God’s smile

The smile of God is the goal of your life.

(Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life)

One of our favourite Swedish films is My Life as a Dog, by Lasse Hallström. The book on which the film was based was the first novel I read in Swedish, but I cheated by only reading the easy-Swedish version (which was, of course, all I could manage, and even that was a struggle!).

Nevertheless, this funny sad film is a fascinating look at the life of a young boy as he struggles to understand himself and the world he lives in, the Sweden of the fifties and sixties. Perhaps the hardest and most profound reality of the film is his mother’s suffering from tuberculosis, which saps her energy, eating away at her lungs and body, and progressively robs her of any joy in her life. Her son Ingvar, aged 11, is painfully aware that he needs to tread softly around her to avoid raising her ire, but he is a normal kid and invariably messes up.

Ingvar can’t understand why everything he does goes wrong, and he knows the irritation his messes bring to his dying mother. He loves to see her laugh, and there are repeated flashbacks in the film to a happier time with him playing the fool and his mother broken up with laughter. As the film progresses it becomes harder and harder to make her laugh, and her smile gradually fades from her face and from Ingvar’s life.

Her smile was the joy of Ingvar’s life. When she smiled he smiled, when she laughed, he laughed. Her joy brought the greatest joy to him: he was happy, he felt that all was right in the world. As her smile fades his questions and confusion increase, and the tension in his life grows.

This surely is a picture of what Rick Warren is saying. We were created for God’s pleasure, not simply because God wants to enjoy himself, but because he wants us to enjoy ourselves. When I sense the smile of God suddenly everything is right again, nothing else matters, my striving disappears and I can rest in the quiet affirmation of my heavenly Father. I find my greatest joy and peace.

As Rick Warren reminds us, the Bible says, simply, “Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it.”

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