Friday, April 18, 2008

A Question of Coasters

I traveled on a ministry team this past summer for my college, which took me all over the New England states.  One of the best days of the trip was when we as a team got to go to Six Flags over New England.  I'm a huge fan of roller coasters, so a day at the amusement park seemed like a sweet deal.  
There were two coasters that stick out in my mind.  They were right next to each other in the park, so they were hard to miss.  One was called the Catwoman's Whip.  It was a small, kiddie coaster.  The fastest speed was maybe 25 mph, and it couldn't have been over 20 feet tall.  No loops, no huge drops, just a tame little coaster.  
Next to it was the Superman: Ride of Steel.  With it's 221 foot initial drop and speeds of up to 77 mph, it promised to be the ride of a lifetime.  But here was the dilemma: the line for the Superman was nearly an hour, while the Catwoman's Whip had no one in line.  If you had the choice of only one, which would you choose?
If you're smart (like our team was) you would choose the wait and the bigger thrill of the Superman.  Now, I understand we were there the whole day and we really didn't have to decide between one or the other.  We rode both.  Actually we rode the Catwoman's Whip more times for the sake of our leader who wouldn't go near the Superman with a pole the length of Texas.  
But recently I've realized that my life is like that choice, the exclusive choice of one or the other coaster.  Only I'm not choosing roller coasters, I'm choosing pleasures.
Everyday, I have a choice in front of me to please myself or please God.  That's obvious from the Bible.  Every temptation I face is a choice between pleasures--the pleasures of here and now vs. the pleasures of then and there.  A choice to be satisfied immediately or to be satisfied ultimately.
Hebrews 11 tells us that sin is pleasurable, only for period of time, but the pleasure of it cannot be denied.  And God intends pleasure for us.  That can't be denied either.  Psalm 16:11 promises "pleasures forevermore," to those in Christ.  Which, if you compare the two pleasures here, pleasures forevermore seems a lot more attractive than pleasures that last only for a period of time.  So why do I choose the Catwoman's Whip pleasures over the Superman: Ride of Steel pleasures?  Why do I do my own thing and not God's?
I think I don't really understand pleasures forever more.  I don't get it.  I can't comprehend what God really has in store for me.  I've never experienced that kind of joy and satisfaction.  I can't.  I live in a "shadowland" (as C.S. Lewis called the world).  Everything that I experience is but a shadow, a shade of the real thing.  And since I can't comprehend the pleasure God intends for me, I am satisfied (to use C.S. Lewis's description) with making mud pies in the slums because I can't imagine a holiday at the sea.
I've lived my life in the interior of the U.S.  First, Illinois, then the dry and landlocked Colorado.  There's pictures of me at the beach at South Padre Island when I was 3ish, but I don't remember going.  It wasn't until high school, on a college trip to Florida, that I experienced the beach again.  Until then, I couldn't imagine what it was like.  The smell of the salt air, the sound of the waves, the cool sand molding it's way around my feet.  I'd never experienced it, so I couldn't imagine the pleasure there.  I had to go on what others said.  And when I went, I went with an excitement based on what they told me.
Just because we've never experienced the joy and pleasure God intends for us, doesn't mean I shouldn't be choosing it.  I have, on the best authority (a being Who cannot lie), promises that what waits for those who deny the temporary but immediate pleasures of this world far surpasses anything I can imagine.
So I will choose to wait.  Maybe it seems like I'm being ascetic and monastic to deny myself pleasures here and now.  But if that denial gains me pleasure that I can't imagine later on, it seems to me to be the better option.  I'll give up the Catwoman's Whip for the Superman: Ride of Steel, no matter what the wait.

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