My Garden of Delight

“Drama Queen” is the nickname we’ve affectionately assigned to our daughter, Eden. Life is her stage. And, audience or no audience, she has a performance for everything. She’s written songs to accompany everyday tasks from hand-washing to bed-making. She dances through the kitchen while setting the table. The fork is her microphone and the plate her guitar. Each happening in our day becomes an event because of our daughter’s ability to celebrate the mundane.

In general, Eden has become her namesake: a garden of of delight

But as a mother, I can see even another layer beneath the joyful surface where my little girl truly comes alive. New to this game, I’ve only just recently uncovered ways to get at that subterraneous level. But with her as my guinea pig, I’ve found this same layer, though manifested differently, in my son.

It’s the place of delight.

When my children know that they are delighted-in by me, something is unlocked in their little spirits. It can happen so quickly that a hurried day might not afford notice. But one exchange of delight is like pouring gasoline on a fire. What was light, just becomes more radiant.

It’s not rocket science. When I look at my own life I can honestly say the times of most fruit in my life – deeper love for my husband, more commitment to my marriage, greater desire for connection with God, and real-life service outside of my house – have come when I know that I am loved. For much of my Christian life, my subtle and even unnamed perception of God was that He was a hard task-master, waiting to correct. And I learned to skip to that beat. But drivenness out of fear can only last for so long. My fire eventually burned out.

But when I got a taste of not only His love, but his pure delight in me as his daughter, something shifted. For me, this came through my writing. Something that seemed like such an extraneous accessory in the grand scheme of life – reading and writing – was something He made me to do. I love word phrases, carefully constructed. And some of the classics can bring me to my knees. But for years I squelched these parts of myself because I didn’t have a grid for how my “firm-handed” father might have enjoyed these parts of myself.

Eventually writing opened up my door of discovery and I began to find that my Father loved that part of me. I had a taste of His delight, where I least expected it. And tasting that delight has fueled a whole new level of desire for holiness, obedience, and intimacy.

In the same way that this newfound perception of His delight in me lit a spark inside, I want my children to have that opportunity. And until they are old enough to consciously choose a path to Him for themselves, Nate and I want to represent Him well.
The only problem with this is that you can’t manufacture delight. I learned the hard way in my marriage.  After years of fumbling and failing through the motions of expressing love, while becoming an expert at subtly instructing and correcting, I found that you can’t fake love. Sure I loved my husband, in the same way every parent loves their child, but you can’t pull water from a dry well. My ability to receive love from the Father directly affects the way I distribute it to my husband … and my children.

When I am alive in God, the fruit abounds. When He is the author of my rule-book, there is a real spark missing in the eyes of my children. I can’t give them what I don’t have. To delight in them I must first receive the delight of the father for me.

And without both – my reception of the Father’s love for me and their ability to receive my delight – we are incomplete.

If my children sing the songs of their youth and dance with a skip in their step, but have not love, their hearts are barren. If they say “yes ma’am” when I call their names and are obedient to my requests, but have not love, they are starved of their lifeblood. These three remain, faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

But my task is not to figure out how to delight in my children, it’s to get down on my knees and ask the father to show Himself to me as the Daddy of delight. And when that happens, I am more freely able to receive the guidance of His Holy Spirit on how to unlock my children’s heart, through my delight in them.

Delight is not a standalone, in the same way that the picture of our God is incomplete if seen only through the lens of the New Testament. Love is also discipline and requires holiness and obedience. But the frontrunner, in my book, is the Father’s delight.

Lovers will always out-work workers.

The cycle in my home tends to be that when my children know they are delighted in, things like obedience tend to follow with joy. While we didn’t wait to hold them to a standard of first-time obedience until we were certain they knew they were delighted in, in the same way the law is in effect even when we are lost from it, the whole thing seems to gel when surrounded by, covered with and built upon delight.

The Father’s delight has changed me. As an adult, I have had a radical awakening. My prayer is that my children will taste this now. Their joy and character is beautiful, but I want more for them. I want them to know the Father’s love. And now.

sarahagerty Sara and her husband, Nate, have two children–Eden and Caleb–and are in the process of adopting two more from Uganda. Sara writes regularly at Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet on their adoptions, the Father’s love, prayer, perseverance through pain, and everyday life-as-a-mom anecdotes.
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