you decorate from hope or do you look for hope in the decorations? Does the decorated tree cheer your heart? It might, for a moment. Or does the cheer in your heart result in a beautifully decorated tree?
Lost by those who get tangled up in heated debates about the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the Christmas holiday, is a real understanding of joy.
C.S. Lewis wrote a letter on August 19th, 1945 to a Mrs. Ellis. This letter was recently discovered in a secondhand book. In this letter Lewis describes his view of joy:
It shocks one awake when the other (pleasure) puts one to sleep. My private table is one second of joy is worth 12 hours of Pleasure. I think you really quite agree with me. (From The Guardian).
Did you catch it? Lewis wrote, "one second of joy is worth 12 hours of Pleasure." That’s it, you know. Pleasure is the shadow that many a lost soul is chasing, except it is a bit more tangible than a shadow. Pleasure can be brought to the breast and held for a moment but it will ultimately bring drowsiness and sleep. In the end pleasure is a shadow that flees so that it can refuel and be chased again. Every captured moment of pleasure always runs out of gass. If you look for pleasure to cheer your heart, then your heart will feel cheered for a moment but soon the cheer seeps out like a punctured balloon, and you are left flat.
The problem is in seeking pleasure rather than joy. Joy is weighty, substantive, and real.
Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory: "You and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness." We are often enchanted by worldliness and imagine that shadow-collecting, with all of its pleasures, is what we were made for.
What were we made for?
For by him all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16).
The "him" above is Christ. We were created by and for Christ. It’s all about Christ. He is the source of our joy. When we know him, and find our joy in him alone, then we can rejoice in him and enjoy his good gifts to us without thinking that we deserve better than we are getting. Grace abounds because God sent his Son to rescue sinners. From that base-line truth we can look into the eyes of our tired spouse, challenging children, and difficult boss and engage them with love and hope. Why? Because we have seen, touched, tasted, and embraced the reality. We can also look at a world drowning in Christmas chaos and decorate a tree from joy and not for joy.
Seeking pleasure outside of the boundary of Scripture is grabbing for the wind. Yes, there is a refreshing puff of air that brings giddiness for a moment but the thrill will soon pass. Moses knew that, rejected the "fleeting pleasures of sin," and chose Christ.
By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. (Hebrews 11: 24-28)