Delight and Joy

by Elouise

P1030169

~~~Longwood Gardens Flower Walk, 2014

Today, Sunday, I’m trying an experiment. No deeds of duty or ‘oughtness.’ Just what delights me. There was a time in my life when the list of things that delighted me was very short.

Why? Because too much joy or delight would be harmful to my spiritual health. It would get me off track from becoming known as a hard-working, sober (not flighty) woman.

When people asked ‘How are you today,’ my responses were pretty dull. ‘Fine.’ Or, ‘Glad to be here.’ I don’t remember that being delighted about anything was expected or helpful. It might show a weak attachment to more serious matters. Or neglect of work that demanded focused attention, effort and more than a little self-deprivation.

This week I picked up a book given to me in December 2012. It’s been sitting in my ‘want to read’ pile for about 2 ½ years. Well-written, invitational, nice cover and great reviews. But I wasn’t ready yet. The title is simple: Sabbath. The author is Dan B. Allender.

So far I’ve read only the first chapter. I feel a bit edgy about it. I don’t want to get sucked back into legalistic habits. The kind reinforced in my family and then during my Bible college years. I’m a grown-up now (sort of!), and I can make my own choices.

But that isn’t the point or purpose of the book. The point is that Sabbath is a gift from the Creator to us. To me. Not a day of duty, but of delight and joy. I don’t do delight and joy easily.

The author hasn’t completely won me over. He does, however, have my attention. Yesterday (Saturday) I decided to try an experiment. I would do nothing today (Sunday) that didn’t delight me. It’s now nearly 6pm, and so far I’ve had no problem finding delight. And a little edginess.

Here’s what I’ve done so far today.

  • Attended worship at a neighborhood church to give them an update on Dawn’s Place, a safe house for women who’ve been exploited for commercial sex. It delights me to tell people about this place! It’s my major volunteer work since retiring. At church I saw old friends, got lots of hugs, and heard an outstanding sermon. Yes, it took time from work I ‘needed’ to get done today, but I’ll catch up!
  • On the way home I stopped to get deli turkey slices for my lunch. Normally I wouldn’t do this. “Elouise, you have more than enough food in the house! Just go on home and eat what you already have. Besides, going into the store right now would just waste time.” I might lose some of my edge if I slack off. What will this cost me?
  • After lunch, I spent half an hour playing favorite classical piano pieces. The kind that bring tears to my eyes or make me laugh. Delightful. I hadn’t done this for months. Neglecting this gift is costly; exercising it brings joy, but doesn’t “get anything useful done.” That makes me nervous.
  • Next a little journaling—always a wonderful experience. This time delightful because I started making notes about my delightful day! When I felt sleepy I took a short nap. Hmm. Not as much output possible when I’m sleeping, is there?
  • Finally, right before I sat down to write this I took a long walk around the neighborhood and saw spring popping out all over in gardens and on trees. The birds were making a lovely racket, and children of all ages were playing outside. I’m wondering what I might have accomplished if I hadn’t gone for this walk?

So how important is this? I have a habit of doing church on Sunday mornings, and then doing all kinds of other work that ‘needs to be done’ in the afternoon. Can I let go of my fear and learn to accept this gift of delight?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 April 2015
Photo credit: DAFraser, May 2014, Longwood Gardens