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Enjoying God: Sharing with a Student

Your choice of the thesis statement for your essay on the good life from the famous answer in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever,” is excellent.  However, reflecting on our conversation yesterday, I realized that I was presenting you with a difficult challenge to describe what it means to enjoy God.  Well, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander; so, I thought that I should give it a go.  Let me know what you think.  I hope that it is helpful.

When I think of enjoying God, I immediately feel that I am at a loss for words.  How can one describe a relationship with a being who is infinite, holy, and the essence of all that is good, and true, and beautiful?  Then I remember Peter’s words that without having seen the Lord Jesus Christ we love him, believe in him, and “rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8).  Also, the mystics portrayed the heights of their experience of God as a light so blinding that it left them in darkness and a silence beyond words.  I don’t pretend to such heights, but at least my inability to describe enjoying God puts me in good company.

Nevertheless, if I begin to focus my mind on specific experiences I have had and certain images, inadequate as they are, I believe that I can in some way name the whirlwind and describe what enjoying God means to me.  Three in particular come to mind: the experience of being carried beyond myself in the study of Scripture and in worship, the image of a father accepting a wayward son, and finally the sense of arriving home.

I love the study of Scripture.  My intellect is expanded by being carried into a subject far beyond its capacity to grasp and yet stimulated by that to press on.  When the study is not just an intellectual delight, although it remains that, I realize that I no longer am caught up with myself and my concerns.  This also happens at times—far too few times, I may add—when I worship God among the body of believers.  I am singing the words and not thinking about myself.  Paradoxically then, this very deep, even subjective, experience confirms in my heart that I am experiencing an objective reality, a person who is not me.  My faith is strengthened, and I am freed of the self.  This is the delight of being in God’s presence.  It is to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).

Often, well daily, when I come before God in my private times of prayer, I am aware of my sins and failings.  Although this is not pleasant (I am not pleased!) or enjoyable in the usual sense of the word, I confess my sins and accept God’s forgiveness.  If it stays there, the relationship seems mechanical, cold, sterile.  In this regard, Henry Nouwen’s book, The Return of the Prodigal Son, which is his reflections on the parable in Luke 15:11-32 in the light of Rembrandt’s painting of the same name, has helped me. If I picture in my mind Rembrandt’s painting, the overwhelming sense of being accepted by a loving father takes hold and I experience comfort.

And that sense of comfort is the joy of finding home.  Getting out of myself in study and worship, being accepted by the Father is fulfilling, but that word is inadequate, even though true.  Much more accurate is the image of arriving home.  It is the feeling that in leaving myself and being forgiven, I have found my true self.  The journey is over.  I am where I am supposed to be.  As Psalm 23 joyfully confesses, I am home in his house where I shall dwell forever.



2 thoughts on “Enjoying God: Sharing with a Student

  1. Bill,
    Very much enjoyed reading this post. Your thoughts about not concentrating on one’s self are close to my own.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Larry. C. S. Lewis writes about the pleasure of not thinking on oneself. Also, I much prefer critics who discuss more the object being observed (painting, novel, etc.) rather than themselves, although I do find it interesting when they can weave the two together.

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