by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM, October 7, 2018
Sometimes, if we’re truly attentive, our minds can be upended, our imaginations can be broken open, by encountering God with skin. Yes, we have a God enfleshed in the witness of Jesus, who in history inhabited our human condition and embodied the presence of the Holy. Jesus, who showed us what God might look and speak and act like. But in our time and place, we may sometimes also need God with skin, God that we can see and hear and touch.
Recently God with skin showed up in a form I hadn’t considered. I received a text from a friend who lives at a distance and who was unexpectedly going to be in my geographic area. He wondered if I would be around and available for a visit, and happily, I was.
Although we’d stayed in touch over time through social media, we hadn’t actually seen each other in nearly a decade. When my friend arrived, we hugged. And then he burst into tears, a weeping so powerful that he couldn’t speak for several minutes. As the tears continued, I became alarmed and anxious, wondering what terrible, unnamed burden, what devastating news he must be carrying. An unwelcome and unexpected diagnosis for him, his wife, his children? An overwhelming loss? An experience of anguish that cut to the core so deeply that he could find no way to express it except through weeping?
When he was finally able to speak, he told me what had so dramatically opened the floodgates of his soul: he was simply overcome with profound joy and delight at seeing me after so many years. I was stunned by his tender words, words that evoked tears of my own; stunned also by the palpable presence of the Holy One in that room at that moment. It was, for me, an image of the way God must weep with rapture and utter delight on beholding our belovedness.
God weeping for joy. Why do we not notice this more often? Perhaps because if we Google “God weeping for joy,” we come up empty. There are plenty of references to God weeping with us in our pain, our sorrow, our grief. Jesus weeping over Jerusalem or Jesus weeping over the death of his friend, Lazarus, come to mind. There’s a long list of the Divine companioning us in every aspect of loss and heartache but there’s a rather limited list of the Holy One’s ecstatic delight in our attention and our company. There are abundant references to the truth that we’re not alone in our times of darkness and anguish, that joy will come in the morning. But why only in the morning, we might wonder? Is delight meant to be limited and time-sensitive?
One image of a jubilant God can be found in the parable of the ecstatic shepherd sweeping up in his arms the lost, inattentive sheep out on a hillside. Or the joyful parent who has been, minute by minute, scouting the horizon in the hope of sighting the longed for return of the willful, wasteful prodigal child.
But it took my friend to show me in the clearest way possible an image of the Holy One unable to contain divine delight in my presence and letting it all out in a torrent of salt and water. God with skin right in front of me. Until that moment, I think I hadn’t fully imagined the Holy One as so overcome with joy that it bubbled up and out in the only way possible, an overflow of tears.
Since that graced visit, I’ve found myself looking with intention and awareness everywhere, more conscious that opportunities to encounter the Holy One’s unrestrained joy might be just around the corner. God at play, God dancing, God doing a jig in the embrace of a friend, the comfort of community, the midnight sky brilliant with moon and stars, the stillness of prayer, the lines of a cherished poem. Here, there, and everywhere. All we have to do is show up, be present, and pay attention. Who knows when a God bursting with delight might be as near to us as our very own selves?
Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Call to mind a time when you experienced, witnessed, or imagined God’s delight: in you, in a relationship, in an encounter, in the natural world.
Savor the joy of that memory and sit with it.
What does delight look like, feel like, sound like?
Offer deep thanks for knowing yourself as beloved in the eyes of the Holy One.
Ask for the grace to affirm that same belovedness in those you encounter today.
Fotolia, Patrizia Tilly
Please be aware that I may not be posting a new blog for a while because I’m going to have total hip replacement surgery mid-October. I’ll be grateful for your prayer for full healing (Thank you!) and will be back to Mining the Now as soon as possible. And, since a writer can feed on almost anything, I suspect this experience might offer lots to mine for a future post. Stay tuned!
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22 thoughts on “Noticing Delight”
I will pray that God grants you an easy recovery from your surgery. I appreciate your posts…thank you!
Kathleen, thank you for your kind words and for your prayer. Grateful for both.
I will certainly keep you and your surgeon in prayer. Enjoy a restful recovery.
So grateful for your prayer for my surgical team and for me, Sheila.
I will keep you in my prayers as you get your hip replaces. I have many friends who have gone through this operation and recovery. May yours be an easy recovery. Take your time to heal. God bless you Chris.
I’m grateful for your prayer and wishes, Kathy, and for your wisdom about the time needed for healing.
Many prayers for a speedy recovery🙏🙏. I look forward to your posts😊.
Thanks for being a faithful follower, Linda, and thanks for the power of your prayer.
I offer many prayers for your full and complete recovery. May you soon be dancing with pain free delight.
Thanks so much, Denise. That is my hope also.
Last night we drove to the Toronto airport to pick up my daughter and her husband, returning from a 2 week trip. We had quite a wait, but during that time, I saw many delighted people re-uniting with loved ones. Some brought flowers or balloons, and it was really uplifting, seeing all that love and delight. And, of course we experienced our own, as they appeared through the arrival doors! I think airports and hospital nurseries are two places we can experience God’s delight, “with skin on”.
What a tender image you shared, Joann. May you continue to be blessed with delight in your own loved ones and in noticing delight everywhere it shows itself, as you did so fully in airport gazing. Thank you for your profound insight.
Dear Chris I will keep you in my prayers. I miss you! Love, Barbara Littlejohn
I miss you, too, Barbara, and am grateful to be wrapped in your prayer.
Many prayers coming your way for a speedy recovery. I see God’s joy ” in the skin” of the little ones I teach everyday, free hugs and love.
You are so right, Angie! You’re surrounded by images of delight all day in those little ones and you’re so responsive to it. Grateful for your remembrance of me in the coming days.
Thank you for the Joy- full article! Good luck with the hip replacement. I too have had this procedure and the only thought is why did I wait so long. Much easier recuperation than the knee. God Bless you.
I appreciate your affirmation, Mary, and the sharing of your wisdom. Hopefully, I’ll be echoing your experience.
Our God delights in dancing over you…may you too join in the dance, if not physically, in your imagination as you recuperate from total hip replacement. Prayers for your full recovery.
Your words are especially comforting to me as a dancer, Marcia. I resonate with your image of God dancing over me. Thank you!
Keeping you in prayer as you recover from your surgery. May it be a time of peaceful resting in His presence.
Thank you for your prayerful support, Kathy. I’m most grateful.