G.K. Chesterton fascinatingly writes about the doctrine of conditional joy. He was convinced that fairy tales were written as echoes of another world, like echoes from a home we have never seen but have never once stopped yearning for.
He writes: “In the fairy tale an incomprehensible happiness rests upon an incomprehensible condition. The note of the fairy utterance always is, ‘You may live in a palace of gold and sapphire, if you do not say the word, “cow”; or ‘You may live happily with the kings daughter, if you do not show her an onion.’ The vision [of joy and happiness] always hangs on a veto. All the dizzy and colossal things [enjoyed] depend upon one small thing withheld. All the wild and whirling things that are let loose depend upon one thing that is forbidden. … A box is opened, and all evil flys out. A word is forgotten, and cities perish. A lamp is lit, and love flies away. A flower is plucked, and human lives are forfeited. An apple is eaten, and the hope of God is gone.”
God has woven this “doctrine” into the very fabric of all reality. Everything comes with a condition. The enjoyment of anything depends upon something forbidden. I can enjoy my iPhone if I don’t use it to hammer nails. I can enjoy my freedom if I don’t cheat on my taxes. I can enjoy my wife if I don’t lie to her. Reality dictates that this doctrine is no fairy tale.
With great hostility the culture declares just the opposite—that freedom, pleasure, and happiness comes with no boundaries, no conditions, and no restraint. But no person or society can break God’s conditions without those conditions ultimately breaking the person and society. Something must be withheld, something must be forbidden, for any pleasure to be enjoyed in “dizzy, colossal, wild, and whirling” ways.