Monday, January 24, 2011


Contentment is a tricky thing. I often feel content with what I have, and where I am in life, and with my many blessings, but then when I least expect it, that sense of peace and joy will flee and I'll be scrambling to recover it. I used to live in a constant state of dissatisfaction with my life and my circumstances. I always wanted more, and could never fill the gaping hole in my heart with possessions.

As a result, I was often off-balance, feeling two steps behind everyone else, and desperate to catch up and get on top. I see now that life is not about this, and when it is about this, you can never get enough. There is always more to have, or to achieve, or to own before you are at the top of the heap. And I have a sneaking suspicion that even when you are at the very top, it's not nearly enough.

They key is to be content with where you are and what you own at any season of your life. When we are starting out, most of us have very little, and that is the way we grow and learn. Married couples tend to fight a lot in these stressful circumstances, or at least we did. And then slowly, like the frog in the proverbial pot of slowly boiling water, you begin to accumulate more and more material possessions, and you can spend a little more on entertainment and food and trips without straining your bank balance quite as much, and unless you have mastered your endless need for more, it just keeps building with no end in sight.

Sometimes I forget to be grateful for how much we have in comparison to others, either around the world living in abject poverty, or possibly right here in my own town. When I try to describe war or starvation to my kids, they simply cannot conceive of it, because they have never known such deprivation. In the deepest place in my heart, I long for equality and justice for all, where no one is hungry, or cold, or unsafe, and wish I could give up some of what I have been blessed with in order to ensure that no one else is in need.

I realize that this is some kind of utopia which doesn't exist, and that God gives and he takes away, and as a human I can't come close to understanding the why of plenty and not enough. I know that I feel better when I'm simplifying what I own, and not being extravagant when I have a choice to spend or save, and trying to opt out of our society's lies about what we need to really be happy.

My family provides my sense of well being and contentment, as do my friends, and my ability to write which is what I most love to do. I can't take any of my possessions with me when I die, and I don't want to live under a yoke of slavery where I feel driven to buy more and own more. I want to be free of that pressure, and experience satisfaction with what I have. I want better priorities than I have sometimes, and the eyes to see where I can make changes so I stop trying to climb some imaginary heap to get to the top.

I want to be content, no matter where I am or what I have, because the secret of contentment is deep within myself, and not out in the world. I have control over how I feel about who I am and what I possess, and I can buck the system if I so choose, and buy less. I am much more than the sum total of what I own, and I want to look around with new eyes today to see the incredible value of what I have inside myself and in my relationships, and that is more than enough.

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