Antoine and Prevot crashed their small plane in a desert known to kill men without water in less than nineteen hours. They had no water for over twenty-four hours and then Prevot found a lost orange in their supplies. Just an orange. Here’s how Antoine described that experience:
“We shared it, and though it was little enough to men who could have used a few gallons of sweet water, still I was overcome with relief. Stretched out beside the fire I looked at the glowing fruit and said to myself that men did not know what an orange was. ‘Here we are, condemned to death,’ I said to myself, ‘and still the certainty of dying cannot compare with the pleasure I am feeling. The joy I take from this half of an orange which I am holding in my hand is one of the greatest joys I have ever known.’ I lay flat on my back, sucking my orange and counting the shooting stars. Here I was, for one minute infinitely happy” (from Wind, Sand, and Stars, by Antoine de Saint Exupery).
That, my friends, is pure pleasure. It was true in Antoine’s life as it is in ours: simple tastes find greater pleasure. That goes for cars, job satisfaction, and relationships. This short account of the power of pleasure set me thinking about joy. What if someone dedicated a year to not just simple tastes, but simple longings? Would simple longings result in greater joy? It’s worth an experiment, don’t you think?
It’s true that there is some relativity to “simple longings.” It’s also true, however, that longings for self-fulfillment are always complicated and grow in complexity while longings for God are actually quite simple. Those who keep their physical longings simple will usually keep their spiritual longings simple. Jesus reminds us of the power of simple spiritual longing in John 4:13-14 when he says to the woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
God is in the business of satisfying our thirst for him. Thirst for him. Search for him. As it says in James 4, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Aim high, but keep it simple. Joy demands a simple heart posture.
Stop trying to build your personal sky rise on prime Manhattan real estate. Cultivate a garden at your feet. Plant some tomatoes and carrots. Water those three pots of geraniums. Raise sons and daughters on your twenty feet of grass. Wash your hands and thirst for God. You will wake to find joy playing in the grass.
[picture: “Lentz Man with an orange” by Stanisław Lentz – cyfrowe.mnw.art.pl. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lentz_Man_with_an_orange.jpg#/media/File:Lentz_Man_with_an_orange.jpg]