I clicked on the Google Alert email in my inbox and read the first line. “I.O.U Sex has posted a review for Tangled Ashes by Michèle Phoenix.”
Well—that got my attention! I giggled, hesitated, giggled again, then cringed a little and clicked the link to the article, surprised to find a very positive review posted by the author of a novel called I.O.U Sex. Not exactly my target demographic, but a good review is a good review…right?
The Google Alert seemed like a good idea back in the summer, when images of best-seller lists and screenwriting Oscars had accompanied my pre-publication daydreams. I wanted to make sure I’d be notified of any online reference to my book, particularly if George Clooney offered to star in the big-screen adaptation. Lately, though, I’ve found myself both anticipating and dreading the emails from Google informing me that another book review has been posted. The ones that begin with something like “Tangled Ashes is a gripping story blending the past with the present” are fine. I sleep like a baby on Nyquil after reading those. But the ones that begin with “There are several things wrong with this novel”? After reading those, I sleep like a baby on Red Bull…and I wake up with my bottom lip sticking out in a very unattractive pout.
I think we often approach people the way we approach a reading project, and our intention to either delight or dissect is directly linked to our appreciation of the person or the tale. In an ill-conceived attempt to gauge reader response, I threw caution to the wind a couple weeks ago and perused some of the reviews posted on Tangled Ashes’ Amazon page. (As if the Google Alerts weren’t enough to send me into a schizophrenic state of euphoric angst!) It didn’t take long for me to realize that the reviewers and their assessments generally fell into one of two distinct categories: those who had read the book for pleasure were overwhelmingly positive in their evaluation. Those who had been given the book for the purpose of critiquing it generally seemed so focused on dissecting the novel that they expressed no connection with the heart of the story.
I’m a big fan of delight. I’m not always very good at it, mind you. (I’m a fan of basketball too—’nuff said.) But I find the ability to delight—and particularly to delight in people—to be both inspiring and perspective-altering. There’s one person in my life who exemplifies this gift to me. Whether speaking with a friend or a stranger, a child or an adult, Beth’s facial expressions and body language always reveal anticipation and, yes, delight. I’ve seen tough teenage boys disarmed by her affirmation. I’ve seen children drawn to the sincerity of her recognition. I’ve seen adults confide in her because of the security of her acceptance. I’ve never seen anyone walk away from an encounter with Beth feeling judged or overlooked. They feel acknowledged and enjoyed—delighted in. The Beth-Effect is restorative and empowering.
I like to think that I love people well, focusing on those traits that engage and delight me. More often than not, though, I find myself connecting with people with the attitude of a reviewer, cautious with my appreciation and evaluating every flaw I detect before deciding whether to be enchanted or disappointed. What a corruption of God’s example that is.
He delights in us. He knows every detail of our failures and faithlessness, yet He delights in us. He has heard every word of slander and blasphemy we’ve thought or spoken, He has witnessed our vilest actions, He has redeemed the destruction we’ve wreaked…and still He delights in us. He smiles on us with love, expectation and forgiveness. He values our worth as so much more than the accumulation of our flaws. He rejoices in our potential before we’ve even reached it and celebrates our transformation before we’ve fully achieved it. What an empowering, inspiring and humbling view He has of us. And how much more powerful is His rebuke when it is framed by love and delight!
How different would my “review” of others be if I chose to delight in them rather than dissect them? How changed would my attitude be if I sought to focus on the good I see in others—with anticipation and celebration—rather than on those traits that frustrate, displease or irk me? There is a capacity to love more deeply that comes from the Discipline of Delight. It also expands God’s ability to work and heal through us, because it leaves open doors we might otherwise slam shut out of self-righteous disapproval or arrogant dismissal. From earliest childhood, I think we all grow up hoping those we meet will delight in us in spite of the glaring inadequacies we see in ourselves. Yet I’m not sure our own lives live up to the Luke 6:31 test. We crave the delight of others and we often show them none.
So though it’s a little early to be voicing New Year resolutions, I’m going to jump the gun by a few days and name this mine: to learn the Discipline of Delight. To choose to be curious and engaged. To see beauty and be fascinated by story. To let God do the “reviewing” and commit myself to the enjoying. To change, in other words. To love better. To accept. To delight in others as He delights in me.
Wanna join me?
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