If you thought that with a title like that this article would be about getting off the Hedonic Treadmill…well, it means that you know me very very well. However, that is not what we are talking about today.
Since January 1, I have been writing a blog in French. It was very much out of a desire to share with the people I love here in France some of the stories that I have shared with you, to “bless” the people nearby, and not just people far away. (Although I love writing for you!!!)
At least, sharing the same stories was my goal. I thought translating would be easy (it’s not.) I found that I was simply starting over from scratch each time I would start writing, which is fine. You know that I am a bottomless pool of words.
So the whole thing took on a different direction than when I expected it to. Instead of talking about the Ideal Life and decluttering and minimalism, I am telling the story of how my indulgent husband and I ended up in France back in 2007.
There are two articles per week: One on Wednesday and one on Saturday. This is because I cannot in good conscience publish an article without having my indulgent husband proofread it for me–French is French, and there are too many opportunities for glaring mistakes. I can’t ask him to do more than twice a week, because he is very busy.
So twice a week, he and I sit down on the couch together and he proofreads the article on his tablet while I sit with my computer on my knees and correct as he directs. I enjoy those moments.
Well. As I have been writing about what happened fifteen years ago, I am deeply moved by how fresh the memories still are. I haven’t thought about them in a long time, but nearly the instant I start writing, they are all there again, right there, on the surface with the potential to make me cry instantly.
It was an amazing time…it was a time when, in my Spiritual Life, I was on a mountain top. I could hear God talking to me whenever I took a moment to listen, and he would sometimes ask me to do things that seemed odd. But when I would do them, the reward was so great…
It was a time of intense obedience. And that obedience lead to seemingly miraculous events. Miracles lead to more obedience. That kind of virtuous cycle is so exciting.
Well. Yesterday morning at church, I got to thinking that I really would like to start living like that again. I want more of that. I want more unexplainable situations, more moments of clarity, more opportunities to do unlikely things. Not because I am bored, or because I want to go on an adventure…
But because I had a flash of just how happy it makes God when we live in obedience. And, as you may remember, In my Ideal Life, I am a person who makes God smile.
So yesterday afternoon, I dropped my eldest off at a birthday party and I went and sat in the car for a few hours while he played. I could have gone home, but I had one word in my mind that I couldn’t shake. The word “delight”.
I happened to have brought my Bible with me and looked up the word delight.
There are lots of verses with delight, but what caught my eye were two in which the expression “delight greatly,” or “great delight” were employed.
Are you ready?
I delight greatly in the Lord: my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10
So let’s just break that down, shall we?
I delight greatly. Why? For the Lord has clothed me. How? Like a bride…
I love this because it is just so Lily Fields, isn’t it? Why does this person delight greatly? Because God clothed her…and not just clothed her. Clothed her like a bride. Yes, the clothes are a metaphor for salvation and righteousness. But instead of coming out and saying, “I delight greatly because of salvation and righteousness,” he makes that metaphor. Because…well. Lily Fields, that’s why.
That’s right. Because this adventure started with a simple question: What would it look like if I let Jesus dress me? And the answer was, consider the flowers of the field. Not even Solomon was dressed like one of them…
It may all seem so superficial. Clothes might be a genuinely flighty topic of conversation. But God takes any leap of faith seriously. This one was mine.
So if this verse is me talking about taking great delight, there is a little companion to this verse I found. It is about God taking great delight. Are you ready?
He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17
The context is about God turning back the enemies of Jerusalem…and while this is obviously a very specific context, notice how the passage begins three verses earlier.
Sing, Daughter Zion…Be glad and rejoice with all your heart… Zephaniah 3:14
There seems to be something about joy going on here, don’t you think? Joy and singing and love…
So, after reading all this, after finding all this stuff about joy, about singing, about clothes, all these things that really spoke to my heart in indescribable ways, telling me I was very much on the right path with my desire to see those same kinds of miracles again now, after 15 years in France…I asked. I said, “So, tell me. What’s the crazy thing I can do right now to make you delight in me?”
And the answer was this: “Serve your family with joy.”
What?! That’s not an adventure! That’s not spectacular! That’s not a miracle!
No, it is not spectacular. There is nothing exciting about that.
But it would be a miracle.
So apparently, the adventure I am beginning as of today is to, in spite of how tired I am, in spite of how insane my children can behave, in spite of how much I hate cooking, in spite of how unrewarding housework is, my adventure is to do all the things I was doing before, only do them with an attitude of joy. And to keep at it until it becomes normalized.
Not to do more, mind you. That was not what the order was. But perhaps to do those things with a song in my heart. Sing! It says at the beginning of the Zephaniah passage.
The hardest part of serving my family with joy, I discovered only in the few hours last night that I had with my family after getting my marching orders, is not them. It is the unwelcome thoughts and feelings that creep up when I least expect it.
Serving my family with joy is going to be a battle against my own pride, against my own hostilities. And maybe that is exactly what God needs me to be working on: learning to turn my thoughts away from the negativity, learning to turn to humor and laughter. Not to ignore the real, serious problems, of course. But just to stop taking everything so seriously.
When everything is serious, there is little energy left for joy. I need to learn to redistribute the little energy I have, and I need to start by not having an attitude of hostility, a posture of defensiveness.
“This world needs more joy!” the Philosopher Princess likes to say. I guess she just got handed a page from her own book.