To Enjoy God and His World
Gregory of Nyssa, On the Making of Man
I love that bit in the middle of this half of a sentence (yes, this is only half of the sentence): “assigning to him as his task not the acquiring of what was not there, but the enjoyment of the things which were there.” God created us to enjoy our environment, which in Eden included Himself. However, in our perpetual discontent and ambition, we seek to acquire for ourselves that which is “not there.” We bend nature to our desires and remake ourselves in the image of our longing. We recklessly pursue contentment in that which is not yet because we stubbornly refuse to receive, with gratitude and humility, that which has been given. But God has given us all things that we need; and all things that he has given us are for our enjoyment.
Above all, God has, in creation, given us Himself. The gods of other nations, who desire power above all, have crafted their creation myths in such a way as to elevate themselves, not only above the other gods, but especially above humans. Man is, for them, an instrument of their pleasure, a mass of disposable paeans whose sole purpose is to give themselves completely to their service. But these gods offer man nothing; nothing, that is, but punishment and affliction. When they deign to show their face to mankind it is violent, selfish, and capricious. But Israel’s God, though he also demands that mankind give themselves fully to Him, does so as a covenant of reciprocation, for Israel’s God has given Himself first to man, before any man or woman could give themselves to Him. God, in creation, reveals His nature to man by giving man a nature that can perceive His revelation. For God, creation is not a demonstration of His power, but of His humility, in that He condescends to reveal Himself in fellowship to His rational creatures.
The genesis of our telos, the beginning of our proper end, is to enjoy God and the world He has made. Though we are commissioned to rule God’s creation, we cannot rule it unless we first love it. Neither can we serve and obey God unless we first love Him. To love God means many things, but it cannot mean anything less than to delight in Him, to enjoy His presence as our life-giving fellowship. In the same way, we love God by delighting in His creation, overawed by the vase expanse of space, by the surging power of the ocean’s depths, by the majestic mountain landscapes that pepper every continent. Even, dare I say, by standing in awe of our fellow man; fallen though he may be, each and every one of us still bears the image of this God who delights in our delight of Him and his world.