Traherne’s Challenges (A Day with Thomas Traherne, Part 1)

Traherne’s primary message in Centuries of Meditations is that the world is our ‘possession’ to enjoy as soon as we’re born, and that our lifelong challenge is to joyfully manage everything that God has given us. In contrast, other people often teach us that we have nothing when we enter the world, unless of course we are born into privilege, and that we must learn to acquire and control as much as possible.

In our efforts to enjoy the world, we can lean on the cross of Christ to free us from our self-poisoning control of people and things. Then, we ‘ll naturally respond to this enjoyment with overflowing praise to God.

The Challenges

At the beginning of Centuries of Meditations, Traherne offers eleven challenges to enjoy the world, each touching on some dimension or element of the world.

Challenge #1: “Your enjoyment of the world is never right till you so esteem it, that everything in it is more your treasure than a king’s exchequer full of gold and silver. And that exchequer yours also in its place and service.”

Challenge #2: “You never enjoy the world aright till you see how a sand exhibits the wisdom and power of God, and prize in everything the service which they do you, by manifesting his glory and goodness to your soul far more than the visible beauty on their surface or the material services they can do your body.”

Challenge #3: “Your enjoyment of the world is never right till every morning you awake in heaven, see yourself in your Father’s palace, and look upon the skies, the earth, and the air as celestial joys, having such a reverent esteem of all, as if you were among the angels.”

Challenge #4: “You never enjoy the world aright till the sea itself flows in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars and perceive yourself to be the sole heir of the whole world, and more than so, because men are in it who are every one sole heirs as well as you.”

Challenge #5: “Till you can sing and rejoice and delight in God, as misers do in gold, and kings in scepters, you never enjoy the world.”

Challenges #6-10: “Till your spirit fills the whole world, and the stars are your jewels;
Till you are as familiar with the ways of God in all ages as with your walk and table;
Till you are intimately acquainted with that shady nothing out of which the world was made;
Till you love men so as to desire their happiness with a thirst equal to the zeal of your own;
Till you delight in God for being good to all;
You never enjoy the world.”

Challenge #11: “Yet further, you never enjoy the world aright till you so love the beauty of enjoying it, that you are covetous and earnest to persuade others to enjoy it.”

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