I thought it was just a flaw of mine that I easily get ecstatic about things. The light of the sky on the water; trains with 5 engines, people, marching bands… When I was young, my staid mother indicated that when I was excited like that I was out of control; I grew up tacitly supplying the premise that being out of control is a bad thing.
Take crossing the Ohio River, for instance. They may find me, someday, like one of those flying witch decorations at Halloween, plastered on the girders of the bridge I cross to and from work: I’m always cranking my neck to gawk at how the water looks under the sky. One evening at dusk I was crossing just east of my favorite railroad bridge—a massive iron structure gracefully lifting its iron lace in twin peaks skyward. The vibrant pink and blue of the cloud-tempered west, behind that black bridge, found an equally radiant pastel twin mirrored on very still water underneath. But emerging from under the bridge and almost below me was an immense barge of coal, maneuvered by a “push” (a better term than “tug,” I feel, since they’re not tugging, after all). The barge’s humorlessly squared prow was steadily thrusting its matte-blackness into the glowing watery mirror. And the wake emerging from the sides of the prow spread wings of trembling black stripes in the pink and blue stillness! Such a sight!
“Observing” is hardly apt as a description of what I am doing at such a moment; “eating” is more like it. Or “taking a bath.” I am immersed in color, and dancing in it as one would stamp in puddles or shower in a tropical waterfall.
I feel that way looking at people, too.. “I feel as if my eyes are eating you,” I said recently to an old friend that I had a chance to see again for a few moments. Eye-eating involves noticing, loving, soaking in, and celebrating the palpable, distinctive, mysterious, excellence of that God-fashioned person.
Dear friends who blend care and objective insight help us understand ourselves! One such friend named, and somehow thereby brought into being, this delighting that I do. “When you go crazy about sunsets and people and such, it isn’t that you are sinning, or idolizing; what you are doing is actually seeing things and people the way God sees them!”
He continued: “What you have to realize is that in that moment of delight, God is delighting in your delighting, like an artist delighting in the audience’s true enjoyment of his work”—like, I also thought, the mutual enjoyment that escalates between lovers. “So here’s your assignment: every time you find yourself delighting, make a point of realizing that God is delighting in it and in you.”
That evening at a high school band concert I took a first step: OK, I am enthralled with this medley of rock and roll, I thought. God is enjoying my enjoying. Surprising corollary realization: God enjoys the exuberance of rock and roll! Main realization: I am at my post for (with!) the Lord, enjoying his works, a celebrant, someone registering how much God is enjoying this. We’re enjoying this together!
Thus the naming and redeeming of something, this eating with my eyes, that, I realized in retrospect, has been second nature to me all my life, from earliest memories of looking with longing out the car window for sand increasing along the roadside as my family and I traversed New Jersey toward the shore.
Another surprising realization: the purpose for which God has redeemed me isn’t only some “great” mission, per se, but to delight him in what proves to be mutual savoring of his delights. It doesn’t take great wealth or sacrifice or professional qualification to perform this primal service, nor what we typically (and wrongly) dub “spiritual.” It takes being me. Being set free to be me, to delight, delights him. I am a delighter. That is both my identity and my spiritual calling. It also presents the fabulous and frequent occasion to savor the Lord’s presence.
This personal story has at least three important encouragements for all lovers of the Lord. Discovering yourself and discovering God are two sides of the same coin (—oh! Isn’t that what Calvin said??). Serving God is simpler and nearer to who we are than may commonly be thought or portrayed. And whatever else we do, savoring his works goes to His heart, as it would to any lover’s. Seeing—the kind of seeing that blurs the distinction between senses and becomes a kind of eating and celebrating—is nothing less than temple service. A kind of communion…
“Taste and see that the Lord is good…” (Psalm 34:6) Taste and see!