Ushering in contentment
There's something in the air. A generalized fall excitement, yes. But there is something else....can you feel it? Discontentment. If there ever were a Month of Discontentment, November would be it. And it's the exact month where everyone says we should be practicing thankfulness and it's also the month where everyone says we need to buy all the things in preparation for Christmas. In spite of this, contentment is really, really hard this time of year, and it's not just a 2016 struggle for me. Take a peek at these previous posts I've written along the lines of contentment/thankfulness/looking to comfort as an idol, etc.:
- A heart check and choosing to praise (Nov 2014)
- A simpler November (Nov 2014)
- The idolatry of comfort & looking forward to grace in the future (August 2014)
- Gratefulness for the past, present, & future (Nov 2014)
- A thoughtful grip (Sept 2015)
Discontentment is nagging and persistent and arguably inevitable if we're not careful. I almost titled this Minimalism is most difficult in November, or something like that. And honestly, stuff what I'm struggling the most with right now. Lately, I've struggled with browsing for gifts for others (not bad), but that led to a little purchase for myself here and there, or wanting to buy every single Christmas decoration at IKEA because we simply must have the coziest apartment there ever was and then I'll be happy. Did you catch that last part? "Give me _______, and then I'll be happy."
The trouble is that each new item or life event is the supposed key to contentment. And this is how discontentment reels us in: it tricks us into believing we're not too far gone, that contentment is right around the corner, but only after acquiring one more thing or reaching one more goal.
On the contrary, contentment isn't just something that happens to us. It's a decision. I'm reading through Ecclesiastes with a few friends and a note from the commentary of Chapter 6 said "one is well advised to learn contentment in this life." You notice that wording? Not simply "be content," but "learn contentment." It's not an inherent trait. Learning something requires practice and choices and repetition.
I was mulling over this when I saw my sweet friend Annie post about her annual project, The Contentment Project. She challenges us to do something differently. Annie puts it perfectly when she says,
So, for this challenge, I'm going to DECREASE my focus on stuff and myself and INCREASE my focus on Jesus and on others. Because my relationship with God makes me who I am, and affects everything I do, I simply cannot cut Him out of the picture.
That's it. Decrease our focus on stuff (including Christmas wish lists and decorations, living circumstances, and jobs and life comparisons) and increase our focus on Jesus. That's how we learn (and practice) and learn again the act of contentment. As Annie's title implies, it truly is a project.
For me, and my rendition of The Contentment Project this year, here are my goals:
- Shorter Christmas wish lists, less focus on stuff, more focus on practical items. And remembering that the true joy of Christmas has nothing to do with gifts or decorations.
- When I go to coffee shops, I'm gonna order simple coffee or tea, no extras.
- Filling up on scripture memorization instead.
- Confessing my covetousness and calling it what it is, not cloaking it with the term "admiration," but naming it in all its ugliness so it loses its power.
On last note: We all still need to dream. He created us to dream and gave us hearts that naturally look forward to the future with excitement! But let's dream with contented hearts, all the while trusting that God provides, and He's enough.
Keep you life free from love of money [or the perfect wardrobe or the perfect home], and be content with what you have, for He has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." So we can confidently say the Lord is my Helper; what can man do to me?" Hebrews 12.5-6