Saturday, July 11, 2015

Contentment

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I have a really wonderful wife who grounds me time and time again, whenever I fall down some rabbit hole of self-doubt or self-pity. I've been in a bout of reconsidering my life lately; what I'm doing, whether it's all worth it pursuing a creative career. It's been sparked by a topic I covered here, and, through a whittling down conversation with my wife, has led to a realization that I have a "point of arrival" in mind and am feeling frustrated that I'm not there yet.
You know when you say someone's "made it?" That's my arrival, my destination. For me, it's doing a job I enjoy and getting paid handsomely enough for it to afford a comfortable life by the beach where I can work from home alongside my family (including my wife, who doesn't have to work because I make enough). Lofty goal, right? Well, what is that job? Five years ago it was making movies. At the moment it's writing books and maybe even songs. I know, I know...I should have gone into finance.
And so, with that goal in mind, I have spent the last decade or so laboring towards lofty dreams of abundance and pleasure. It was birthed out of a resolution way back in high school to not devote thirty years of my life doing something I hate just to make a living. But it's manifested itself in a state of restlessness that has kept me from enjoying far too many "present" moments.
What I mean is, my endless pursuit of the goal has kept me from enjoying the very moment I have. Every free second has been spent taking some productive step towards that creative endeavor, or at least feeling like I should have been taking a step, or maybe even just feeling guilty about not walking at all. The result is a restless existence of discontent, an ever-squeezing grip on the illusion that I have any control over my time, a pair of blinders that has both hindered my acknowledgment of what's around me, but also what's directly in front of me -- overlooking the present moment.
What my wife reminded me of tonight (and it's not the first time), is that all we have is the moment we're in, and to live a life of contentment means to exist in this moment with all the gratitude and appreciation that a thankful person should have, that a redeemed person should have.
 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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. (Philippians 4:11-13)
Paul hits the real crux with that verse: Christ is our source (in everything), including contentment. To learn to be content is to be close to our Lord through daily communion with Him, in the present.
I'm a big fan of Judah Smith, and once heard him say that we endeavor our lives towards goals that we think will satisfy, but when we get there (and he's one that's certainly "got there"), we realize it's not enough. And so, instead of re-prioritizing or re-evaluating, we simply set new goals and a new "there" to head towards. The cycle never ends until we realize that God is all we ever wanted or needed in the first place (our source and our goal); but sometimes we never even get that far.
“Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment ‘as to the Lord.’ It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.” — C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
I must let go of any illusion of control and any restless endeavor towards a goal that will not satisfy, and live in steadfast communion with my Lord, as He directs me and trusting that He provides. When I am in want, I need only patience and trust. When I have plenty, I must give. And when I am tempted to put too much stock in the future, I must thank God for the moment I am in now, because that's all I've been given; and that's enough.

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