C.S. Lewis on Savoring Temporal Pleasures

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage (p. 137).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

How should we treat temporal pleasures? There seems to be very little balance in the way we live out the answer to this question.

Some people live for temporal pleasures and try to find life in ways that resembles chasing for a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow – lots of effort, but with inevitable failure.

Other people respond to temporal as if it were a synonym for bad, evil, or wasteful. To them a lack of permanence is the equivalent of a complete lack of value.

Lewis’ quote calls for a balanced response and makes me think of how my wife responds when I buy her flowers. She knows the flowers will not last. She likes them better when I buy the “clearance” flowers, which means she really knows they’re not going to last.

The fact that the flowers will wither does not detract from her enthusiasm for the gift. She gets out a vase, fills it with water, and places them prominently in our kitchen. She comments on them frequently and always looks at them as she walks through the room.

But she doesn’t mistake the flowers for my love, of which the flowers were only a representation. There is no fear in her that when the flowers fade my love is failing with the collapse of each petal. She gets the message of the flowers, so she can embrace the flowers for what they are.

I believe this captures God’s intent for temporal pleasures. They are meant to be a love gift from Him to His children. A good meal, a stimulating conversation, health, a vacation to a beautiful location, or a nice home are all good, temporal gifts.

If we accept them as signs of God’s love and do not mistake them for the substance of God’s love, then we can enjoy them and let them fade without fear or despair. We receive the joy they were intended to give and our affection for the Giver grows.

How would your perspective on temporal pleasures change if you treated God’s blessings like my wife treats my flowers? How would it influence your anxiety and insecurity? How would it affect your sense of gratitude and joy? To whom would these changes be most noticeable?

Do you feel guilty right now? That is another misuse of the gift—further guilt only extends this misuse. If my wife (hypothetically speaking) became too attached to the flowers and missed the love they represented, her repentance would be best expressed through rejoicing in my love—not sorrow.

If my wife (hypothetically speaking) under-appreciated my flowers to protect herself from being disappointed at their fading, her repentance would be best expressed through vulnerably receiving my love—not beating herself up.

If you have not responded well to God’s temporal pleasures through over-indulgence or under-appreciation, repent now by embracing the message of His love that He sent in the form of temporal pleasures. He will rejoice as He sees His purpose for creating those pleasures fulfilled.

 

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