It’s funny how I’ve written recently about practicing contentment, but really do a pretty horrible job at practicing it at all. I’ve really, truly been wrestling with being content this past week. It’s so easy to just slap words on a blog and think, “oh, I’ve learned a good lesson here… look how I’m being thankful for the things around me and being content.” But the words really mean nothing unless my life – my mind, body, spirit – start to be transformed in a consistent way. A way in which I see fruit. And I will be honest – there has been very little fruit this past week.
So I’m trying to analyze why. Why I suck at being content. At least this past week.
Part of my discontentment is because time does seem to go by really slowly here. Even when we’re busy. Last week we were busier than usual with something going on each afternoon, but that just left me more frustrated and discontent by the end of the week.
Maybe contentedness was hard to come by because we had to drive across town a couple times, fighting traffic, once for a dentist appointment where we arrived 30 minutes late, and once to the Immigration Office, where we had to wait…and wait to obtain a piece of paper that allows us to take Kate out of the country (yes, we have to get permission to take our own daughter out of the country now that she is a resident – it’s to protect kids from sex trafficking – but nonetheless it was another annoying visit to a s l o w government office).
|Passing the time at the Immigration Office|
It probably didn’t help either that at the dentist appoint I found out I had 3-4 cavities. Yes, 3-4. I’ve only had to get a cavity filled one time in my life. I was not pleased.
|This is Kate at her first dentist appt. a couple weeks ago. Unlike me, she luckily didn't have any cavities.|
Then Friday rolls around where we finally have an afternoon with nothing to do and what happens? I feel miserable. Miserable because I now finally have time, but zero motivation to do anything. Miserable because I feel stuck at home again without any plans for the weekend. Miserable because even when we try to make plans, it feels like we’ve been there done that. Because we have.
But I think I felt most miserable because I feel incredibly guilty and even convicted about being so dang discontent. It’s embarrassing, really.
I know I have a million things to be thankful for and that all the small, inconvenient or annoying circumstances from the week are nothing really to complain about. Especially when I remember my friend who had her first cancer radiation treatment on Thursday, or my other friend who is 33 weeks pregnant but is stuck in the hospital indefinitely due to complications, or my other friend who is just going through a heartbreaking miscarriage… I mean, these things are heavy, and yet the truth is, I still find a way to be down in the dumps.
And so I wrestle. And start to analyze and talk with God about this stuff. And over the weekend, I was reminded of a couple things that have helped:
· It’s way healthier to be honest and authentic about your feelings than to become a fake Pollyanna. The truth is that our time in Costa Rica has been challenging, and to deny that or pretend that it hasn’t been so would be lying and frankly, prideful.
· God loves an honest heart. And plus, he already knows our thoughts and attitudes. You have searched me and known me…you understand my thought afar off…and are acquainted with all my ways. Psalm 139. We don’t have to pretend or hide anything. Instead, we can take all of our emotions, all of our thoughts, and talk to Him to about it. He loves us just the same.
· The Psalmists constantly were crying out to God, lamenting, questioning, struggling. If King David can ask, How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? (Psalm 13:2), I can too.
· “Suffering” – whether it’s true suffering or just a frustrating week – is part of life. Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trail you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 1 Peter 4:12. And as Christians, we are told to actually rejoice in our sufferings. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. James 1:2. I will say that this is the part I really need some major help on – considering it pure joy when things are hard. But I also recognize that this is a process, and looking back on our journey in Costa Rica so far, I can at least say that we’ve improved in the perseverance category. I will give myself 10 points for that.
So, these reminders leave me realizing more and more that authenticity is equally important to practicing contentment. In fact, I think in order to truly lead a life of contentment – one that’s not just defined by empty words – authenticity must always accompany the posture of being content. That’s how David went from crying out to the Lord in the beginning of Psalm 13 to writing, But I trust in your unfailing love, my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me. Psalm 13:5-6