Why we must fight for contentment

Such a title seems paradoxical.

It is the idea that we must fight discontentment with gratitude and delight. We who are of Christian orientation have the great advantage of having an object of complete and utter delight who we worship. Somehow by delighting in God, everything else finds it’s rightful place.

In this world there will always be trouble. The question is how not to avoid it, but to be at peace with a life that will see trouble. Whether it be sickness of a loved one or self, or wars or famines or floods.

The life that is all together and good and lovely is an illusion anyway. For one, what we think we want we probably actually don’t need. And a life without trials or hardships is one that will remain immature and naive.

So I have come to resolve that I will fight for contentment. It seems counterintuitive, but if we realise that the default mode of the human being is to be jealous, to be discontent, to want more, then it starts to make sense. And if you throw in the fact that the average human being floats day by day in a sea of advertising, and media designed to make you discontent, then it really starts to make sense.

And we have all bought and continue to buy into this illusion. We are surrounded by messaging that creates a desire in us and tries to sell us something to satisfy that desire. and when we do, we feel good for a little while, but then find we must have more to satisfy the same desire. And our general level of contentment only gets lower and lower.

False idols, broken cisterns, that’s the Bible calls them.

So I will fight for contentment every day in Christ alone. To find my fullest love and my fullest delight in one thing alone, the everlasting fountain of life. For that alone will set me free. For that alone will bring me contentment.

So I will worship. In the morning and in the day and in the night.

Somehow it always comes back to worship.

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On Changing the world

“Look Hannah, I’m digging up the world!”

This was the exclamation of a child in PNG as he was digging in some dirt.

And it just struck me as an incredibly profound statement. A beautiful perspective that belies truth held with a healthy optimism, though most adults would probably dismiss it as innocently silly or naive.

The problem with most adult minds is that our perspective is tainted by a cynicism that kills hope. We also have been taught to value the big and the flashy. The immediate and the pleasurable.

And it takes a paradoxical understanding of all of life’s activities to be healthy and productive. That there is huge significance to every insignificant thing we do. And it is incredibly interesting to me that the child is able to hold the paradox in his mind with such ease.

And I am reminding myself this morning that the most significant actions and decisions, thoughts and words are perhaps the ones that seem the most insignificant. The world is there for us to change it. But it is to be done one thought at a time. Perhaps this is what Jesus also meant in a roundabout way when he said, “whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do it for me.”

We all grow up wanting to change the world. But we fail to realise that we must do it, nonchalantly, moving one pile of dirt at a time.

 

 

The Beautiful Person #2

Of late I have been looking inside of myself to find a bit of a jungle. Right and wrong perspectives and ideas, right and wrong thoughts and emotions all intertwined and mingling.

…but for the grace of God eh? At every point in my life. Every moment has been and is filled with beauty, and every day begins with mercy.

And we are much more the affective beings than we understand ourselves to be. For so long, human beings have supposed that health and wealth and life come purely from right thinking, and from knowing the right things. I am suspecting that, fundamentally, this is the wrong way to understand the human being.

And this is what I notice from my introspection – that there is a force at work much more powerful than having the right thoughts in my mind.

It is my emotions.

Emotions are what drive our behaviour regardless of any other factor (our thoughts, our gender, the time of day). For many people their behaviour is actually in contradiction with their thoughts and words – purely because they are unaware and blind of the true driving force. Indeed whether you are aware or not of what you are feeling, sooner or later, you will do and behave as you feel.

And a person with the emotional intelligence to know what they are feeling can only cover it up in pretense for so long (if it is the wrong kind of emotion). It is too tiring an activity to not live from your heart for any extended period of time – and not the way the human being was designed to live.

 

So what if I began to look at life and events and situations through this one priority – how is this making me a more beautiful person?

…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

For perhaps this is God’s will for us above and beyond all else: that we be conformed to the image of his Son. My point is that perhaps this is more of an emotional, psychological state than a place of acquiring theology and knowledge.

What if I were to apply this one overarching priority to my life – regardless of the money, regardless of the time, regardless of the cost – if it is making me a better more beautiful person then I will pursue it.

And while seemingly selfish, it is a selfishness that has complete selflessness as it’s end goal. For the beautiful person is not selfish at all.

And what a beautiful paradox. What incredible freedom.

 

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart

 

Fullness not Moderation = Life and Freedom

The real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite. Life is not an illogicality; yet it is a trap for logicians. It looks just a little more mathematical and regular than it is; its exactitude is obvious, but its inexactitude is hidden; its wildness lies in wait. – G.K. Chesterton

A great many problems with our psychology, and function, and indeed general human life and well-being are solved when you throw out balance. When you throw out the need for logical consistency and allow emotions and ideas to exist together as overlapping spheres.

Christianity has such a paradoxical understanding of life. It throws out balance.

Moderation is boring anyway. It is seemingly wise but potentially a seedbed for stagnation and apathy.

Extremes are often frowned upon in our society. But what if opposite extremes could exist side-by-side inside a person. I want to make the case that this is actually the picture of health. Rather than moderation or balance.

As you read the words of Jesus and how he talks about how to do life, it is never balance, it is never to do or think or feel things in moderation. It is fullness. It is a series of fullnesses that seem contradictory to our logical minds and so many of us then throw his teachings out.

I feel like I am trying to describe something that I don’t fully understand yet, but it is something I am experiencing. The dots are being joined in retrospect. I feel like I am trying to represent the beauty and intricacies of a tree perhaps by attempting to paint it with too large a brush and too few paint colours, if that makes any sense. But Christianity involves living out a series of seemingly paradoxical states for e.g.

Fullness of Brokenness/Fullness of Restoration
Fullness of Poverty/Fullness of Wealth
Fullness of Freedom/Fullness of Slavery
Fullness of Rest and Assurance/Fullness of Striving and Tenacity
Fullness of Satisfaction/Fullness of Desire
Fullness of Death/Fullness of Life
Fullness of Joy/Fullness of Mourning
Fullness of Simplicity/Fullness of Depth and Complexity

Life is not found in mediocrity, and balance and juggling things, life is found in fullness, and Christianity gives you the freedom to live in such a way.

What a beautiful man, what a beautiful faith, what a beautiful life.