The past few weeks I’ve found myself thinking a lot about a process I call the discipline of delight.
Though I realize these two words tend to be opposites, somehow the idea of smashing them together in a single concept has become more and more intriguing to me.
For most of us, the word discipline causes a bit of a nose-scrunching reflex, like a toddler being forced to eat spinach against her will. It brings to mind a picture of drudgery, boredom, and saying a sad farewell to anything remotely fun. Discipline is the sort of thing we usually have to work ourselves up to, rather than want to.
On the other hand, the words delight and delightful are used to describe people or things we spontaneously enjoy—like friends, parties, babies, puppies, cookies, coffee, chocolate, cheesecake, flowers, free stuff—pretty much anything (or anyone) that fills us with extra-good feelings of enjoyment.
But what if we could learn to be intentional about being delighted?
Some may say, “That’s crazy, you can’t choose your feelings!”
I couldn’t agree more.
No one can go from thoroughly bummed to blissfully happy though sheer willpower alone.
It simply doesn’t work that way.
Yet as it turns out, feelings tend to follow our thoughts…
…and we can choose them.
So lately I’ve been thinking…
What if it’s possible to CHOOSE to encourage our own hearts?
To take it a step further….
What if it’s even our God-given RESPONSIBILITY to do so?
I’m not talking about being yippy-skippy saccharine sweet happy all the time to the point of being annoying or fake.
Believe me, no one’s blessed by that!
But I am suggesting that our moods are not entirely at the mercy of our circumstances.
So what on earth is the discipline of delight?
It’s allowing yourself to more fully inhabit your gratitude, the way a five year old inhabits Christmas morning.
Or, for that matter, any random day of the week that includes crayons, popsicles, bubble wrap—or someone willing to twirl them around or make funny faces.
It doesn’t take much to delight a child.
How about you?
Lately I’ve been noticing it doesn’t take nearly as much effort as I expected to pause and enjoy the simple pleasures with a grateful heart.
Some days the practice fills my heart with five-year-old-on-tippy-toes excitement. Other days (especially the tougher ones) it helps relax me into a peaceful state of “good enough.”
Yet either way, my day ends up feeling richer and more satisfying.
And sometimes remembering to practice the discipline of delight can even cause a lousy day to end up tasting sweeter than I would’ve thought possible.
Here are 3 steps to help you get started delighting more often…
1 – NOTICING
By noticing, I mean paying attention to what God’s already given you, as you go through your day.
It can be something as simple as going for a daily walk. In our hurry-up world, it’s easy to go for a walk and just…walk. Or with a little intentionality, it’s possible to look around, take a deep breath, and start marveling at the everyday beauty and blessings all around you.
Wow, so many leaves have changed colors since I was here last!
What a beautiful blossom on that bush…I never noticed it before…
That sunset truly leaves me speechless…
We can also delight in the little daily comforts we often take for granted…
My warm bed with cozy blankets…
The bright red cardinal outside my window…
My favorite meal with all the trimmings…
Thanking God for the things we’re noticing will also help make this a more relational process between you and Him. Pretty soon, you’ll also find yourself noticing His Presence a lot more throughout the day, as you turn your heart toward Him in gratitude for all the blessings you’re noticing.
2 – SAVORING
Though noticing and thanking are essential, there’s a second step that takes the experience a bit further…
Savoring goes beyond simple gratitude to truly “letting in” the enjoyment of whatever good thing you’re noticing.
For example, I can mentally notice that all my basic needs are met, and even be grateful for it on a surface level.
I can soak in the comfort of my cozy afghan, drink in the beauty of the view from the balcony, watch the quirky little ways of the birds at the feeder, and marvel at the aerodynamics of their flits and flights.
See the difference?
One response happens outside you and is primarily cerebral.
But savoring happens inside you and involves your senses, emotions, and heart.
One you acknowledge and the other you experience and enjoy, which makes all the difference.
Savoring nourishes your soul, and renews your strength.
3 – DELIGHTING
For me, delighting is what wells up within me after I’ve savored for a while. It’s the result of letting that experience fill me up til it overflows into delight.
