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From Ashes, Pure Delight

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There’s something amazing about spending time with the people we love…

Psalm 149
1   Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise in the assembly of the faithful.
2   Let Israel be glad in its Maker;
let the children of Zion rejoice in their King.
3   Let them praise his name with dancing,
making melody to him with tambourine and lyre.
4   For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;
he adorns the humble with victory.
5   Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy on their couches.
6   Let the high praises of God be in their throats
and two-edged swords in their hands,
7   to execute vengeance on the nations
and punishment on the peoples,
8   to bind their kings with fetters
and their nobles with chains of iron,
9   to execute on them the judgment decreed.
This is glory for all his faithful ones.
Praise the Lord!

One of mine just left. Another fantastic morning of coffee and food and laughing and vulnerability and friendship. It’s a good way to spend the morning before having to go to work retail the rest of the day. It’s a good reminder that there are people in whom I delight and who delight in me in return. It’s a funny word, isn’t it? Delight.

de – light / di – līt / (verb) please [someone] greatly / (noun) great pleasure

I’ve always struggled with the notion that God delights in me. Being raised in the sin-centric world of the Southern Baptist Church, I was inundated with shame for just how sinful I was, whether it was the white lies, the heart filled with lust, the desire for material things, or any other behavior or thought deemed dirty by the doctrine of my denomination. So of course, the idea that the Creator of all could look on me with pleasure, could find enjoyment in my existence and in relationship with me, often felt asinine. I couldn’t make sense of it.

At the same time, being someone whose symptoms of clinical depression showed up very early in life, I found it hard to believe that anyone (with the exception of my grandmother) could delight in me. I struggled with notions of worthlessness and an utter lack of self-esteem. It honestly wasn’t until after my several-year hiatus from a faith community and my return to one that I had my first non-familial experience of someone taking pleasure in my friendship, my company, my existence.

“Few delights can equal the mere presence of one whom we trust utterly.” — George MacDonald

As I think on the idea of delighting in God and of God’s delight in me, I can’t help but draw upon the image of God as lover. The very words of the Song of Songs are dripping with imagery of delighting in one’s lover. We aren’t talking a one night stand or a trick or a tryst. We’re talking someone with whom we have developed a bond and built a particular degree of trust. Someone who knows every inch of our bodies, our sensitive spots, our flaws and scars and stretch marks. Someone who, even in the dark, can bring to the front of their minds exactly what we look like. And we trust them to see us as we are.

My weight has always been a struggle. I’ve never been athletic and have always had some degree of a belly on me. Although there are few in my life who knew me with hair, there are even fewer who know that a possible cause of my hair thinning and ultimate loss was my struggle with bulimia. I could not take pleasure in my own body, not without onslaughts of fear and shame and guilt and a sense of powerlessness. There were parts of body that, if touched, would send me into a near panic attack and force me to run away and seize up — my stomach included.

I remember the first time my husband placed his flat hand on my bare stomach without me cringing. It was a surprising moment. I didn’t flinch. My body didn’t jerk. I didn’t tense up. Instead, I placed my hand on top of his, held it there, and continued to breathe. I shut my eyes and focused on the sense of peace that was flooding into me. Don’t get me wrong: there have been days where he can’t do that, where I don’t let him. But when he can, it is a powerful sensation.

Then I think about God…

I think about God resting God’s hand on those parts of my body that I hate. I imagine the look in God’s face as he touches me, and I envision God having this sweet, subtle smile, one that says, “I am yours and you are mine. You bring me pleasure, and I love you just as you are.” God sees the tears that come into my eyes as I let this message sink in. It may not be solidified. God might have to say it several dozen times more before I wholeheartedly believe it. But in that instant, it is the only truth I need.

…God delights in me…

——
photo credit: tanjila via photopin cc

Overman-MichaelMICHAEL OVERMAN is a soon-to-be graduate of Garrett-Evangelical in Evanston, IL. As a self-admitted “old soul”, Michael is more than comfortable asking the tough questions and not having immediate answers. Michael is passionate about all things interfaith, challenging the religious status quo — and baking whenever possible. Michael lives with his partner and their two cats in Chicago and is currently preparing to enter full-time hospital chaplaincy. In his spare time, he loves chocolate, wine, and scifi. Check out more of Michael’s writing at www.findingthebalance.net.

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