Sabbath delight ... and disappointment

Dan Allender asked me a question a little over a year ago, on page 15 of his book, Sabbath - a book that is still transforming my life.  I'll confess - I didn't have the courage to answer it then (nor did I have the courage to admit that I didn't have the courage to answer it).  I just... shied away from it.  Decided to read the rest of the book in the hopes that I might find the "right" answer.  And never really came back to it.

I'm still not sure I have the courage to really go there (tho I guess we'll find out).  Or that it's the "right" answer.  I think, honestly... my answer to this question will change over time - maybe even weekly.  I don't know.  But for the first time since I dared to open this half-inch thick compass toward life transformation, I looked at the question and tried to give it a valid answer.

Q: "What would I do for a 24-hour period of time if the only criteria was to pursue my deepest joy?"
A: Define... "joy."

(ok, so, yeah, i know... that answer falls under the category of "not courageous.")

But still.  And wouldn't ya know.  The fourth definition of joy is "a state of happiness" or "felicity."

Q: So what would I do for a 24-hour period of time when I was most me - my ontological self?
A: ...I don't know?

Except...  except maybe I do know.  At least for one day:

I would sleep in a bit, and wake up without an alarm clock, feeling rested.  I'd go out for breakfast (at the Midwest Breakfast Company, of course), and in late spring, summer or fall, I'd wander over to Stade's Farm and buy enough fruits and vegetables to last the week.  I would spend time reading a book I wanted to read and listening to music.  And maybe take a nap.

And - I find this a little surprising, since so often of late my Sabbath has morphed into introvert time - but on this particular perfect day, I wouldn't be alone.  I'd spend that reading time curled up on a couch with a cup of tea, enjoying the sunshine streaming in the windows and completely content to be spending the morning with a good friend - the kind of friend with whom I could spend an entire morning not talking and yet we'd both still feel like it was one of the best mornings ever.  Wordless quality time.  :)

And then we'd have lunch.  And go for a walk, or a leisurely bike ride.  Talk about things.  Tell stories.  Marvel at the beauty and intricacy of creation.  Pray: aloud, together.   Maybe drive out to the Lake.  And then we'd go home, to one of our houses, and grill out.  (There would be definitely be steak.)  We'd sing.  Tell more stories.  And watch the stars come out, remembering that the love and mercy of God is so much more vast than even the heavens.

I would love a day like that.

But the question is: why?
What about that day is a pursuit of "my deepest joy"?
What is my deepest joy?

At its core, I guess I would say my deepest joy is worship.  "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever," right?  (Heidelberg Catechism, Question 1)

And a day spent like that would be a day spent in worship: honoring Him by keeping the Sabbath and truly being at rest, praising Him for His beauty and creativity reflected all around us in creation, experiencing His presence in both solitude and community.  It would involve silence and expression, music and reflection.  Reading, singing, taking a walk, biking, cooking, enjoying good food and great company - these are all activities in which I typically am able to downshift into being mostly my real self, completely authentic and relaxed and at rest in Him.  They are vehicles by which I become aware of His presence with me as my soul gets quiet and unwinds.  To experience them all on one day... well, I have, a handful of times, and they've been some of the best days ever.

So what keeps me from planning for it every week?

Dan Allender suggest that it is pride, distractions, and/or fear (on pages 18-26 of Sabbath) - and in exploring the idea that it is fear which prevents us, he says this: "We have learned to manage our disappointment with God, and we don't want our desire for delight to seduce us again."  Ooooh.  Ouch.  That hits home.

"We have learned to manage our disappointment with God..."

I think the single toughest thing about that statement is that it requires me to admit that I've experienced disappointment with God.  It takes courage to own that.  I've known for a long time that God can take my anger (thank you, Madeleine L'Engle) - but coming to a place where I understand on a heart level that He can handle my disappointment is something I find more challenging.

I mean, anger's one thing.  It's a substitute emotion, when it comes right down to it.  It exists to mask hurt or fear, to protect us from them.  It's an emotion that makes sense, and I know that God understands it when I'm angry.  But disappointment?  That's just saying to the God of the Universe: "You didn't know best.  You didn't do what I wanted you to do, and I'm unhappy.  You let me down."  Which is not something I really want to say.  Because there's all sorts of theological issues with that perspective, and I know better.  God is God, not a magician bound to make all my whims and wishes come true, and He can do as He likes, and He can do as He likes with my life.  So to say, "I'm disappointed, God.  I'm not happy with the way You've planned my life.  I like my plan better," is a very dangerous thing.


But it's honest, some days.

You know, I actually started writing this post quite some time ago.  Everything prior to the above sentence was written long before I pitched head-first over the handlebars of my bicycle and into a long, long journey of healing that is far from over.

And yes.  I am disappointed.  No.  This is not the path/direction I would have chosen.  If I'd been able to see the future, I would not have gotten on a bicycle at all on April 15th.  I would have stayed home.  I would have called my friend Cheryl and talked, instead of trying to work things out on my own with the Lord while out biking.  I would not have chosen an ER trip without health insurance, a broken finger that didn't heal right, or the scars I still bear (and likely always will).

And I would not have chosen to give up something I love.

But I can't do it.  I can't get back on my bicycle.
That isn't to say that I won't ever ride again.
I want to.
But on that bike?
Can't do it.

So I gave it away today, in the middle of my Sabbath day.

It seemed appropriate, to own what feels like failure in the middle of a day focused on celebration and redemption.  I can't mourn it today.  Today it just is what it is - toa es toa - and I might mourn it tomorrow, but today I have to celebrate that there will be a day when "this" (saying goodbye to a bicycle that in so many ways was my refuge, my sanctuary, over the past few years) will not have mattered.

But I'm still disappointed.

And I'm not sure what to do with that.

But I will yet praise Him for being the God who ordains all of our steps.  I will worship Him for being the God of all wisdom, who knows far better than I do what is best for me.  And I will wait on Him, choosing to be comfortable with the silence that exists between us sometimes about all of this, knowing that He knows what He's doing and that even in all of "this" - there is a plan and a purpose that I cannot yet see - and that somehow, it will one day bring Him glory.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing what I am sure has been and continues to be such a difficult journey. Your discussion on disappointment with God has me going to the Lord with my disappointments with God that I ignore from time to time. I think it's time again that He and I discuss those.

Happy said...

You're so welcome, Arman. I knew when I started writing this months ago that there would be a day when it would be worth posting - and here we are. ;)

Will be praying for you as you pray. Glad this was - in some small way - helpful.

Love you, friend. Blessed beyond measure to call you "friend" - and to serve Him alongside you.

Cathy_H said...

I cried during this post. I think we've all been disappointed with God. Not sure I've ever owned that before...

Some days it sucks to be human--cursed with desire for understanding but never really knowing what it all means. Stupid trust. Stupid faith. Stupid bicycles (real and metaphorical).