“You’re Schmoopie…no you’re Schmoopie!!!”
One of my favorite Seinfeld episodes features this exchange, where Jerry and his romantic interest use baby talk to convey amour to each other – to the general annoyance of George Costanza. Because who doesn’t cringe at saccharine words of affection from time to time?
For someone who has never read the Bible, to turn to the Psalms would be to witness a boatload of affirmation for God. So. Much. Praise. Over and over and over.
The same goes with some Christian song lyrics. How many times can you repeat the word “Holy”? (But honestly, how many times did the Beatles sing “Let it Be” in one song? Thirty-six…that’s how many. So we all get the artistic use of repetition.)
But what’s the deal with a God who seems to need mountains of praise, if the Psalms are to be considered? This nagged at me in my teenage years. You never want to go there, but at the back corner of my brain, the ugly word “egomaniac” tried to slink to the fore.
Then in college I read C.S. Lewis’s Reflections on the Psalms, and my tacit objection was turned on its head. In it, he writes:
I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.
The praise is for us, people. It’s for our own benefit.
Do we post a video of a mother and baby sea otter swimming together on Facebook, beaming at the 100th “like” and all the admiration chatter, because the otters need or want the praise? They don’t care. They want fish and peace. We do it because WE enjoy praising the cuteness. We enjoy talking about it with our friends – all that fuzzy, cuddly sweetness. (Seriously, you have to watch it.)
Lewis goes on:
It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent. . . to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with. . . . Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.
God just gets us. He knows how we are wired. He knows we Instagram artistic food. He knows we praise our favorite books on Goodreads. He knows how much we giggle before we tell our friends a funny story.
God knows what we enjoy. And he knows that if we sit and praise him, over and over, our world gets turned right again.
We realize again who is in charge. We realize again how GOOD He is. We realize again that he is strong, and unbelievably creative, and absolutely present. We return to reality through our praise, and with that reality comes a stunning sort of joy. Peace. Reliance.
We praise God because the praise helps us enjoy God. Which further goes to show that God wants us to enjoy life.
God made up the idea of a sense of humor, for example. He created brains wired to recognize the humor. He gave people the gift of being funny. He made fat squirrels who would fall off branches and dogs who would agree to wear silly hats. He gave script writers the gift of producing hilarious movies.
He gave us taste receptors, and gave food flavor. God made us to love our favorite foods, and allowed us the gift of smell to enjoy them before and during the eating. Bacon. (Deserves its own sentence.) The perfect arugula salad with roasted veggies and aged parmesan. Baked bread and cinnamon rolls. A delicious pinot noir.
God made us to enjoy the thrill of wind in our faces, the sun at our backs, the stirring in our hearts at the thought of adventure. Holding a backpack and an around-the-world ticket, an acceptance letter to university, or receiving notice of tenure. He knows what thrills us.
God made us to love and be loved. To delight in families and communities of friends.
We’re not meant to slog through this life with no joy. God made so many ways for us to revel in celebration and delight.
So now when I read the Psalms, I can get fully behind the praise. Psalm 145 is like a chocolate fudge brownie sundae with walnuts and hot fudge. (But with no calories.) And my view of God from this vantage point is a different sort of God.
This is the God who can’t wait to wake up on Christmas morning and see the delight his five-year-old takes in the array.
This is the God who scoops up his hurting teenager, holds her close, dries her tears, and heals her.
This is the God who listens compassionately and lovingly to his 20-something son, lamenting with rage about the world and its evil.
This is the God who gives strength to his 40-something daughter who struggles with exhaustion carrying the weight of a job and kids.
This is the God who answers the questions of his fearful 80-something son, who is wondering what life looks like “after.”
This is the God to praise. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. And to glorify is to enjoy. Praise of our Good Father is to consummate our delight in him.
A psalm of praise. Of David.
1 I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
2 Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.
3 Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
4 One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
5 They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.[b]
6 They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
7 They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
8 The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
9 The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.
10 All your works praise you, Lord;
your faithful people extol you.
11 They tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,
12 so that all people may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
and faithful in all he does.[c]
14 The Lord upholds all who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and faithful in all he does.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.
20 The Lord watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
21 My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever.