Where joy and pleasure meet

At my husband’s workplace, “my pleasure” is the standard response to “thank you.” Not “yep” or “no problem” or “you’re welcome” but “my pleasure.”

I never noticed it before he worked there, but it makes a huge difference in my attitude while dining out. And over time, I believe the team member when they say it.

I know that everyone has a bad day, but I also know that a bad day doesn’t have to ruin everything. Even if I started the day grumpy and didn’t want to serve people, if I HAD to say “my pleasure” throughout my day, eventually, I think it would be true. It would be my pleasure to serve.

Generally, it is not my pleasure to serve, especially when it comes to my family. I get tired of the endless laundry, the sticky juice spills in the kitchen, the clutter, the daily decisions of what to feed them and when. Some days, it’s more my pleasure than others, but most days, I’d rather serve myself.

Our son, whose ability to absorb the words and behaviors of those around him is like a superpower, has picked up on this phrase, my pleasure. If you say “thank you” to him, his four-year-old exuberance will reply “my pleasure!” He also says this when he sneezes, coughs and farts, and I won’t pretend to understand this boy humor.

Pleasure.

It’s a tricky word. One we might want to avoid because it sounds so worldly. I mean, can a Christian really experience pleasure without it sounding dirty? Instead we talk about joy and delight and occasionally happiness.

But those don’t quite capture the same emotion as pleasure. Merriam-Webster even uses “enjoyment” and “happiness” in its definition of pleasure. It adds “satisfaction,” and that’s part of it. There’s a sense of contentment in pleasure.

I’m not sure why, but I still bristle a bit when using this word.

I’m much more comfortable with practical. And purposeful. And functional.

Which is part of the reason my OneWord for this year is enjoy.

OW_enjoy

Because practical, purposeful, functional, I can do. Enjoy, not so much. This, then, is my challenge.

When we moved to this house, our landlord said we could plant flowers if we wanted to. I’m no gardener. I have more of a black thumb than a green one, but I’m increasingly interested in growing our own food and herbs.

Functional stuff.

Flowers, though? I don’t know. What’s the point?

Then this week I was reading in Genesis, about the garden God planted in the first days of creation. “Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food.” (Genesis 2:9, emphasis mine)

Say, what? God planted trees that were pretty and ones that produced food? I’m no Bible scholar so I can’t tell you if these are descriptors of two kinds of trees or if the trees that bear fruit are also pretty, but it made me pause.

Because beauty is its own purpose.

How gray and drab and dismal would the world be without the variety of flowers that grow. Can I really say that they serve no purpose because we can’t eat them or make medicine out of them? And maybe it’s just that we’ve forgotten their uses. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Because we need beauty, especially in a world that is increasingly ugly. Beautiful, pleasing things are subversive. A quiet revolt.

I think we might plant flowers. And grow herbs.

My focus this year is to “enjoy.” To say “yes” to fun when all I want to do is work. To rest in this place of bounty compared to the wilderness we just left. To trust in the goodness of God.

God knows it won’t be easy for me, and already, He is refreshing the dry land, drenching me with joy drops.

Words like these from Isaiah 62

As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will rejoice over you. (verse 5)

Me? He will rejoice over me like a groom with his bride?

And

It will no longer be said to you, “Forsaken,”

Nor to your land will it any longer be said, “Desolate”;

But you will be called, “My delight is in her” (verse 4)

I know He speaks of Israel here, but that God is capable of delight and rejoicing over people is astonishing to me. God enjoys His people, whether they behave themselves or not. As He created trees that were both beautiful and nourishing, so He creates people who are both a delight and useful. But even if we weren’t “useful” to Him, is it wrong to think we might still be a delight to Him? If my children do nothing for me, don’t I still delight in them?

And this from Psalm 18

He brought me out into an open place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. (verse 19)

Life in the last few years has felt closed. Confined. Dark and cold. The last six months have been an emerging from that darkness. I feel as though I’m now standing in an open field with sunlight streaming down. Life is open. And I am free. I want to run and twirl and leap without looking over my shoulder for trouble.

This, then, is where joy begins. With God’s delight. His pleasure. His joy. In this He says, “Follow me. Let me show you how to enjoy life.”

And this will be the verse that leads me:

You will make known to me the path of life; In your presence is fullness of joy; In your right hand there are pleasures forever. (Psalm 16:11)

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