And it’s truly surprising how our hearts can delight in the smallest things.
(we truly are more like children than we’d like to admit…)
My current list includes such “delights” as:
Vibrant fall leaves, steaming cups of tea, watching the birds enjoy our balcony feeder, a scrumptious omelette, my cozy “Santa snuggie,” binge watching TV with my hubby, long meaningful conversations with friends, reflecting on God’s constant provision, finishing a difficult task, solving a tech snafu, and the ongoing delight of Amazon Prime next-day delivery. (true confession…for some reason I just LOVE getting packages!)
How about you?
What everyday blessings fill your heart with gratitude and delight? Have you been taking the time to notice—and delight in—any of them lately?
If not, you can always start today!
I’ve discovered that once I reach the point of savoring, I often find myself spontaneously thanking God all over again, without even trying. Before I realize what’s happening, I blurt out a heartfelt “thank you”—right out loud—in the middle of the park, living room, or aisle at Walgreens!
If I’m feeling especially delighted, I’ve even been known to burst into spontaneous applause for a specific simple pleasure, beauty of nature, or challenging set of circumstances God has helped me navigate through. There may even be a brief happy dance involved—if I think no one is watching. 🙂
And for a few glorious seconds, I’m five years old again—and bursting with delight.
(if you’re a bit more introverted, feel free to respond with a more internal yet equally heartfelt response…)
WHAT ABOUT ROUGH DAYS?
On difficult days, We often feel so glum that it’s difficult to find the noticing / savoring / delighting onramp. Everything looks dismal and grey, and nothing around us seems even remotely appealing.
Yet I’ve sometimes been amazed at what it does for my disposition to simply make time for a 5-minute delight break.
I’m not saying this discipline will turn every lousy day into your best day ever, but I am saying it can improve the quality of the present moment, which could lead to rebounding from your current funk quicker, or at least being able to bear it until things improve.
I’m also saying that showing up with God in this “present tense” kind of way helps us access His grace more fully to deal with whatever’s making the day difficult in the first place.
I realize it’s beyond tough to stop yourself in the middle of one of these scenarios–and perfectly candid, on super rough days I sometimes find myself bailing on the process before I start, despite my sincere belief in it on sunnier days. In those moments, it can seem so pointless to look around for something to delight in when everything feels beyond lousy.
Yet when I’ve found the courage to look for even the smallest evidence of God’s goodness and faithfulness, I’ve often found it gives me the ability to cheer up for a few minutes…which helps to speed my recovery toward a better day tomorrow.
I’m aware that all of this may sound like I’m going all Polyanna on you. It may seem like I’m saying, “Just look on the sunny side and everything will turn out peachy-keen.”
That’s definitely not what I’m saying.
The world we live in is tough and full of heartbreaking twists and turns.
This year especially there’s chaos and injustice and confusion, and most days it feels like there are more problems than answers.
Yet I sense the Lord is revealing to me (and I’m sure to others) that now more than ever, we need to practice the discipline of delight.
We don’t need to do it to gain spiritual brownie points.
We need to practice it to survive and thrive our way through difficulties!
In this fallen world, we don’t need to go looking for trouble—it’s almost everywhere we look.
But we do need to be on the lookout for good.
It’s like the oil we desperately need in our spiritual engines to keep our souls from seizing up.
It’s like the air we need to breathe until the air around us is safe to breathe again.
It’s God’s provision for us—one of His beautiful “gifts wrapped in a command”—to keep us spiritually healthy, at peace in the midst of the storm, and able to live intimately and victoriously with Him no matter what happens—in this crazy year of 2020 and beyond.
I started out to write a short little blog about a refreshing process God’s been teaching me.
Yet I’m beginning to realize it’s much more than that.
It’s actually a weapon in our spiritual arsenal to help us survive, thrive, and stay close to Jesus during perilous times—and beyond!
If you’ve practiced the discipline of delight—or are considering trying it—I’d love to hear your comments, questions, or experiences in the comments below. 🙂