We are far too easily pleased. Such was C.S. Lewis’ conclusion of the sinful human heart’s obsessive preoccupation with things lesser than the surpassingly greater and supremely satisfying glory of God. A wise man, no doubt, but it could also be said that we are far too difficult to please.
My wife grew up in Vero Beach, Florida. No landlocked city gets to tag ‘Beach’ on to the end of their name for curb appeal or to increase tourism. So yes, Vero Beach is on the beach—Atlantic side, an hour or so north of West Palm Beach. On our trip down to Vero Beach this summer, we caught up with one of Emily’s lifelong friends over dinner. Like conversations with longtime friends do, reminiscing about the days that are lost in an increasingly distant past was a sort of romantic nostalgia—the kind that once had a youthful and ignorant distaste of things but has come in its maturity to appreciate the complexities and subtleties of the past that have borne so much of its influential weight upon us. There was talk of high school pranks which were probably far less impressive than they have become in folklore and of late night hangouts which have a sweetness that only ripens with age though they appeared to be so mundane in the moment.
We are far too difficult to please. Familiarity has barred the way to wonder.
During the course of conversation, it came up that to youthfully ignorant natives, Vero Beach was (un)affectionately called Zero Beach—as in there is nothing to do here, nothing to see here, this town is lame. Zero Beach. How spoiled are these kids? I mean, there’s a beach! What more do you need? You can swim. You can fish. You can do nothing at the beach. You literally can stand at the threshold of the earth where it plunges beneath the ocean—which seems entirely endless from the shore—until it proudly rises up again thousands of miles later as Africa. Amazing Beach.
Then the tables were turned. I grew up here in Lilburn, in the shadow of Stone Mountain. To those entirely unimpressed with Vero Beach, their love of Stone Mountain seemed a very strange desire. I mean, it’s just a big rock. Sure, it’s the largest exposed piece of granite in the world, weighing over a a trillion pounds, over 800 feet tall, is five miles round, extends underground all the way into North Carolina, and you can climb to the top of it see the Atlanta skyline. But to the one who grew up here, it’s a just a rock.
We are far too difficult to please. Familiarity has barred the way to wonder. That which for a short while satiates our lust for wonder and pleasure does so decreasingly as our proximity increases. Vero Beach dilutes into Zero Beach. Stone Mountain reduces to a rock. And the gospel becomes an ancient fairytale.
The proclamation that God himself has paid the penalty of sinful rebellion and purchased our redemption in giving up His only Son as a substitute, who though the only innocent one, hung condemned in our place on a cross we receive as a cheap favor.
There’s a song we sing, somewhat often and often times passionately, that repeats, “May I never lose the wonder of Your mercy.” And yet we do. The gospel of the riches of God’s grace to sinners who deserve nothing but the fullness of God’s wrath fails to move us. The good news crafted in perfect love from before the foundation of the world that God desires to draw to himself a people who know and enjoy forever and ever and ever and for all of eternity the very love of God is to us another post on our timeline we scroll past. The proclamation that God himself has paid the penalty of sinful rebellion and purchased our redemption in giving up His only Son as a substitute, who though the only innocent one, hung condemned in our place on a cross we receive as a cheap favor. The promise that the resurrection of Jesus opens up for those once under the curse of sin and death the hope of new heavens and a new earth where there will be no more pain or tears or sadness anymore because God will make all things new and will at last dwells forever with His people might as well be to us empty. The expectation that the same Jesus that has ascended to the Father, has taken His place at the Father’s right hand and is guarding and keeping our inheritance will descend again, tearing the clouds back with the heavenly trumpets as He rides victoriously in the all the splendid glory of the Father and the holy angels to redeem His bride, the church who has longed for His appearing and who, in seeing Him, will be made like Him is for us shamed by the child’s expectation of a fictional Santa. We are far too difficult to please.