“Michelle, God delights in you.”
These words were spoken to me and over me as a blessing twice after I’d revealed my breakthrough (i.e. breakdown) to my traveling companions in Italy. Two beautiful women prayed two beautiful, intimate prayers over me at two different points during the trip, and though their prayers were full of wisdom, insight and God’s truth, I remember only five specific words, words both of them uttered:
Michelle, God delights in you.
Those are the words, the promise, I took home with me. And while I wish I’d held a recorder in my hand so that I would still have every one of the beautiful words those two lovely women spoke to me, I do believe those five I tucked into my mind, soul and heart are enough. Those five words comprised the essence of their prayers, and I grabbed that truth and held it tight.
Two weeks ago, as my family and I winged our way to New England, I pulled Jennifer Dukes Lee’s recently released book, The Happiness Dare, out of my carry-on bag. Though I hadn’t yet cracked the binding, I knew Jennifer’s book would be good. In fact, I knew it would be excellent. Her first book, Love Idol, knocked my socks off, and I know Jennifer and her writing well enough to know The Happiness Dare would do the same.
What I didn’t expect, though, was that The Happiness Dare would speak so clearly into my heart, straight into the place I’d tucked the hope and prayer of those five words I’d received in Italy.
The truth is, I may have known, hypothetically, that “God delights in me,” but I didn’t truly understand or even believe it personally. I didn’t believe it applied to me. I assumed God approved of me (on my good days), and was even possibly pleased with me from time to time, but delighted in me? Delight seems over-the-top. Delight is giddy, wildly joyful, grinning from ear to ear, cartwheels, jumping up and down with glee. Never once in my forty-six years have I ever considered that God delights in me.
Until Italy, that is. Until I experienced an altogether different God than the distant, vaguely curmudgeonly God I’d crafted.
Looking back, it’s so obvious: of course God delights in me. If he didn’t, why would he have gone to the trouble of wooing me in all the ways he knows matter most to me — in the birds and the blooms, in the warm breeze, heavy with the scent of jasmine and lavender, in the hot sun blanketing fields of green and gold. He is so particular, so specific. He knew the magical landscape of Tuscany was the place I would meet him and accept his invitation, long before I ever imagined the possibility of such a trip.
That, my friends, is a God who not only approves of us and is pleased with us, but delights in us.
And that is also a God who desires delight for us in our everyday, ordinary lives. Just as God delights in us, he has also wired us for delight. He has planted the seeds of happiness deep in our souls.
“Do not imagine the Lord as some miserly mall security cop, with his arms crossed over his chest and a whistle around his neck, waiting for you to mess things up down here,” Jennifer writes in The Happiness Dare. “God is the inventor of happiness and the chief spreader of it. When you desire happiness, you are not a pleasure-seeking heretic. Your desire to live happy is not a flaw. It is your soul’s memory of the original paradise, etched and alive in you.
God delights in each and every one of us, and I believe one of his deepest desires is that we delight in him too, in all the ways, big and small, he lavishes his love on us. We have to look for it, Jennifer reminds us, because sometimes this delight, this happiness, shows up small – in the scent of lavender, in the steady drone of bees under a hot Tuscan sun, in the sing-song call of the Oriole, right in your own backyard.
Friends, I invite you take the Happiness Dare with me. I invite you to allow happiness, “the holy fuel of our personhood,” to open your heart to God’s delight in you and your delight in him.
I finished Jennifer’s book the first two days of my vacation, and I was right: it was absolutely as fabulous as I thought it would be! Superbly crafted, wise, and engaging, The Happiness Dare will inspire you to embrace God’s desire for you and begin the journey toward spiritual and emotional transformation.
And here’s a cool thing: Jennifer has also created a Happiness Assessment – a five-minute online quiz that will help you discover your happiness style (I’m a Doer and a Thinker). You can take the Happiness Assessment here.
And the best news of all: I have a copy of The Happiness Dare to giveaway! Just enter the drawing below for a chance to win [email readers: click here and scroll down to the bottom of the post to enter the drawing].