Practicing Delight II (Sabbath VII)
How then can we practice delight? Well, when you when you allow yourself to delight in any of God’s good gifts—in drinking a cup of coffee, in eating good chocolate, in taking a long walk through a park and feeling the warm sun on your body—you are practicing being like God and connecting with God as Father. This is what we call Christian hedonism. It’s the enjoyment of pleasure as an act of worship. We are fulfilling Jesus’ command to “look at the lilies of the field” and to “consider the birds of the air.” We are delighting in God and learning who he is through the world around us.
Ben Franklin said, “wine [is] a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.” The Psalmist, much earlier, said something similar: “God…brings forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens human hearts.” We can take it further: coffee, chocolate, puppy dogs, creativity, movies, art, poetry, sport—all are pleasures through which the God of creativity and delight is revealed as we delight in them. The word recreation, which we rightly juxtapose with work, literally means to re-create. When we stop to delight in God’s world and rest in His goodness, something is re-created within us. In the midst of a painful world filled with reasons to grumble and complain instead of resting (indeed, this is the choice), delight is an act of surrender and trust.
Obviously, this can be taken to an extreme, and that’s notwhat we are talking about. Delight is not bingeing on pleasure or making it a crutch. The world has plenty of models for the misuse of pleasure, and any one of God’s gifts can be abused and made into an idol—what pastor Tim Keller calls turning a good thing into “an ultimate thing.” We all know that food and alcohol and sex and anything else thing can be made into saviors that cannot save. However, when they’re used properly, God’s gifts can be engaged as acts of celebration and worship. You can only do this if you know that God is good and that he loves you far more than you could love anyone else. That knowledge creates the context for proper celebration. As always, it’s understanding our adoption that changes things. In this case, it allows us to use God’s gifts confidently, as his children and not as suspicious orphans.
To this point, a story: One of my college professors, who was also a rabbi, told our class a parable. He said that on the Day of Judgement, God would call everyone to account for the pleasures that had been set before them that they had refused to enjoy.
My brain fell out of my head.
This is a drastically different mindset than our “Christian” fear of pleasure, which is so much a part of the Puritanical tradition. For this reason, it’s important to see Sabbath as a space where you will intentionally engage delight in order to connect with the heart of God. Sabbath is a space where you, quite literally, do your favorite things as an act of worship, seeking to slip your hand into the hand of the Father who has rest for you and who delights in you. Further, it’s a space in which you might invite other people to join you, as a testament of God’s invitation to the whole world.
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Matthew 6:26, 28.
Franklin, Benjamin. The Posthumous and Other Writings of Benjamin Franklin, Volume I. Sabin, ed. H. Colburn. London, England. 1819.
See Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters by Tim Keller.Viking Books. New York, NY. 2009.