A few years ago, as I strolled through my neighborhood on an autumn afternoon, I spied a business card on the sidewalk that arrested my attention. The card simply said:
I was planned for God’s pleasure.
I put the message in my pocket and brought it home. I placed the card next to my computer where it has stayed since. Even as I write this post, it stares at me daring me to believe it.
But I don’t often believe it.
How is it that God can find pleasure in my life when I take so little pleasure in it myself? What does it mean to enjoy your life when so much of it is full of pain and confusion?
I imagine every life journey has its particular challenges—having a physical or mental disability, being displaced from your home to live in a refugee camp, suffering daily abuse of any kind, being constantly hungry (to name a few). For me, struggling with my sexuality (especially in the context of the church) has been a wearying experience. There is so little pleasure living in the tension between the church’s and the culture’s response to my sexuality. In fact, it’s worse than that—it feels like a vice grip of confusion and hopelessness.
In one of my favorite movies, Lars and the Real Girl, Dr. Dagmar responds to a question about her husband’s death in this way: “Sometimes I get so lonely I forget what day it is, and how to spell my name.” I too have felt that level of loneliness. There are some days I stand in the shower and say my name aloud over and over again: Andy, Andy, A..n..d..y. It’s easy to forget who you are when no one says your name.
And, yet, that little card says: I was planned for God’s pleasure. I have walked alongside friends as they’ve planned their weddings, and I have planned events myself—planning always takes longer than one imagines. I often joke that my life has so little pleasure because God is still in the planning stage. There may be some truth in that, but that’s flipping the quote.
It states: “I was planned for God’s pleasure”, not “I was planned for my pleasure”. Perhaps the latter is implied, but it seems likely that God also finds pleasure in things that don’t give me pleasure—including my pain. I’ve read the Bible, though, and even in the midst of so much suffering in the stories found there (suffering that often seems motivated by God), it is clear that God is a lover and not a masochist. Pain, then, may be just another character in our stories, but not the main one.“…it is clear that God is a lover and not a masochist. Pain, then, may be just another character in our stories, but not the main one.”
Still the question remains. In the midst of this struggle to be a faithful gay Christian—a struggle that so often leaves me lonely and despairing—what does it mean that I was planned for God’s pleasure?
The root of the word “pleasure” is the old French word plaisir, which means “to please”. Thus, putting the card’s quote differently, I was planned to please God. And what pleases God? “To love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). That, and “loving your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:38), are what please God. Of course, learning to love God and neighbor is a lifetime work, but that’s all there is to pleasing God.
So, pleasing God is as simple (and hard) as that. What about my own pleasure in myself and my life? Psalm 37:4 says “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart”. I suspect this verse is telling me both how to find pleasure and what (or who) would please me most—that is, by delighting in the Lord (the how), I will discover the desire of my heart, which is the Lord (the who).“I know that my seeking pleasure in God’s company won’t end my loneliness … but it does continually draw me back to the One for whom I was made.
Of course, this doesn’t tell me exactly what to do with my body or whether I should or shouldn’t marry a man, but it tells me that my greatest pleasure is found in God—by getting to know God and spending time delighting in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and all the life on earth that flows from the Trinity’s mutual, self-giving relationship.
I know that my seeking pleasure in God’s company won’t end my loneliness (at least, it hasn’t thus far), but it does continually draw me back to the One for whom I was made. Being with that One then provides a foundation to take pleasure in myself, others, and this beautiful world. Where this pleasure leads will always be relationship, the nature of which God certainly has planned.