3 / Reflections on Sabbath: Delight

by Ashley S. Davis, M.A., Resident in Counseling, Rivermont Counseling LLC

When I think about practicing Sabbath, it can feel overwhelming, and if I’m honest, downright unrealistic. While a part of me longs for Sabbath, the more practical part of me wonders if it is possible to practice this spiritual discipline consistently.

In ‘Emotionally Healthy Spirituality’, Pete Scazzero empathizes with this internal conflict and encourages Christians to approach Sabbath in four bite-sized pieces: stop, rest, delight, and contemplate.

Part 3: Delight
When God rested from His creative work on the seventh day, Scripture tells us He exclaimed in delight: “It was very good!” (Gen. 1:31). According to Pete Scazzero, the Hebrew phrase used here communicates “joy, completion, wonder, and play.” It’s as if God wants us to associate Sabbath rest with the kind of joy and celebration that comes after working hard to accomplish something meaningful.

I recently visited the butterfly exhibit at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond. I can’t tell you which part of the experience was more wonderful: gazing up at the various species of colorful butterflies fluttering every direction or watching thirty other visitors, young and old alike, with mouths agape in wonder, fingers pointing and exclaiming, “Look at that one over there!” and taking their phones out to catch a snapshot of loved ones with butterflies dancing around.  It was a unifying and holy experience to be collectively carried away in a moment of delight and wonder. With all of us smiling, pointing, and watching out for the butterflies resting on the ground, I forgot about my daily stressors and worries.

At the very heart of Sabbath is God’s invitation to delight. Sometimes in life serious matters take precedence over play, and we can lose something of our capacity to feel wonder. It can even seem at times we’ve reached such a low point that we’ve forgotten how to delight in anything.

There is an exercise from Dialectical Behavior Therapy that I’ve found helpful for clients facing difficulties such as stress, anxiety, and depression; it involves using the five senses to unwind and ease tension. In the same way, using our five senses is a practical way to delight in God’s creation because when we focus on our senses, we’re able to slow down and be mindful of what we’re experiencing in the moment.

If you find it difficult to find delight in something, it can be helpful to create a list of your favorite things and then set out to experience these on Sabbath. I’ve listed some examples of favorites below:

Sights to see: sunsets in the mountains;friends and family; wildflowers.

Foods to taste: guacamole; coffee; raspberry crumble

Things to touch: pets; favorite hoodie; bubble baths

Sounds to hear: birds chirping; music; rain hitting the rooftop

Scents to smell: candles; essential oils; fresh baked bread

Our Father is the giver of “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17). My prayer is that Sabbath becomes a time for you to savor these gifts, delight in creation, and rekindle your playful spirit.

What/Who do you find joy in?

What/Who are your favorites?

How might these gifts turn your heart towards God?

How have you found encouragement and hope in difficult seasons through moments of delight or play?

**Disclaimer: The ideas presented in this blog post are the opinion of a Resident in Counseling, and are not intended to be understood as professional mental health advice, treatment, diagnosis, or an indication of a professional relationship between the reader and the writer. If you are seeking mental health counseling, contact a counselor in your area. If you are experiencing an emergency, head to your nearest emergency room or call 911.

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