The other day I saw an amazing sight: 16 turtles sunning themselves on a log in a nearby lake. Sixteen! I counted them several times just to be sure I had the number right. Every now and then one turtle would jump off or fall off or be pushed off by another turtle. But I did see all 16 at the same time on that log. Actually there were two logs side by side.
Right away I looked around for someone to share my discovery with. That particular afternoon there were few people in the park. But on my way out, I met a woman in the parking lot. She was just getting her Labrador retriever out of the car to go for a walk. I said to her excitedly, “I just saw 16 turtles on a log in the lake!” “Sixteen!?” she exclaimed. “Where are they?” Immediately I knew I had connected with a kindred soul! So I told her where the turtles could be found. “I have to go see them!” she said and hurried away with her dog.
Sometimes we are the beneficiaries of a pure delight. We do nothing to cause the delight. We do nothing to control it. And most times we are not even expecting it. Rather we are just going about our ordinary daily business and out of nowhere this pure delight drops into our lap–kerplunk! Our response is usually one of surprise, awe, and gratitude. When I encounter a pure delight my thoughts turn immediately to God. In fact, when I encounter something like those 16 turtles, I find myself saying to God, “It’s You again, isn’t it, my dear God?” And then I add, “Thanks for the treat!”
Barbara Brown Taylor, an Episcopal priest from Atlanta, says, “Prayer is more than saying prayers at set times. It is waking up to God’s presence no matter where I am or what I’m doing.” Even walking in a park! Those turtles woke me up that day, reminding me that God is indeed in our midst.
When we encounter a pure delight, we usually look for someone to share it with. How many times have you said to someone, “Come look at the rainbow!” Or, “Come look at the sunset….the sunrise…the unusual bird at the feeder…the little kid dancing…the baby chipmunk…the snow on the trees…” Or how many times has someone else said to you, “Listen to the cicada…smell the lilacs…taste this apple pie…feel this kitten’s fur.” The old adage says, “Misery loves company.” But so do joy and beauty and wonder and good news.
The Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer defined a blessing as “the visible, perceptive, effective proximity of God.” I love that! That’s what those turtles were to me. The writer Donna Schaper says this about how God is always gracing our world with blessings: “God is spreading grace in the world like a 5-year-old spreads peanut butter: thickly, sloppily, eagerly.”
When our journey on earth is finished and we meet God face to face, I don’t think God is going to ask us about our sins and failings. Instead, I think God might ask us, “So, what did you enjoy during your time on earth?” If God does, I will find myself listing all kinds of people and places and things. I might even say, “And, God, one day I saw 16 turtles on a log!”
What have been some of your encounters with “pure delight”?