I love my life.
I love the way I get to use the gifts and experiences and skills God gave me in my work each day.
I love all the little kids in my life including two nieces and six other godchildren along with their siblings, cousins, and friends’ kids who bring me such delight and joy.
I love my quirky little rental home that provides a space close to work to retreat and welcome others.
I love my church and the authentic, treasured community I found there with people who walk with each other in the highs and the lows of life.
I love the college students I interact with everyday. Seriously, they are incredible. They are insightful, caring, passionate, and insanely talented.
I love the friends and family who sustain, support, and sharpen me… and just like to hang out and have fun too.
The last few months I have noticed how content I am in life right now. There are deep blessings growing in and around me I could have never imagined.
I love my life.
And… I don’t.
That job I feel is such a good fit… sometimes it’s completely overwhelming and just too much.
Those kids… I don’t get to see them all near as much as I’d like and some days, intermingled with the joy of their presence, is a longing for children and family of my own.
My home… its quirks stand in stark contrast to the dream house I walked away from a few years ago in the process of moving to Nebraska and it has some space limitations that limit my ability to host people in the ways I desire.
My cherished church… is 35-40 minutes away from my home. This makes it hard to invest and connect in all the ways I’d desire and means that some of my closest community is not actually geographically close.
My incredible college students who blow my mind every day with how awesome they are… are also college students. Sometimes I wonder if they’re using a single one of their brain cells when they make decisions.
Family and friends… well, they’re human, and relationships are hard, and we hurt each other.
In this place of contentment, there is also deep longing and desire.
Until recently, I wasn’t sure what to do with this seeming paradox. At some points in life I thought that it just meant I must not actually be content. More recently, I felt sure that they could both be true at the same time, but it still didn’t quite make sense and I didn’t have words to explain it.
However, a few weeks ago I was in a situation where a section of Philippians 4 was shared multiple times over the course of an hour. I have no clue how many times I’ve heard this somewhat well-known section of Scripture throughout my life, but on that night it was as if I heard it in a new way.
… I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.Philippians 4:11-13 (emphasis added)
I always knew this section was about contentment, but I had never noticed the reality that Paul never said his contentment came without any longing or need. Rather he said that he was content in want… in need… in hunger. Right smack dab in the middle of longing, contentment was present. Contentment and desire are not opposites; they can exist right alongside each other.
As I prayed and pondered this for a few days, a fuller picture came into view. Those hard things, those things I wish were different, are not automatically signs of discontent. Sure, those things (or even “good” things) could lead my heart to a place to discontent. But the truer reality is that both the “good” and the “bad” list above are all together collectively my life, my story.
A content heart is not one that never longs for things to be better or different.
Rather, it looks at all of life–the joys and the sorrows… the hard days and the delightful ones… the pain and the relief–and says, “Somehow there is peace here.”
And like Paul, we too can learn the “secret” of this kind of life:
I can do all this… through Christ. (vs 13)
Left on my own, this heart would choose discontent and bitterness every step of the way. Yet, each day my Teacher shows up on the scene helping me learn, again and again: I have enough and am enough because He is enough.
Jesus, You do not give to us as the world gives. You give peace. You are enough. You are all we need. You satisfy fully. And yet, when we find ourselves with desires and longings and needs in this life You do not shame us. Instead, You invite us to show up with all of it and talk to you about it. And somehow, in that space You show us how to hold it all with deep contentment and peace that doesn’t even seem possible. Keep teaching us today, Amen.