A Funny Thing Happened While Praying…

I did a sundown fast today (no food until dinnertime—except tea, because if you fall asleep while fasting then it doesn’t count and your boss fires you) and while praying, I asked God how our relationship could be better. Jesus says this is the most important aspect of our walk in John 15:5. He’s the vine, we’re the branches. Abide in him, we bear much fruit. Withdraw, not so much.

And you don’t need to have a bad relationship with God to ask this question, by the way. A good lover will look at his spouse and say, “Hey, how are we doing? Anything we can do to be closer?” God never gets tired of getting closer to you.

Anywho, the response I got from God, long story short, is a sense that I don’t delight in him enough. I don’t think about him very much in a normal day. I’m fine, so why bother, right? I pack “God” and “work” in two different mental boxes and wonder why my career is listless. And I don’t evangelize…well, ever. I’m too self-conscious.

The answer to all these things is delight. If you love something or someone, you can’t stop thinking or talking about them. You have no secrets, everybody around you knows who or what you love. Christianity is in part a duty, but it is meant to be wholly a delight, something you do because Jesus is just that amazing.

But how to get it? That’s the funny thing that happened.

I was writing out my thoughts because they tend to fly away into the ether. But as I wrote, as I prayed for God’s delight to permeate me…it did. Not after I asked, during the asking.

Here’s how I started writing. Brace yourself for some sappy stuff. “Jesus, teach me […] to drink deeply of your refreshing mountain spring water, breathe in your sweet mountain air, feel your hot tub bubbles all over me, listen to the crackling hearth of your voice and the sweet music of your soul.”

I don’t talk like that. Ever.

But those were the words flowing out of me amidst my prayer. I like mountains. And y’all, I love me a good hot tub. A crackling fire in a cozy room (usually filled with books) really is sweet music to my ears, and music itself? Don’t get me started! These are things my heart naturally loves. Through my prayer, God gave me the gift of associating those delights with Himself. God is the maker and sustainer of beauty. These natural delights? Who made them? Yep, God. These expressions of beauty and glory helped me understand the delight of God, to be overwhelmed with a hard-to-pin-down joy, and realizing that very joy comes from God.

But you’re not like me. You may not like mountains, and hot tubs may make your skin crawl. Okay, what beauty do you like? Maybe it’s rivers, how they laugh and run through a field. Maybe it’s the bark of a dog or the call of a bird or whatever you call that noise a cow makes. Perhaps it’s the absolute silence of a snow-packed morning. Or the opposite: the crack-pow of a majestic thunderstorm.

Perhaps your delight is more in manmade creations, and that’s fine! God gave us the capacity to create beauty, too. Maybe a skyscraper skyline at sunset, or heck, walk into an art museum. I’m sure you’ll find beauty there. Maybe it’s just the chatter of humanity itself, the buzzing of life on the streets or in a restaurant. Perhaps you find beauty in a moving movie, or a comedy special that makes you laugh until it hurts. And as I said before, music. Just music.

Yes, this world is full of trouble and pain, but there’s plenty of delight to find, if you look for it. What stirs your soul? No, seriously, I’m asking! Now guess what! That very stirring? That’s the gift of God himself. It’s that moment when you go from delighting in the thing to delighting in the delight itself, joyful because of joy, and realizing God has given you this thing—now, and later in your memories.

Back to the writing…

As I kept writing, asking God for, “beauty and art and rest and purpose and love,” I realized my handwriting was getting worse and worse. I’d started with normal strokes, but by the end I was scribbling so feverishly that I honestly have a hard time reading it now! The very delight I was asking for was pouring over me.

I think sometimes we ask God for joy, then sit back, look around at our crappy world, and get frustrated when we don’t feel a generic high. I don’t think that’s how God works. God connects joy to your heart in specific ways. For example, we all adore love, but love speaks to us in different ways. I enjoy a trip together, my wife enjoys snuggles. Each of our hearts is formed in different shapes, and so requires different touches of love.

So, contrary to much bad Christian teaching, learning to delight in God isn’t merely looking at God until you disassociate from the world, but looking at your heart, too. It’s listing all the things that make your soul laugh, then realizing that all these delights, and the delight itself, is a gift God gave you simply for the pleasure of having it and knowing Him through it. We could have been a much more utilitarian race, doing our functions and clocking out at the end of our “shift.” But God gave us joy.

And when we draw on that God-given joy, we delight more in the one who gave it to us in the first place. That’s when our pens start to scribble illegibly, unable to contain the measure of gladness in our hearts. That’s when we sit down at a computer and write all this out instead of hiding it like we usually do. That’s when we forget what the world thinks of us and share our full hearts with it.

So go on. Sit down, ask God for the joy of his presence, and imagine him giving it to you in all the ways your thirsty soul craves. And when you feel that rush, that tickle, that grin, know it’s not just some random emotional memory, not just some vague hope, it’s the very real delight of God himself coursing through you in your own, God-crafted way.

And just enjoy Him for a bit.

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