Whenever my Gabriel is overwhelmed (and often when he’s not), he retreats to his room and pulls Lego guys out of his blue safe. Time stops for him as the ‘guys’ talk and fly, fight and tumble. My 17 year old has a similar ritual– reading a novel in the shade of the front porch. For Mary, it’s reclining on the chaise lounge with a snack after school (be warned: disturbing her reaps volcanic consequences!) and for my missionary Ben it’s a thick piece of toast with cherry jam.
Watching them become completely absorbed and renewed by a simple pleasure brings to mind one of my favorite chapters in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters (and if you haven’t read it; repent and get thee to a library!). As you likely know, the book is a series of letters from a senior devil, Screwtape, to his unexperienced apprentice on the art of human temptation. At this junction the junior devil is receiving a scolding for allowing his subject to read a book he truly enjoyed and strolling to the old mill– “two real positive Pleasures!“– and Screwtape complains about how easy it is for God to reach us when we are truly happy, truly ourselves. “When He talks of their losing their selves, He only means abandoning the clamor of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever.”
All this makes me feel much better about my habit of cleaning the kitchen then lying on the couch to read the comics (and we take two newspapers, so that’s a lot of funnies). On days that life’s busyness makes my comic reading impossible I always feel a little picked on and abused.
Seeking simple pleasures isn’t simply a tool for overstressed kids and housewives. My brother Dan, who fought alcoholism for twenty-five years, taught me that seeking beauty and joy in life is a key to sobriety.
“Everyone told me not to drink or do drugs;” he mused, “no one taught me what to do when I was sad or depressed. When life got hard; I got drunk. But all my problems were still there the next morning– plus a hangover and a bar tab.” Two years sober, he now turns to very simple pleasures: reading (he just finished the Hunger Games Trilogy), dark chocolate, walking his dog or downloading the newest Adele remix.
Experts believe that constructive habits can form a protective barrier against damaging temptations like pornography. Most users seek out pornography when they are bored or depressed; identifying and pursuing more wholesome pleasures (think AofF 13— it applies to chocolate as well as MoTab CDs) is a potent weapon against debilitating habits. Certainly these are complex issues; forgive me for oversimplifying.
So don’t feel guilty about your morning hot chocolate, your habit of sunning your feet while you read the newspaper, your secret affinity for mystery novels or your obsession with strawberry Laffy Taffy. God loves your little quirks, your “deepest likings and impulses;” and when you are most you, He finds it easier to whisper to His child.
What are your simple pleasures?
How do you destress?
Have you felt God’s presence at unexpected times?
Has a simple pleasure helped you break a bad habit or avoid self-destructive behavior.