Finding delight as a spiritual practice

One antidote to despair in the face of all there is for a caring person to despair about in this beautiful and broken world, is our capacity for delight. (In addition to all the other virtues of humanity and sanity). Delight is a gift through which we get glimpses of a God’s eye view of the world. So it’s good to care for it, to tend to its needs.

The poet Ross Gay set himself the practice for a year of each day writing a little something about a delight he discovered that day. The book that came of this, which was published a few years back, is called “A Book of Delights.” It is itself a delight … in addition to being deeply wise.

I recommend the book. And I recommend the practice. It’s pretty well known that naming our gratitudes each day, especially in prayer, is a very helpful, healthy thing to do, that cares for our well-being.

Why not include as well a delight from the day?

This is what Ross Gay wrote about the practice:

“It didn’t take me long to learn that the discipline or practice of writing these essays occasioned a kind of delight radar. Or maybe it was more like the development of a delight muscle. Something that implies that the more you study delight, the more delight there is to study.” (from the “Book of Delights.”)

What his book does as well is reveal not only more delight but also more depth. Through his practice of writing about his delight Ross Gay manages to teach us about growing in one’s humanity through encountering with the fullness of one’s humanity the sorrow and the horrors of what life and society can bring. He exercises a joy that does not deny sorrow or suffering, but embraces it.

He writes: “…in trying to articulate what, perhaps, joy is, it has occurred to me that among other things—the trees and the mushrooms have shown me this—joy is the mostly invisible, the underground union between us, you and me, which is, among other things, the great fact of our life and the lives of everyone and things we love going away. If we sink a spoon into that fact, into the duff between us, we will find it teeming. It will look like all the books ever written. It will look like all the nerves in a body. We might call it sorrow, but we might call it a union, one that, once we notice it, once we bring it into the light, might become flower and food. Might be joy.” (from the “Book of Delights.”)

This is a depth of joy embracing sorrow that the spiritual geniuses of our faith have sung.

So during prayer time, I invite you to name for yourselves, and to share if you like, what delights you, where you have found delight lately. For our delight can be a prayer, an expression of faith in a God through whose wisdom we have all been created good and worthy of love and delight.

Read Rev. Nathaniel Mahlberg’s full sermon about wisdom and delight on his blog here.