Beginning Contentment

DSCF4225

It is harsh advice for a suffering soul to be told to be content, to be happy, to be delighting in the rough circumstances.  Is Christian contentment something we should automatically have as a result of being in Christ?  Is it something we do?  Is it an action or is it an emotion?

Psalm 19:23 “The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble”

Contentment is fearing the Lord.  It is the absence of other fears.

Philippians 4:11-13 “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength”

Contentment is the strength of Jesus living in us that we might have the power to be rejoicing in every circumstance.

Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.””

Contentment is being satisfied with Christ and the absence of obsession over money.

1 Timothy 6:6 “ But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”

Contentment is understanding what we are, that we are from dust and returning to dust, that we have nothing apart from our Savior.

For the person who is in deep distress, making contentment a commandment misses what contentment is.  We just can’t look at terrifying circumstances like chronic pain or loss of life or financial devastation and say “Be content!”.  David and Paul both give us sweet promises to cling to that will help us find contentment: He gives us strength, He will never leave us or forsake us.

Contentment is the result of allowing our deep trust in a good God to seep into all our patterns of thought.  Contentment comes when we know fully that we are loved, that we have nothing to fear, that we have the strength of Jesus filling us daily, that the Lord provides for all our physical needs, both in life and in death.  It comes when we see Christ as the fulfillment of all things.

To experience the peace and joy that is real contentment we have to have a biblical understanding of trials, we have to have the perspective that Paul had on various afflictions and sufferings.  We have to become un-American and stop seeing trial as an interruption in our fulfillment of a good life.  We have to stop questioning God’s love for us just because we have a bumpy road to walk.  When we see ourselves as characters in a beautiful story that God is writing, we can see more clearly what He is doing.  Everything evil that we face is ultimately anti-God: death, sickness, slander, pain, etc.  He hates all those things. They are part of a bigger story in which they are being defeated.  The hardships are ultimately nailed to the cross and taken from us through Jesus.  All our losses are ultimately restored.  The trials are valleys that lead to higher mountains, evils that prepare us for greater goodness, pain that makes us ready for the weight of glory we are promised.  When we are truly able to see these things as part of God’s story, as a good part of God’s story that He is working for us and through us, we are able to have open hearts to be content.  Only then are we ready to believe that He will never leave us or forsake us.  Only then can we stop being afraid.  Only then are we able to be content with all the things He is doing in our lives, both the painful things and the lovely things.

 

Motherhood Mathematics

DSCF4284

Another day has passed and I have not used anything I learned in Algebra.  I have actually come to a point in life where it seems like math is doing more bad than good.  I’m sure I’ll find all those algorithms buried somewhere in my brain when my kids are struggling through high school arithmetic.  But what I really wish I could unlearn is the basics, I wish I could forget how to count.

I need to be especially bad at math during this phase of life.  My middle child has had trouble sleeping , and my oldest wakes me up to tell me.  As soon as I lay down again, my youngest is wailing.  I glance at my phone through bleary eyes.  That’s 120 minutes of sleep that I did not get.  My quick math is really stumbling me from greeting this day with joy.

The baby is learning about how many things he can reach and how high he can climb and how fun it is to splash in toilet water.  I leave dinner bubbling on the stove to run and rescue him from drinking from the toilet, for the fifth time in sixty minutes.  My simple addition, counting the times I have rescued him,  is causing a problem in my attitude.

My five year old grows faster than anyone in the family.  It seems like I am always shopping for shoes.  My credit card statement comes and I use easy multiplication to figure out how much I can spent on shoes in the last few months.  I cringe.  My math skills are impeding me from giving freely.

Mothers need to be bad at counting sacrifices. I need to stop counting the loaves and the fishes and comparing it to the five thousand mouths that need food.  I need to stop counting the number of times I was up in the night, the number of corrections I have given, the number of minutes the toddler napped, the number of loads of laundry, the number of handprints on the walls, the cost of food, the amount of alone time, the inefficiency.  I need to freely give, to generously lavish late night story times and consistent discipline and clothes and snacks and clean sheets.  I need to forget the number of times I had to cancel an evening with friends because of a sick child, to forget how to add up minutes when we are trying to get out the door, to overlook the high utility bill that resulted in a warm home and clean water for five.  I need to stop counting, stop adding, stop calculating the cost.  I need to open my hands and give every day and pray that I would learn to be bad at this kind of math.

8 years married

It was cold and crisp that morning, but the sun shone beautifully on the New Year.  The snow stuck to the branches and sparkled on the ground.  After a night of fitful sleep, I left my apartment early.  It was my wedding day.

anniversary

I grabbed my fathers arm and we walked around the corner, a sea of familiar faces smiling at me and every one stood.  I looked at my father, he swallowed hard and I had to look away so that I wouldn’t cry.  From the balcony, crisp and beautiful, the choir sang…

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor
Exultamus et in ipso jucundemure
Timeamus et ameamus Deum vivum
Et excorde diligamus nos sincero

(Translation: Where there is charity and love, God is there
The love of Christ has gathered us into one
Let us rejoice in Him and be glad
Let us fear and let us love the living God
And from a sincere heart let us love one another).

The rest of my wedding was a blur, every bride will tell you.  I remember beautiful words from my father and father-in-law, songs and toasts, so much food and wine.  I remember dozens and dozens of friends volunteering their time (some last minute) so that everything would come together.  Friends were cooking and setting up the reception and assembling centerpieces and vacuuming the church.  I remember sisters, new sisters, little sisters, and sisters in Christ, surrounding me as I prepared for my wedding that morning with gifts and words and hugs.  But the thing I remember the most was the choir as I walked with my father, singing Latin words about Christ and His love and how His love gathers us together, and then seeing so many friends pour out kindness and love without any recognition or return.  It’s like the words took shape right before my eyes, teaching me what is really means to love.

Where there is love, God is there.   Love is learning to see something from someone else’s perspective and anticipate their needs.  Jesus says it: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Jesus did it; He took on flesh to see from our perspective.

Love is the same in marriage.  It is like putting on someone else’s prescription glasses.  At first it can be awkward and fuzzy, especially if you have different perspectives on a lot of things.  But as you let yourself be influenced by each other your eye site changes and you start to see more clearly than you saw before.  My memories from before I was married are fuzzy, as if I didn’t really know how to see the world.  I have had to adjust, to see a new perspective, and I can say for certain that I love Jon’s glasses much better than my own.  His perspective has changed the way I see everything, and his perspective has taught me so much about love.

(Photos by Peter Roise)

anniversary2