67: Enjoying All of Life

In this episode John and Gregg go further on the topic of “rigor,” which they initially discussed in episode # 64.  In that episode they discussed rigor specifically in the context of reading and interpreting the Bible. In this episode they expand that discussion as Gregg suggests that rigor applies broadly to our entire lives.

Gregg explains that, in his view, human beings are not just cognitive machines or solely intellectually focused.  Further, while a Christian perspective focuses on character, God is concerned with more that our character.  Such other concerns would be improvement, diversity, and enjoyment.  So Gregg notes that C. S. Lewis starts his Narnia series with Aslan proclaiming to all of the talking creatures, “I give you yourselves!”  Yet the tendency with Christians is either to overlook this or overemphasize it.

John, however, is doubtful: the notions of God giving us ourselves or of enjoyment being an essential aspect of Christian living is very suspect from John’s Christian upbringing.  For instance, Christians are often taught to “empty themselves” and “be nothing,” and similarly they are taught that they are on this earth to serve God, not to seek pleasure.

On the point of enjoying ourselves Gregg points to the “excessive” and “extravagant” acts of Jesus, where in John’s gospel the first of Jesus “signs” is the wedding of Cana, who not only created wine unnecessarily (John 2:4) but created very good wine (2:10).  Gregg links this to further (and greater) extravagance and enjoyment in Isaiah 2 and 25 (where the wedding of Cana points both back to Isaiah 25 and foreshadows its eschatological fulfillment).  Likewise Gregg notes how Brene Brown writes about  the necessity of play, in order to be “whole hearted.”  Thus rigor is the integration of one’s whole self, in seeking self-improvement but also diversification and enjoyment.

On the point about “emptying oneself,” Gregg draws the (purposely false) analogy with a family expecting a new child and so who prepare their existing child to be loved less, because there is “only so much love to go around.”  Yet clearly love does not work this way.  Rather, love abounds in and through relationship, such that one who loves me does not seek me to be less myself or less present in order to enjoy / love me more–quite the reverse!

When John wonders what constitutes rigor in terms of self-diversification or enjoyment, Gregg suggests that In these regards rigor simply means doing it!  In other words, being rigorous in some senses means being self-aware of my strengths and weaknesses in these areas, being willing to expose myself to new things, being spontaneous, and it may often include trusting others who may have a more diverse background or a more fluid relationship with ‘play’ than I do!

In short, Gregg affirms that life is good and meant to be good. There is good reason to be cautious and suspicious, yet there in an initial created goodness to the physical world and to human being that they have never fully lost.  Thus Gregg also sees great reason for human beings to be enthusiastically involved in their own lives, for their improvement, diversification, and enjoyment.

2 thoughts on “67: Enjoying All of Life

  1. Marcellus

    Guys, I loved this discussion!

    In John 10:10 Jesus states that “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” My religious upbringing seemed to gloss over this promise from God, or worse, positioned it as pertaining to the NEXT life. This current life, (I was often reminded), is not to be valued. Being “in the world, but not of the world” was the theme of the day. The fact that we are referred to by Paul as “pilgrims” and “sojourners” was the reasoning behind harmful teachings that minimized the affection that I should have for my mortal life. John the Baptists statement of “becoming less so that He could become greater” was misused and falsely applied to promote religious manipulations and hurtful practices.

    The truth is that God placed the earth, the universe, and galaxies in place for man’s enjoyment and God’s pleasure. We, as free believers who have been redeemed from the curse of sin, should be the happiest people on the planet! We have an opportunity to intimately know the most powerful being in the universe and to counted as an heir to His kingdom. We are filled with His love, understanding, and mercy. Our very lives are a testimony of His goodness towards fallen man by proving His redemptive heart to an unbelieving world. Who better to enjoy the fullness of this life and to relish all that God has provided than His very own children, chosen by His hand?

    We should live this life with all of the fervency and joy of someone who has a brush with death but comes out unscathed. Every sunrise should be more beautiful. Every moment with a loved one should be more special. Every song should sound more beautiful to the one living on borrowed time. For that is what we are. We were dead in sin, but are now alive in Christ! We are free to live a full life now! Religion be damned.

    Reply
    1. Gregg Monteith Post author

      Hi Marcellus,

      I appreciate you sharing your passion with us: it’s really meaningful to hear about your transition from a perspective that disparages the physical / temporal of existence and one than fully values and embraces it.

      I think that my orientation toward enjoying life is doubly situated, between the reality of human existence being of incredible worth (i.e., it is amazing to be alive, and life represents a remarkable gift) and the theology reality that God seeks not to abolish the earth but to renew it. As I read it, the establishing of God’s kingdom does not represent a claim against current existence but a counter-claim against the forces that would usurp God’s rightful position as King and would distort God’s rightful role as father and parent. To my mind it is only within this “doubly dual” context–of now and future, king and father–that we rightly situate human existence and relationship with God (and so rightly understand God, ourselves, and the relationship between the two).

      And I guess, unsurprisingly, this compliments my perspective that human and God have the two most important things in common: love and truth, truth and love. Thanks for your comment.

      Reply

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