hiking vs. church

For the longest time I’ve struggled with a mentality toward spirituality that I am learning is anything but what God wants. 

Because sometimes I’ll wish I were outside taking a hike up the side of a mountain instead of sitting in church. Or it’s a gorgeous afternoon and no, I don’t want to read my Bible--I want to get utterly lost in a favorite novel. And sometimes instead of having a quiet time, I just want my friend to give me a massage. 

...and I’m learning that all of that is okay. It’s good, actually! God created us to thoroughly enjoy the world that He created. He wants us to get excited about the beauty of a sunrise. He wants us to laugh hysterically with friends and take bubble baths and go skydiving and spend all day building sandcastles. These things we enjoy--they’re good. And there’s a reason we enjoy them. He designed us to enjoy his creation. 

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that spending time alone with the Lord--reading His word, worshipping and praying--is a necessary part of the day-to-day lives of believers, and a source of sustaining pleasure. Fellowship with believers and corporate worship in church is also so crucial to our lives and extremely fulfilling. However, these things aren’t meant to be our only source of pleasure. If that were true, why would God make a world full of sunsets and mountains and marathons and laughter and chocolate?

These past few weeks, I’ve been learning so much from the pages of Gary Thomas’s book, Pure Pleasure. He shines such light on this idea--

 

“God’s design displays utter brilliance...

And yet so many Christian teachers persist in setting God’s earth up against God’s kingdom--as if the two always oppose one another. We celebrate redemptive activities such as prayer and worship but then pit them against other human realities such as marriage, exercise, traveling, reading for pleasure, and laughter.

 

Don’t get me wrong, the hearts of healthy believers gravitate toward worship, singing, and thanksgiving. All of these good things bring great joy and pleasure. God isn’t just our Redeemer, however; He is also our Creator. He made us, and he made this world. So when we participate in this world as he made it, we celebrate him every bit as much as we honor him when we do things that reflect his redeeming work. In fact, we insult him when we deny the glory of his creativity. When we speak of God only as Savior, we use him as a rescuer--but he is so much more than that! He invites us to truly enjoy him and all that he has made, no longer using God merely to enjoy the world, but also using the world to enjoy God. 

 

This is a call to embrace the world in a way that may seem radical to many Christians. How can it honor God to ask him to solve our problems, fix our families, and remove the stain of sin while ignoring what he delights to create, color, and fashion? To do so is as foolish as someone learning to play the guitar merely to develop stronger and more nimble fingers, or taking up playing the flute for the sole purpose of improving one’s ability to breathe. It misses the beauty and poetry of the entire exercise, reducing this world to a utilitarian throwaway bereft of the mystery and wonder of an infinitely creative and generous God.”

 

He is glorious and holy and awe-inducing. And at the same time, He is full of mystery and love and the purest pleasures. He makes known to us the path of life and fills us with joy in His presence, with eternal pleasures at His right hand (Psalm 16:11).

 

I don’t know about you, but after having this realization, I suddenly just felt free to enjoy life more than I ever have before. Because He delights in us. And He delights in our joy.