One story about the journey toward Contentment
He walked into the kitchen and positioned himself beside me at the sink. I knew instantly what was in store for me. Something I’d heard before. Something I had to brace myself for.
I felt I had no energy left that day to combat the onslaught that was about to ensue. I looked into his blue eyes, and the cascade of words faded. If nothing else, he was completely precious.
His lips were moving as fast as he could talk, and I was catching about every 4th or 5th word. But those eyes… and that fine layer of blonde hair distracted me. I instinctively reached out to touch it. He kept talking without missing a beat.
He loved to be wherever I was; kitchen, office, bedroom. It didn’t matter where. He just wanted to be near me, and even my melting ears didn’t stop me from pausing to appreciate that fact.
I tuned back in to his speech, and my instincts had been right. He wanted something. A very expensive something in this case.
He was young, only 6 or 7 years old at the time, and to say he was (and is) persistent, doesn’t quite cover it. And well,… new, expensive somethings are so much fun! And, I love making life fun for my kids. And, I love having new somethings too; often expensive, new somethings!
But, I also knew that it was my job to teach him and his brother about contentment and restraint and selflessness.
Could I do it?
Could I manage his expectations?
Could I, who had the same temptations and desires, find a way to teach those deeper qualities of resistance and being at peace with a reality that often differs from our dreams? Could I strike a balance between ambition and drive and contentment?
I remembered a fortune cookie I once had. The quote inside read something quite simple, but profound. “The pleasure of what we have is spoiled by the wanting of more”. That quote has stuck with me for many years and in moments like the one I was having, I turned to it again.
I knew then that I had everything I needed. It didn’t mean that my own ‘wantings’ would go away, nor did I expect my young son’s to magically disappear, but I knew that I had the tools to help me teach him to manage those desires. Yes, the fortune cookie did a nice job of summarizing something that was helpful, but the real answer was in God’s word.
Paul’s statement in Philippians 4:11 and following was and still is the first to come to mind for me. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”
As a side note, that’s the beauty of taking time to study the Bible. In times where you need it most, it’s right there with you… in your mind and on your heart.
Even if we can’t always recall specific book and chapter, the words and the principles tend to stick with us. (Consider Deuteronomy 6:6-9).
Hebrews 13:5 is another reminder of our greater purpose and the promises given to us. “ Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Contentment, by my definition, is NOT the complete absence of desire or ambition, but it IS a life not spent in needless worry and fruitless pursuit of the elusive, temporary “more” to the detriment of our true calling. In times of extreme ‘wanting’, that verse from Hebrews helps me to remember that the best is yet to come, and my focus should remain there.
Apart from that, when we have the promise of 1 Corinthians 2:9, what can we really want on earth badly enough to distract us for long? “ But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”.
No child or adult, regardless of their current circumstances, is immune to the ‘wanting’. Nearly everything in our path seems to suggest to us that we need more or even deserve more.
Families we see on TV are living in nicer homes and driving newer cars than we are. Our neighbor has a newer cell phone than we do. It is an everyday battle to be content; to be satisfied with what we have. Ah, but there is hope!
It is our relationship with Jesus Christ that centers us and brings our priorities back into clear focus. For those outside of Christ, fighting the ‘wanting’ battle is impossible; but with Christ, perspectives and priorities change and contentment is attainable.
Still, I know it will be a process of teaching and living and not just a single lesson that will ultimately write the ability to enjoy true, Godly contentment on the hearts of my children. I’m just thankful for the Word of God to guide us as we go!