Ropes Let Down to the Lost
Art With a Private Address

The Theology of Delight

Flowers_2Scott Cairns, whose poem "Yellow" I reprinted yesterday, is a poet worth reading.  This book I pulled off my shelf, now out of print, called Odd Angles of Heaven: Contemporary Poetry By People of Faith, which a collection of work by several  Christian poets, is odd.  I cannot say I like most of it, but some I find provocative, some challenging, and some just plain delightful.  This poem falls in that latter category.  I enjoy the title, which provokes me to thoughtfulness, as much as its content.

What after all is the "theology of delight?"  And what could a short poem say about it?  Don't you need an essay or, perhaps, a more substantial work of doctrine to plumb the depths of that phrase? Maybe.  But maybe a poem, or a painting, or a piece of music better gets at what it means to experience delight.  I like the quietness of this poem's delight -- a simple mediation on what is made by God, the delight He must have known in making a world in His image.  His delight is surely in making things and seeing them unfold, a sheep alone in a field as much as the sheep in a field that "leapt for no apparent reason." That's the key phrase, isn't it?  Delight is that sense you have when you heart leaps. . . for no apparent reason.  But, you better read the poem:

The Theology of Delight

Flowers2_1 Imagine a world, this ridiculous
tentative thing blooming
in your hand.  There in your hand, a world
opening up, stretching, after the image
of your hand.  Imagine
a field of sheep grazing, or a single sheep
grazing and wandering in the delight
of grass, of flowers
lifting themselves, after their fashion,
to be flowers.  Or a woman, lifting her hand
to touch her brow, and the intricacy
of the motion that frees her
to set the flat part of her hand
carelessly to her brow.  Once,
while walking, I came across a woman
whose walking had brought her
to a shaded spot near a field.
Enjoying that cool place together,
we sat watching sheep and the wind
moving the small flowers in the field.
As we rose to set out again, our movement
startled the flock into running; they ran
only a little way before settling again
into their blank consideration
of the grass.  But one of them continued,
its prancing taking it far into the field
where, free of the other, it leapt for
no clear reason, and set out walking
through a gathering of flowers, parting
that grip of flowers with its face.

A field, sheep, a woman with a hand to her brow, a cool breeze -- all these are good and yet point beyond themselves  to something more richer, deeper, and more delightful that lie beyond -- not an abstraction, not some impersonal force, but a loving God who has created everything out of love for us, for our delight.  As Alister McGrath says. "[T]he supreme aim of the study of nature is 'to perceive the eternal word of God reflected in every plant and insect, every bird and animal, and every man and woman.'" (Alister McGrath, Creation, citing Ninian of Whithorn).  Look around.  It's delightful what you see.