That cosmic space
where we balance so gingerly,
where we so often live
between discontent and content.
Surely it has a name?
Presuming I know, I believe we are meant to live in that space as Christ followers. If one becomes too content we become apathetic to the cries of the world and to God’s priorities. We forget to listen for his voice . We may even stop believing that Jesus has the power to do something important in our life. We forget what it was like to just be walking in the garden of Eden with Jesus. An easy stroll in the twilight of the day — a peaceful not frantic moment. We just forget when we are too content.
But I can easily fall into discontent and quickly be overcome by bitterness and then I become hard to be around. Yeah, I know this about myself.
And so there I am dancing on the tightrope of life. Right now.
D i s c o n t e n t. With a capital D.
God’s quiet voice seems to be saying “Don’t push so hard Melody.”
I have wrestled hard. With myself. With God. With the voices in my head. I feel angry. And anxious. And lost. And frustrated and simply scared to be in the place that I am.
No real job (at least not for money) and no real prospects in the middle of the recession of the century. I am ten years out of the marketplace and have only worked at one organization for my entire short career of thirteen years. I do have certain abilities and gifts that have risen to the surface over the last ten years but they have little to nothing to do with my previous job experience. I could go on, but I won’t.
I am not content. I am so not! Right now, I am anxious. Feeling uncertain if God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit truly care about this conundrum I am in.
(But before you despair for me read to the end — there is hope in the struggle.)
Psalms 75 says “The righteous do not exalt themselves. God will promote them in the proper time.”
RT Ritenbaugh says of this, “In the meantime, it is best for all of us to be content with where He has put us … The cure for presumptuous behavior is realizing what God has given us, where He has placed us, and what is best for us at the time. If we work within the parameters He has set for us,we will grow and we will perform the task He has asked us to do.”
There is a verse in Song of Songs that talks about “bringing contentment.” Wow, that strikes me like a fist in the face, as even in my best days I am not that kind of person. I am afraid that my very soul is defined by what is aggravating me. By what is causing agitation. I look for it. Yes, I seem to seek it out. I’ve always seen this as a asset, or at least a (somewhat) good thing, in that my voice is one that (perhaps) needs to be heard? But I also have my doubts about whether this is true, or effective, with such a state of discontent radiating through it? Yes, my heart and mind and soul gets shaken and moved by the things of this world — stories of the downtrodden, powerless and those that are experiencing injustice. And yet, I so long to be a person that brings contentment. It’s an amazing concept.
My soul longs for that to be true. Of me.
In the Hebrew, the word that is translated “contentment” is shalom. Completeness, soundness, safety, peace, quiet, tranquility, contentment, friendship, peace (from war). The noun comes from a verb that means to be in a covenant of peace, to cause to be at peace, to be complete, to be finished, to make safe, to restore.
Being that person won’t just happen. It is uncomfortable to think about how little I bring that to people I meet every day! May I have courage enough to ask God for that! That is my prayer.
These are the questions I wonder:
Am I a safe person? Do I help others to be more at peace? Do I cause others to hide from me? What aspects of my life bring restoration, peace and safety to others? Even the Apostle Paul says he learned to be content. (Philippians 4.) If Paul the great agitator can learn it, surely I can. Apparently that didn’t just happen for him when he became a follower of Jesus, but he found over time that he could count on Christ to meet his every need.
I guess being discontent conveys that we don’t totally trust that God has a plan. Something good. It makes me remember the Israelites in the OT who were such a terrible group, an example of lack of trusting God for any goodness in their lives. Such chronic whiners they were constantly rejecting the manna, which was provided by God, a daily source of strength. They thought wasn’t good enough. Too blah, too bland. That is eerily familiar. Yikes, I have to ask myself honestly:
Am I also rejecting God’s provision saying “Too bland Lord. Surely there is m o r e?”
Jesus is the “true manna which came down from heaven.” (John 6:33) Am I not throwing my own cosmic tantrum saying that it’s inadequate?
Is Jesus enough? Can I forget about my surroundings (of being a jobless stay-at-home mom) long enough to walk with him in the garden?
- to be with Jesus in the garden.
- to trust Jesus to make me into a person of peace, safety and restoration.
- to not allow my circumstances to distract me from what is important and true.
And then, and only then, I may be a person that brings peace, Jesus’ shalom, to a world that is so chronically dissatisfied, stale, empty, barren, hungry, and afraid.
My soul longs for that to be true.
This is what got me writing today which was not in the plan. Reading the blog: A Holy Experience.
3 thoughts on “dance on the tightrope of life”
I think this is one of the most important discussions on this that I have read. I was particularly moved by your reference to Paul and how he, “the great agitator”, learnt to be content. What struck me, though, and really got me thinking more on this, is your idea that our being discontent reveals our lack of trust in God’s plan for us. That may be so but I never feel quite comfortable with that. I think it is difficult to live in our world as it is and not feel a sense of discontent except if one chose to turn a blind eye to the injustices that are all around us. But what does one do? What is one supposed to do? I don’t know. I have struggled with this and am beginning to accept the fact that we must live life with humility and try as best as we are able, to lessen the pain around us and in us (sort of our attempt at redemption). It is beyond our capacity, I think, to guess what God has in mind for all of us. He has chosen to make the full deck known to none of us that our only job is to play the hand we are dealt. The hand we are dealt is a very infelicitous way of referring to our small portion of grace.
The Bible teaches us the importance of redemption. For example, we learn that Jacob’s trickery brings him to the point of ruin as Esau approaches with 300 followers, and his wrestling with the angel alone at the river bank changes him. Jacob’s favoritism towards Rachel’s children and Joseph’s arrogance sets in motion a tragedy, but Joseph and Judah both change and are redeemed; David sins and repents, and is punished terribly through the death of Absolam, but is ultimately redeemed. Which also brings up the story of Job? What did he do to deserve his fate? There is absolutely nothing beautiful about his suffering.
@Uche – Yes it is absolutely more complicated than one vs. the other. I do think we can learn to live in full trust of our creator and still burn with a righteous fury at the injustices in the world. But as we sometimes are in a place of waiting, it is important to trust that God is still at work. I have never experienced trials and pain like Job. I can only hope my response will be Godly is that occurs. There just is injustice. I choose to believe it is because of the choices of humankind. It is only God’s fault in that He offered us free will. Free to fuck up the earth, our relationships, et al. And we have. So as you say, we now must be fully aware of the injustice around us and allow it to profoundly affect us.
I guess when I talked about contentment vs. discontent I mean our internal space — heart, mind and soul’s response to today, now!
Thanks for ocmmenting. I love comments!
Thanks you for your reply. I think that what you wrote about the need for internal peace by humans trusting in God even when the outside world does not match our expectations for decency is true. I confess that I have not gotten there but it is a place that I will not only like to get to but also enjoying being at, always trusting in God. It has been sort of a struggle for me even though I know better.
I referenced Job as an example of the inscrutability of God’s mind. I’m sorry if it came across that I think that my suffering or those of anyone is equal to those of Job. It is my clumsy way of trying to explain how hard it is to find an analogy between the workings of our mind and the divine mind. But as you said, by giving us free will, God allowed us to choose even when the choices we make compound the tragedies of the world.
Do you think that the world is tragic because God deliberately made it so even though He gave us free will? It seems, at least from where I am and after reading Philippians 2, that human beings are born into this world to be slaves, to suffer? At least that seems like Slaves, as you know do suffer. Some more than others but they all suffer.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (vv. 5-7, ESV)