by Bob Allen:
Buford the bass is content to swim in his pond, snacking on smaller fish, crayfish, tadpoles, maybe even frogs or small aquatic birds; he has no interest in anything else. One day, he sees a worm bobbing along on the lake bottom. He swims closer, investigating whether or not this is a new food source. He takes a nibble. The worm quickly darts away leaving the largemouth fish unsatisfied and curious. Apparently, the only way to find out if it’s a food source is to swallow that wriggly morsel whole. So, he opens his gaping maw to almost comical size and gulps it up, quickly swimming in the other direction.
The next thing he knows, he is being dragged against his will by an invisible-to-him force, pulled toward the surface. So, this little monster fights and swims the other direction as this undeniable power draws it out of its dark, wet, comfortable, cool, natural environment. Unable to escape he swims this way and that trying to shake something internal, something he has consumed in a moment of intrigue. What the fish doesn’t know is that there is no escape. Even if he were to vomit out the mouthful he attempted to swallow whole in his curiosity, the hook is set and there is nothing now that can release its hold save the miracle of a broken line.
Flopping to the surface, splashing violently, Buford Bigmouth (that’s his full name you know) is taken from comfort to discomfort. If he remains out of his watery home, he will die. Caught by the lure of something he did not understand, poor Buford will find himself mounted on a wall, a trophy of the angler who dangled the dangerous bait right in front of him, or scaled and cleaned to be served up for consumption with a garnish of a lemon wedge and some parsley.
When I think of fishing, I cannot help but draw the comparison to how Satan wants to ensnare people in sin. It starts innocuously; small, harmless fun. Maybe it’s a careless word or a quick glance or an extra helping of ice cream and cake, but before long, a craving for more arises. Just like Buford who is unsatisfied by the nibble which promised fulfillment but left him hungry, the taste isn’t enough. Now, for us as human beings, there are often many more steps before the whole-hearted hit on the appetizing and flashy lure which captivates our gaze as it works on capturing our hearts, but the end result is the same: when we allow ourselves to be consumed by the hankering, we put ourselves at risk of death. When we dabble in the desire, we open ourselves up to the kind of snare the devil designed to kill us.
God has placed within mankind all manner of desires. At face value, they are good. This is why Satan wants to pervert them for evil. In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis hits the nail on the head when he editorializes how Satan views the good things which God, in this case named the “Enemy”, has created for mankind to enjoy, “the more rapacious this desire, the sooner it must eat up all the innocent sources of pleasure and pass on to those the Enemy forbids.”1 Mankind was created to enjoy the earth. We have taste buds to savor the sweetness of strawberries and tartness of Granny Smith apples. We have olfactory receptors to enjoy the fragrant beauty of a lilac bush in full bloom. Our ears have the spiral organ of Corti to translate vibrations into tones and pitches which form the notes composing Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 “Jupiter”. Our eyes refract incoming photons, reflected off the matter around us, and translate them into the breathtaking palates of sunsets. It is wholesome to find pleasure and enjoyment in this life, but always through the understanding that these pleasures are not an end goal in themselves.
Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 9:7-9)
Everything in creation points to the Creator, even our desires. If we reject the Creator, then taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight serve only our whims. But when we consider them gateways to experiencing the goodness of God, they become worshipful. In the same fashion as Charles Spurgeon saying, “I intend to smoke a fine cigar to the glory of God before I go to bed tonight,” Christians are to enjoy God’s creation, which he himself deemed good, but always through the framework of its gift to us from the Creator. It is little wonder people find refreshment from playing outside. Long walks through the cool glades of a pine forest produce beautiful contrasts between the shadows and flashes of light shining through gaps in the evergreen canopy, the pungent aroma of sap drifting like a haze as your footsteps are deadened by the shifting caramel needles underfoot. There is a thickness to it all, a comforting blanket of sensory experience wrapping itself around you. Nature should be a blessing, one to be explored with all five senses.
In Jared Wilson’s excellent The Imperfect Disciple, he dedicates an entire chapter to the concept of “staring at God’s glory until you see it”. Brothers and sisters, seek out God and his truth in all of your endeavors and savor it when you find it. Instead of mindlessly chasing pleasure for pleasure’s sake, consider that the God of the universe created the neurons which fire in your cerebral cortex, organized the molecules that compose dopamine released into your system, ordered the lobes of your brain in such a way as to derive joy from what he created; what he created for you; what he created for your to enjoy; what he created for you to enjoy and to give thanks and praise to him for doing so.
1 – C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (reprint: HarperOne, 2001), p. 137.