Just had a conversation with someone that said “God would bless me because I’ve done so much for him in the past and that there’s no need to worry”. This was said in the context of finances.
And it just struck me that the place in my heart where this statement leads is a place I want to avoid going.
Because there can be the assumption behind this sort of statement that we could do anything for God.
And this sort of thinking may lead me down the path of entitlement and pride when things are going well, but when things are not going so well this road only leads to bitterness and disappointment.
And I think that it doesn’t matter in the least, what we do or don’t do for God.
Oh, for the right perspective!
For Christ has done everything for me! And he continues to do so today. He put himself on a cross for my sake and continues to intercede, that TODAY my very heart might beat, that TODAY I might keep breathing every breath. That I would be able to walk the next step. His grace is the only thing that sustains my every waking moment and it is his goodness is the mercy that keeps me on the narrow path.
So I want to walk in thankfulness and contentment. For I have everything I need and everything I will ever need. This is the path of freedom, this is the path of joy, and this is the path of contentment.
Prone to wander Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart Lord
Take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above.
There is the increasing conviction within me that humans are fickle beings, and mostly unaware. We jump from philosophy to philosophy, idea to idea, thought to thought, emotion to emotion. And we do this largely without a great deal of realisation or clarity. At least I do.
I am noticing with great regularity the inconsistency of my thought and emotional life from one moment to the next.
And to my shame I am noticing a stubbornness that rears its ugly head when confronted with another person’s ideas no matter whether they are similar or different to mine. So I am noticing a personal agenda that gets in the way of thinking that isn’t even clear in the first place.
So I am learning to think less. Ironic, I know.
And to just do more. To embrace more. Not in a fashion that I would make me fickle, but open.
To plunge into the unknown, not with trepidation but with boldness. That’s the ideal anyway.
And there is a marvellous peace that comes with a letting go of needing to think and work everything through. And a freedom to live in the now, to “smell the flowers”. A freedom to give the person in front of me the full and undivided attention that he/she deserves.
Perhaps Nike has been onto something all along.
And it occurred to me this morning
What if the man who speaks flowers into existence for the simple fact that he greatly enjoys them
speaks mankind into existence for the same reason
that is: he creates each of us to exist but for a moment in time to simply enjoy us
as he creates a flower for its beauty and fragrance, each unique in it’s own individuality, so he creates each one of us
and if we would simply yield as a flower yields to sun and the rain and the soil
he would make us beautiful in his time
more beautiful than we could ever imagine
so start here my king my lord and my friend. start with me. start with my heart.
This is a flower I bought last week from Pike Place Market in Seattle.
Just imagine with me for a minute…
What kind of a man would make a thing like this? And what was going through his mind?
A thing so meticulously detailed and breathtakingly beautiful, though incredibly fleeting and fragile.
And indeed imagine the kind of man who would make not just one of these beauties but a thousand million billion of these fleeting wonders. The vast majority of which are not seen nor appreciated by human eyes.
What fascinates me is what kind of a man would be so shamelessly extravagant with something so seemingly fickle and temporal.
A man of extremes no doubt.
And wild in his delight and joy.
A man who makes things not so much for function but simply for beauty and for delight.
A man you would describe as fierce and gentle. Fierce and fiery in his desire though gentle and tender in his touch.
Not to mention he would be a man with the finest sense of colour coordination in the world.
And this would be a man so unlike any person I have ever known.
The British Cycling team’s marginal gains theory goes like this: “The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together”. And as a casual though serious cyclist, I do think a bit about small improvements on the bike – such as increasing the efficiency of every pedal stroke, or finding ways to improve aerodynamics (i.e. shaving my legs :)). All of these things make a huge difference over hours in the saddle
And it just hit me the other week that life is a bit like cycling in this sense. Progress is not made in radical cataclysmic decisions (though sometimes they are), but rather it is the way we live out the mundane and “day-to-day” that is the key. It is the moment by moment decisions in the small and the unseen. It is faithfulness and steadfastness.
And I think that I have been living under an illusion created by the microwave, 2 minute noodles culture of our day. I have believed the lie that success and productivity and flourishing should come overnight. And so at many times I have been dogged by hopelessness and discouragement because I when I do decide to work at something – success doesn’t come in the 3 days I spend at the task.
Another analogy for the human being in this sense is that of a cruise-liner: steering the human ship doesn’t happen in a few moments – nor does arriving at our set destination. No ship ever constructed can do an instant 180 degree pivot, and yet if you shift the course by 1 degree, the eventual destination will be radically different. Jim Rohn has a pertinent negative take on the same concept: He once related that neither a marriage nor a business fails overnight. Cataclysmic failure generally comes from a series of small, correctable failures. I like to call these failures “one degree failures.”
So I am excited. I am excited for a generation of young people who can hold hold a balance (or fullness) of steadfastness and contentment. A generation who can continue to make these small 1% marginal gains every day will generate a ridiculous amount of momentum for change and for good.
There was so much to be thankful for this morning. So much. I am blessed to be a road cyclist in Sydney. I love it and I can’t get enough of it. This morning’s ride began in the dark and we were able to experience the sunrise on our bikes descending through clouds and into gorges while seeing the morning light change as it hits the clouds. I had a delicious flat-white to top it off. How could you not be happy. How could you not be content. It takes pride and jealousy leading to a discontentment says what I have today right now is not good enough. And God is not enough. And it is only human to slip back into that pattern of thinking. So every day I must remind myself that indeed God is enough.
The statement of the heart: “God you are enough for me today” is not some spiritual lofty statement disconnected from the reality that involves our bodies and minds (senses and emotions). Somehow the more you to get to the place of saying that with authenticity, the more you find that your contentment doesn’t come from the things the world tells you you need to have to be content. But you will find a real contentment/joy rising up that is connected to remarkably simple earthly experiences of beauty (a sunrise) and food (coffee) and etc. You get much more joy and contentment from the smallest of things and from the things in front of you. That is my experience anyway.
I may be labelled an idealist for saying the following, but I believe that a world of 7 billion people could co-exist in contentment without poverty (this word needs defining but not here). Not a contentment that is based on a worldly system that tells us you must have, and you must have more, but upon a system or reality that says what I have is enough.
In this reality there would be a sharing: “What I have is enough, and what I have is yours and what is yours is mine”, and in that sharing, a deep sense of community. In that community a deep sense of belonging and purpose.
If we could for a moment redefine the words abundance and extravagance. If we could begin to think of abundance as a mindset, rather than a position of ‘having’ or ‘owning’. And if we could begin to think of extravagance as an attitude we can take up regarding what we already have. Then perhaps we could be a generation of rich capitalists that could do away with the excesses of such a society that is sucking the world dry. I don’t think there has ever been a richer, more discontented, excessive society than western capitalism. But if we could begin to get a sense of the beauty and freedom of simplicity and contentment, found firstly in God (I don’t believe there is another alternative), perhaps we have the beginnings of a solution to world poverty.
So continue to dream with me for a little while yet – such a group of rich western capitalist entrepreneurs would not see giving away most of their earnings away as ‘sacrifice’, but as freedom. It would not be a burden, but a joy. For they understand that ultimate contentment is not found in having, it is found in simply ‘being’, it is found in a simplicity of lifestyle and a depth in relationships.
And of course, humility is key. A humility that is expressed by the daily reminding that “God you are enough for me”.
This post is part of an ongoing series on humility:
1. Redefining humility
2. The Freedom and Purpose found in Humility
3. The Beautiful Person
4. The Secret to Happiness