In the past few months, I couldn't help but feel that every last thing in life is somehow bittersweet. The things that we ought to most enjoy are the most difficult things to do (i.e. denying ourselves daily to serve others or take up our crosses). The things that we ought not to do are so sweet on the surface, but they bear the bitter aftertaste of shame, guilt, sorrow, etc. I couldn't seem to get over this paradox for a long time, until I read "The Reason For God," by Timothy Keller.
In one of his chapters, entitled "Christianity is a Straightjacket," Keller addresses how many people are unwilling to accept the Christian lifesyle, because it seems like it is merely a list of "do's" and "don'ts." In other words, it seems to be a lifestyle that only restricts one from enjoying all of the "good things" in life. He addresses the same issue in his final chapter, called "The Dance of God." When I first read that chapter title - especially considering that it was the finale of the book - I thought he had gone soft on his audience; I thought that he was going to talk about the Christian life like it was just some blissful, "happy-go-lucky" experience. I completely misjudged that title.
As Keller goes on to explain, "the dance of God" is the phrase that he uses to explain the Trinity of God. It is the state of being that God is, has been, and always will be, in which the three persons of God are in constant, joyful submission and service to each other. It's not that service is (as some would define it) a giving up of your happiness or well-being to pursue someone else's. Rather, the service itself (the giving up of one's personal desires) is in and of itself a joyful experience and lifestyle. Because God is always in a full, complete enjoyment of existence through the avenue of service, He created us in His image to enjoy life in the same way.
When we sinned, we did not just make the mistake of breaking an arbitrary rule made by God. It was so very much more than this. We broke ourselves away from community with God. Stop and think about that concept for a minute:
Community with God... One-ness with Him... Experiencing a small reflection of what it feels like to be God...
When put that way, the irony of the serpent's lie in the garden is much more evident. He said that we would be like God by disobeying Him, when in actuality, it was just breaking us infinitely further away from experiencing one-ness with God.
We could be experiencing God fully every day by giving our personal desires up to see Him glorified, and in doing so, experiencing the fullness of life. Instead, we chose the path of sin, which broke away our community with Him. So, to address the topic stated at the beginning of this article, it's no wonder that I (and probably many others) feel caught in the paradox of life feeling bittersweet. That's exactly how the devil works; he lures us in with sweet bait - bait that hides the nasty, sharp, rusty hook underneath. We have continued to feed the same lie to ourselves, ever since. We tell ourselves that giving up our personal desires is going to harm ourselves and take us farther away from enjoying God, when in actuality, it is the complete opposite. The giving up of ourselves to glorify God and those created in His image is what brings us closer to experiencing and enjoying Him.