It happened the other day in the garden: an audible gasp, followed by a peal of laughter.
I hadn’t checked on the herbs lately. Bunched together on the far side of raised beds, they’re not the first things I see on walking into the backyard.
Illustration by Adam Cruft
But when I rounded the corner, floating red tendrils hanging from the pineapple sage couldn’t be missed. There were thousands of them, it seemed, individual scarlet-colored stalks reaching skyward before trailing down the sides of a rounded black container. They had finally bloomed. Delight overwhelmed me.
I often wonder what it means to experience delight, especially as an adult, when the days are long and the nights are short. Pursuing joy isn’t always high on the priority list, if I’m being honest. And yet, joy is an essential part of the Christian life.
Sometimes delight oozes from my innermost self with the slightest of provocations. But there are other times when stress and pain, trauma and change, have taken up long-term residence in my life. That’s when delight doesn’t show up quite as easily. It becomes something I have to seek intentionally —which is, perhaps, exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. In the words of the poet Mary Oliver: “Every day I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight, that leaves me like a needle in the haystack of light. It was what I was born for—to look, to listen, to lose myself inside this soft world—to instruct myself over and over in joy, and acclamation.”
Oliver’s perspective differs in ways from what Scripture counsels Christians to do. As believers, we make our home in God rather than this world. Rather than lose ourselves, we take up our crosses and lay down our lives, in order to gain them back again. But her invitation into everyday whimsy and delight? That’s a holy practice that applies to abundant life in Christ.
Not only is delight attainable, but it is also downright justified in the life of faith—and even commanded. “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart,” the psalmist writes (Ps. 37:4). And the prophet Zephaniah instructs the people of God to sing aloud, to shout, and to “rejoice and exult with all [their] heart” (Zeph. 3:14 ESV). But realize that the feeling is mutual, for ours is not a one-sided relationship with a faraway deity. Just as we delight in God, He delights in us. The psalmist makes this clear, singing, “The Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory” (Ps. 149:4 NIV).
In an effort to fully appreciate the joyful life God offers me, I’ve embraced the practice of checking in with myself at the end of day, asking, “Where did I see God today?” The daily prompt to search for the divine in the details of my life has resulted in a greater sense of His nearness. And He is always near. In a backyard garden. In the grocery checkout line. Around the dinner table. God is ready to meet us and fill our hearts with the kind of gladness possible only in the abundant life Christ promises. And I don’t know about you, but I want more tendrils and blooms dazzling an ordinary afternoon—I want more audible gasps and peals of laughter. I want more of God and this holy delight in my life.