Joy on the Other Side

Joy on the Other Side July 28, 2015

First the pain. Second the purgation. Finally a vision of utter bliss.
First the pain. Second the purgation. Finally a vision of utter bliss.

Dante understood that some of us are not saints like Beatrice or Lucy. We must go the long way to God and not the short path for simple, pure souls. I have not journeyed through Hell, but some parts of my life have felt like Purgatory and so I can testify to this truth.

Christianity is a religion of the Cross: pain and then pleasure. Why? Partly because humans are broken, but mostly because this is good for us. Pleasure cloys if it comes without any sense of need. My best meals have come when I was hungry, not when I was already full and ate some more. Disneyland once taught me that even a churro to a man sated on a Turkey Leg is not sweet.

And so it is (almost) always: nobody earns the great gift of God’s love, but all of us need the love to enjoy the pleasure. When we know we are thirsty, really know, God provides the sweetest drink.

Pleasures are hard to describe or categorize. I have had a blessed life full of the opportunity to try and enjoy many things and experience many types of happiness. Sadly, I have even refused the Cross, God’s growing pains, in favor of pleasures at the wrong time, in the wrong place, or in the wrong manner.

Pleasure remains pleasure. If sin were not “fun,” at least for awhile, few would want it. The good twisted by evil still contains the shattered remnants of the original good creation and so can give a person pleasure, but it is a pleasure followed by inevitable pain.

This is not how I have found “doing the right thing.” This is a hard road, but one that satisfies even when the pleasure is in Paradise. Modern people, even Christians, demand pleasure now and I fear many of us get it. We get all the joy we are ever going to get and have nothing much left for Eternity.

Christianity insists that there are many small pleasures that show us what is coming, but that the full reward is after death. Only after death can a man see God, all good, all true, all beautiful, and hope to live. Only after death will a man be what God made him to be: every desire will be rightly ordered and every “is” in our nature be an “ought to be.”

Life this side of Paradise will always disappoint the libertine because his heart contains desires for something “more” than this life can provide. We have eternity in our hearts, bigger love than we can fit into a few decades here. This love is a longing that is never, quite, satisfied.

I suppose that the skeptic will say: Reynolds is putting off the pay off because there is no pay off. He is pushing it to “heaven” and “heaven” is not real.

This skeptic does not understand that the sweetness of one note of the Heavenly music heard in an echo of an echo while in worship is like no other pleasure. There is a reason the aesthetic of atheistic regimes is so bad and of libertines so decadent. The tyrant tries to drown out the divine echo with loud military bands and pompous noise and the playboy smothers it with party music on a loop.

Yet one whisper of the Heavenly music makes the dictator look childish and the libertine undead.

In those moments when God is as near as He comes, at least to men like I am, there is a light, a health, a lifting of my heart, a joy that shakes me to my core. The experience of God, when He comes, is so intense, so real, so moving that by itself it makes it worth all worldly pain.

And Paradise is still to come!

I remember sitting in church and watching my Mother turn to lead the men in an inspired chorus of Rise Up O Men of God and she was speaking for God to me. I could hear Him, see Him in her eyes, and feel His pleasure. God knew I was broken, but was saying in our time as He had said in the before times:

Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth

I experience something unlike any other pleasure and knowing it was a promise of better to come . . . I was and remain full of hope and desire for God.

God: hunger then a feast, thirst and then a drink of living water, desire and then total fulfillment- not quite yet, but soon.

A foretaste of Paradise is worth every other pleasure I have ever known on Earth . . . and oddly enhanced all the right, true, and good pleasures. It is a good that makes other pleasures greater and it captivates my heart.

Maranatha! Come quickly Lord Jesus!


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!