It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
- Lewis, C. S., and Walter Hooper
By: Zachary Roberts
Reflections from the Spring 2018 Men's Retreat
At one point in his message on contentment and discontentment, Geoff Bradford, pastor of Christ the King, made a statement that struck me deeply: “Life is a dress rehearsal for eternity.” Now as a theatre person, I know exactly what is supposed to happen in a dress rehearsal. This is the final rehearsal before a production opens. In this rehearsal, one hopes that everything will go as smoothly as if there was an audience present already. Unfortunately, a rehearsal is still a rehearsal, and things are bound to go bad. The lights go dark at the wrong time, the costume change is late, and the actor forgets a crucial line. Nothing is perfect.
Geoff’s metaphor of a dress rehearsal so rightly fit with the message that he was delivering on the Christian pursuit of contentment in this world. We rarely hear of anyone saying that our culture craves too little; rather, we as Christians are constantly maligning the culture for over-indulgence. While there is certainly criticism to be made on our culture’s excessiveness, Geoff pointed out that all too often the dreams of Christians reflect the desires of the surrounding culture: the beautiful home, the right job, the perfect portfolio, the best education. He went on to explore how we reach contentment by exploring the methods present in the bestseller Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. There is the method of addition through which one eats their way to contentment by adding things and experiences. The second method of subtraction encourages one to remove thing after thing, experience after experience and eventually kill our desires. Reasoning from Philippians 4:10-13, Geoff stated the true way forward for the Christian is neither of the world’s addition or subtraction extremes. Rather, the Christian must look on the world with the practice of contentment, preaching daily to ourselves to find our satisfaction in Christ, but not being afraid to pray for the bigger picture plan of God.
The heart of Geoff’s lesson came in his exhortation of the principle of heavenly discontentment using the lesser known passage of Revelation 21-22:5. Geoff stated that Raleigh is one of the most spiritually dangerous places to live. The prosperity of our region, the ability to appear to handle everything, and ultimately, our sense of self-sufficiency causes us to settle far too quickly for the broken things of this world. Geoff quoted C.S. Lewis from his essay The Weight of Glory:
"It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."
Geoff exhorted us to long for the new heaven and the new earth spoken of in Revelation and to find a heavenly discontentment with the pain, sorrow, and death of this present age, the figurative mud pies that so often tempt us away from the holiday that awaits us when Christ returns. He also spoke that when God renews the heavens and earth, He will renew not only in terms of time but also in terms of quality. All things will be put right and death will die along with tears, pain, and sorrow. We will be the perfect version of ourselves, and most beautiful of all, God will make His home with us.
If life is a dress rehearsal for eternity, let us cling to the hope of God’s perfectly new heaven and earth in which the performance will be flawless.
Lewis, C. S., and Walter Hooper. The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses. Harper San Francisco, 2001.
Bradford, Geoff. “Contentment and Discontentment.” 2018 Men's Spring Retreat. 2018 Men's Spring Retreat, 28 Apr. 2018, Oxford, NC, Sedgefield Estate.