The following article is a guest post by Rebecca VanDoodewaard, author of Uprooted: A Guide for Homesick Christians and Your Future 'Other Half': It Matters Whom You Marry. She is married to William VanDoodewaard, Professor of Church History at Puritan Theological Seminary. They have four children.
Our culture is obsessed with physical pleasure. Luxury, sex, and food are the three-fold preoccupations of the 21st century west. Vanity Fair is no longer a stop along the road to the Celestial City—it has set up shop along the entire route, from Wicket Gate to River. We have more, more easily than any other generation in history.
But we are missing out. Our material wealth, mixed with carnality, has robbed us of other kinds of pleasure. Enabled by ubiquitous technology, it is set to rob our children even faster. We are a people who, captivated by physical pleasure, are impoverished of intellectual and spiritual pleasure.
How did streaming services take over our evenings? Why is pornography such a snare? What has made obesity so prevalent, or household debt so high? Of course, the answer is that people are turning away from their Creator, without self-control, “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:4). And when we turn from the Creator, we turn from many of His gifts—things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
When I look back on my childhood, I see that my parents were very careful to give their children access to intellectual and spiritual pleasures. Even though we couldn’t see it then, beauty was lavished on us: the texture of a Monet, the smell of a library, the beat of a limerick, the feel of peony petals, the colour of eyes, patterns of language, taste of salt water, and sound of footsteps on a hard museum floor. The beauty of Scripture, the wonder of salvation, were poured over it all. We were so busied with real beauty that counterfeit pleasures often looked hollow. Our minds were frequently full of legitimate pleasure, so that the illegitimate lost much of its luster.
This does not mean that leisure, sex and food are illegitimate—when received and enjoyed biblically, they are. But they are only three of the Creator’s gifts. In neglecting so many others, we insult the Giver and impoverish ourselves. A display of His gifts is a reflection of Himself.
We need to find a way to educate our children in beauty—in true pleasure’s many facets. It won’t make them ace a standardized test. They can’t put it on their college application, or be prepared for a particular job. No: they will see the earth covered in His fingerprints. They can marvel at indirect and direct creation. It’s not just a matter of safety in right pleasure. It’s not just a matter of having richer lives. It’s a matter of recognizing God’s glory everywhere, and giving praise where it is due. After all, that’s our chief end: glorifying God and enjoying Him forever. Why wouldn’t we explore every avenue to do so?