I am rereading a classic, truly one of the best books written by the late Charles Colson. Loving God is a masterpiece of story telling. One chapter leads into the next in a seamless interweaving of different vignettes all illuminating the theme of what it means to love God and what happens when love for God rises in a heart.
Before the book begins, two quotes frame the paths of contrast. The quotes are not only separated in time and continents, but by a perspective that is worlds apart. One, rings with the spirit of our own narsissitic age, the other requires an attention to thought that is uncommon in an age committed to sound bites and outrage.
“The most pleasurable journey you take is through yourself . . . the only sustaining love involvement is with yourself. . . . . When you look back on your life and try to figure out where you’ve been and where you’re going, when you look at your work, your love affairs, your marriages, your children, your pain, your happiness — when you examine all that closely, what you really find out is that the only person you really go to bed with is yourself. . . . The only thing you have is working to the consummation of your own identity. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do all my life.”
“It is vain, O men, that you seek within yourselves the cure for your miseries. All your insight only leads you to the knowledge that it is not in yourselves that you will discover the true and the good.”
One quote comes from a high-priestess of culture, a celebrity, a rich celebrity, an actress who, by all the wisdom of our age is worthy of emulation and must be wise because, . . . well, she’s rich and a celebrity and talented right?
The other, the second quote, comes from a man who died in 1662, after a remarkable but short life of just 39 years. He was never rich and hardly famous. He was a mathematician and inventor in his day who wrote defending the scientific method and created the worlds first mechanical calculator. He also wrote philosophical and theological texts that put him at odds with the spirit of his age.
Shirley MacLaine and Blaise Pascal are separated by 350 years but their perspective on life is much larger than the years that separate them.
Shirley’s philosophy leads to the endless pursuit of happiness by exploring the self. It is filled with personality tests and feelings and the search for pleasure and the examination of pleasure from within the narrow confines of our own minds. It is filled with ink blot tests and its modern equivalent, the enneagram. It is filled with mirrors and glances at mirrors to see if one’s image to the world matches ones own imaginary image in the mind.
Blaise Pascal’s worldview has seen enough. It has looked not only at its own inward landscape but at the end of similar glances by the whole species of man down through the ages. He discovered that there are no cures for the ills of man on safaries of the self. Instead, Pascal’s worldview looks out and up and, ultimately, into a book, God’s book, the book a poet once called, “my saving grace” and his path out of depression.
I’m not doing Colson’s book justice. I want to motivate you to read his book, because though it is approaching 40 years old, it is filled with more wisdom on what it means to love God and is more beautifully written than most books that have been written since. Pick up a copy. Follow Blaise Pascal to the God who loves you and learn how to love Him. When you do, you will find that loving Him is more satisfying than loving yourself.