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.