Thursday, December 23, 2010

Contending With Contentment

Last night as I stood out in my front yard, in my slippers, in the snow, spray painting a gift I was preparing for a gift exchange I am a part of for tonight, guided only by the light of my front porch, I began to wonder about my sanity. I was painting the gift (I can’t tell you what I made because it is a gift and some of those reading may receive the gift, I will update you as to what I made tomorrow) and a few things fell off, so I had to wait for the paint to dry and fix the issue. This morning I woke up, fixed the issue, and then another coat of paint. Did I mention, this gift had to be made of plastic? Two years ago it was pipe cleaners, last year paper mache (however you type that?). This year, plastic…and I am in my front yard, spray painting…in the snow.

I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to these matters. I want it to look good, even though it may very well end up in the trash within a week. I have to talk myself into the gift being fine, my friends will love it, and it is all going to be ok. I have to talk myself into being content.

This is a personality flaw of mine. It isn’t about everything, but if I take ownership of something I want it to be done correctly. If I do not take ownership, it is much easier for me to sign off and not worry about perfection. I don’t expect perfection from others, and really just hope that they did their best, but for me I have to do it right. When will I be content?

I used to, and at times still struggle with being content. I always want to advance, take the next step, keep the pressure on, and I usually have the energy to do so. I used to see contentment as an excuse not to move forward, and at times, I have seen contentment being used as an excuse for laziness, but that is not contentment. So what is contentment? Am I wrong for always wanting to advance? Am I wrong for often wanting more (not material things, but hungry?) Is there a balance?

There are a couple of instances in the Scripture that talk about contentment, the first I looked up speaks of contentment as sufficiency and independence. Meaning you have enough to take care of what you have in such a way that you don’t need outside resources to compensate. You have enough, and you can operate and be happy with that. Well, I think I fit that. I can take care of myself, and even help others, and I am happy that God has given me the capabilities to do that. Check that one off the list.

However, that is not the most used version of contentment in the in the Scriptures has to do with, get this, being possessed with unfailing strength (NT) and undertaking a situation with determination (OT). I didn’t see that coming. Strength and contentment have always seemed at odds in my mind. Determination and contentment have always seemed foreign to each other as well. A content determination, being satisfied in a focused movement, I like that…I like it a lot.

This makes me feel free; this makes me feel like I have unwittingly been walking in contentment for some time. Where I believed I was wrong, When I used to chastise myself for not being content…it was something that I had placed a burden upon myself unnecessarily. When King David talked about walking through the valley of the shadow of death, he was showing he was content with wherever God took Him. He would advance forward, even unto death, but God’s hand being with him brought him peace.

Contentment is not satisfaction alone, it is the absolute trust and peace of knowing as you advance into various situations that God is with you.

While I don’t need to be so picky about gift exchange presents, I do need to make sure that I don’t equate contentment with merely satisfaction because it is more than just that. It isn’t laziness, or even tranquility (although there is a time for than), it is a peaceful trust in God as you move along the journey of the path that He has laid in front of you. It is the joy and calmness that fills our soul as we walk through the trials of life. It is the knowledge that He is greater than all our enemies and if He is for us, who could be against us? Walking in that confidence, letting our heart rest in that, as we move forward, advancing. Living that life sounds rich and beautiful. That is a life that will bring Him honor and glory, that is a life that is worth living, that is a life that is contrary to the world, that is the life of those people we see in the Bible with great courage, that is the life that shines peace in the face of martyrdom, that is a contentment…I can be content with.

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