By Bill Bedell
“Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous
delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”
— e.e. cummings
I read Cummings in junior high and high school, a beautiful poet who was unconventional in his ways of expression. He freely risked making up words like “puddlewonderful” or using punctuation and arrangement to create movement within his poetry. He wrote A Leaf Falls on Loneliness, a poem that inspired me during a dark time of pain and abuse as a young boy. Even in my youth I could sense delight in his words, a playful imagination amidst powerful things, death and beauty mixed together. His words ignited a hope, a reality that already existed deep within me, but I felt scared to grab it, to risk truly living. I needed to know delight existed, and without Christ his words seemed to remind me that perhaps it still did.
As a child, delight strained under the force of chaos and harm, yet it did not die. Vigilantly I protected myself from others and their agendas, trying to figure out the angles so as to avoid harm. I worked even harder to stay away from my own wants and needs which seemed far more risky and exposing. Living in a fallen world means we all experience harm on some level, some more than others. In response we can settle for blaming ourselves or others in an attempt to hide from our suffering and to avoid the pain and shame we may carry. It makes sense that we begin to lose sight of certain things when we are lost or in pain. We fail to hold onto hopes and dreams we once believed in, telling ourselves they will never become a reality. We can make up that hope or delight isn’t coming, and that if it is, then we will only be let down again by relationships.
Fool me once. I quit expecting delight because it seemed easier than being hurt. Even if it wasn’t true, I felt delight had potential to expose me and leave me a fool. I came by that belief honestly and was terrified to the point of incapacitation of ever leaving myself open again. Yet, deep down I needed delight, I was made for it.
Delight is woven into the very fabric of our being, intrinsic to creation, it is an exuberant artistry of enjoyment and celebration. Somehow, God saw fit to make us a pinnacle of His creative work and enjoys us because air goes in and out of our nose holes.
True as this may be, this amazing reality is not meant to be experienced in our minds alone. Logical acknowledgment does not embody a passionate relationship made to be entered, to be received and experienced within our hearts. If that’s true, it muddles our plans of protection, performance, and hiding that we prefer at times. Embodiment requires vulnerability. Many of us equate vulnerability with harm, shame, and pain…it does not always mean that.
I found this out in Target of all places. I was wasting an hour standing in front of the dollar bins filled with fun and useless products. Nothing profound was running through my mind, in fact I was enjoying a glorious gift that most men can accomplish with little effort, the ability to be thinking about absolutely nothing.
That moment is when I experienced a sense of being deeply enjoyed, as if someone was smiling at me because they just loved me. I did not look around because I knew it was not another person, it was God delighting in me. His love seemed to fill me up from the inside and brought tears to my eyes because it felt so good and strong, and familiar. Even though it was brief, it shifted the way I felt about God and myself. Maybe I am lovable and worthwhile? Not just intellectually, rather knowing it and feeling in my heart. What made that moment even more profound is that I wasn’t working hard, or being intentional, or “spiritually minded”. I was simply being.
I am grateful for this experience because it invited me out of my pain and into vulnerability, out of my head and back into my body. Sometimes God is in the places that you are running from the hardest. He is looking to redeem us from the inside out simply because we bring him tremendous pleasure and he delights in the people he has made us to be.
I know well depravity and the base things of life and how to navigate them, however, the questions that delight ask us are far more compelling, beautiful, and scary. Is God truly good? Is the gospel really true in my life? If so, am I free to create and cultivate all kinds of things? Am I free to live in a way that is truly passionate and connected? Could I possibly take these risks and be enjoyed while I am doing them?
One of the greatest strenghts that we possess is the ability to receive and accept things from others. To receive from others requires vulnerability and trust. Pia Mellody was a mentor of mine and once told me, “Truth precedes trust, and trust precedes love.” Perhaps as we learn and grow we are afforded the space to slowly open the door to a deeper love and delight, a passion beyond what we have ever known. Maybe then we can begin to live out something quite a bit more than what we have dreamed or imagined, solely because His love makes it so. As hard as that may be it is what I long for and pray that we all can live out more and more in our everyday lives.
By Kenney Coffey
I have struggled with this concept of “living out of being loved by God”. I understand the words just fine, but it’s been difficult to wrap my brain around the concept. It seems like such an ethereal notion. An abstraction that floats down from the pulpit and settles into our vocabulary for a time before a new breeze blows through the doors. I wanted to embrace it, but it evaded my comprehension. So, I’ve listened and continued trying to figure out how to fit this into my life.
The explanation of a parent’s love for their children caught my attention. I have children. I love them more than I could ever imagine. It seemed like an easy fit. Unfortunately, as it wound its way around inside my head I realized that it wasn’t sticking. I can relate to loving my kids. I know how it feels to want everything for them, and to be ready to sacrifice for their well-being. However, that’s not what we’ve been discussing. Using all of my deductive reasoning skills I am able to discern that the point is to start from a position of receiving and accepting God’s love. It is to open ourselves to a position of vulnerability and allow that to be the focal point of our existence. I am the child.
This whole scenario would be so much easier if I could function from the perspective of the parent. It seems so surreal to say this, but I know how to do that. I know how to love my children whether they fail or succeed. I know how to pick them up, brush them off and send them back out when they fall down. I’m comfortable in that role. The reversal is challenging. My relationship with my parents is… complicated. So, this is where I get stuck.
My wheels have been spinning in this rut for weeks. Occasionally I think I’m finally starting to gain some traction, but then I settle back into that well-worn pothole. So, I turned to my long-lost friend Keith. He typically says the same things every time, but the words always seem to apply. He reminds me to look for the answers on my knees. He gently directs me back to the One that this is all about. He points to Jesus and says, “Ask, then Listen”.
The problem is that I’m not even sure where to start. So, I use Keith’s words as a launching point.
“Create in me a clean heart, Oh God.”– I need you God. I need your guidance and discernment. Without you I feel like such a failure. I feel so weak and useless, but I know that you can change all that if I open my heart to you.
“Renew a right spirit within me.”– I have lived out of anger for as long as I can remember. I have spent most of my life fighting it and trying to smother it on my own. At least that’s what I tell myself. If I’m honest, I don’t know what I’d do without it. The truth is that I need you to show me how to live out of being loved.
“Cast me not away from Thy presence, oh Lord. Take not Thy holy spirit from me.”– In my mind I know that you will not abandon me. I know that in your Word you have explained your love, grace and mercy. I know the doctrines and scriptures and teachings. In my brain I know these things, but somewhere else there still lingers the doubt. Or, is it fear? I don’t know.
“Restore unto me the joy of thy Salvation.”– Sometimes I forget. I get so overwhelmed with the things going on in my tiny universe. I wrap myself in the certainty that I understand how things are and should be. Then a little reminder comes along and I wonder how I could overlook the fact that You are in control.
This is where I start. As I listen to my friend Keith singing these words over and over through my headphones; I think I may finally be starting to comprehend.