A few years back I had several years in a row where I was able to travel to NYC. Some of the trips were with foreign exchange students as a chaperone; others were with friends or family. I love NYC; there are so many fun things to do there: the theater, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Stock Exchange, the United Nations. I could go on. But one of my favorite things to do was to shop – not on 5th Avenue – in Chinatown. I loved to go from shop to shop and strike bargains with the shopkeepers for Folex watches (aka fake Rolex) and for Frada Purses (aka fake Prada). Now I knew these items were fake, so why did I love it so much? Well, they looked real and I knew how much I paid for them (usually around $10). This knowledge is what brought me pleasure.
Dr. Paul Bloom from Yale is a psychologist. Some of the phenomenon he has studied include the famous violinist, Joshua Bell. Having released more than 40 CDs, people who know Bell and his work on his priceless 1713 Stradivarius violin will pay $100 or more for a concert ticket. Yet, when Bell participated in an experiment playing his invaluable violin in a busy subway station, the violinist only garnered $34. (See https://youtu.be/UM21gPmkDpII) People did not value this unknown violinist in an uncharacteristic concert hall even though he was playing the same works on the same violin.
Similarly, when child prodigy Marla Olmsted began producing art that rivaled the work of world famous Jackson Pollock, suddenly her paintings began to sell for tens of thousands of dollars. People garnered pleasure from her paintings because knew of the similarity of her work to that of the esteemed Pollock. Until…the television show 60 Minutes filmed Marla at work and discovered that her father was coaching her. (See http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/child-prodigy) Suddenly, the pleasure was diminished, if not gone, because of the knowledge that Marla was not solely responsible for the masterpieces she was producing.
Bloom’s conclusion from his experiments: the more we know about something or the better we know it, the more we find pleasure in it. Bloom’s book, How Pleasure Works, does not delve into matters of faith. However, his findings seems to me to be stating a basic principle of Christianity: the more we know of God, the more pleasure we find in Him (Psalm 16:11).
Call it a slump, a rough spot, a desert, a valley – those times when we don’t find pleasure in God – let’s you and I be challenged to spend more time knowing Him. Not trying to find our identity in Him, not trying to find our purpose, but simply in knowing Him. If you need a little help in getting started, may I recommend your Bible and The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer.