The Quest for Contentment

I surveyed the empty chairs in the meeting room, estimating that a handful of people might show up. After all, the “popular” seminar topics were scheduled in the larger rooms and would draw the majority of conference participants.   Soon I began to see a steady stream of figures coming up the walkway and entering the room. They poured in until it was standing-room only.   I never dreamed that a workshop on contentment would have such broad appeal.

The lesson I learned that day is that the quest for contentment is universal, and for most of us, never-ending. But what is this elusive contentment? Bing Dictionary defines it as “a feeling of calm satisfaction,” and goes on to describe that it is results from “a circumstance, or a feature or characteristic of something that gives rise to satisfaction.” The Merriam Webster Dictionary describes it as “the feeling experienced when one’s wishes are met.”

These definitions may well capture how many of us view contentment. We’ve all had those moments (however brief) when we’ve emitted a peaceful sigh and felt that all was right with the world. It’s a beautiful feeling.   Unfortunately, if we are only contented when circumstances are perfect and all our wishes are met, we will spend the majority of life in a state of dissatisfaction.

Scripture lends a new light on contentment. My favorite passage on the topic is Philippians 4:11-13. The author, Paul, who certainly did not lead an easy life, states boldly, “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.”

What is this great secret? Paul states “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”   He knew from first-hand experience that trusting Christ was the only way to be content, regardless of circumstances.   Whether chained in a prison cell or in the fellowship of family and friends, Paul knew that Jesus would never leave him.   He trusted God to meet not only his physical needs, but to give him mental, emotional and spiritual strength. Christ faithfully gave him an eternal perspective that enabled him to find peace and purpose in the harshest of times. As a result, he confidently proclaimed, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).”

The Holman Bible Dictionary defines contentment as “An internal satisfaction which does not demand changes in external circumstances.” Now that’s the type of contentment we can all have hope of achieving.

 

Money, money, money

working macbook computer keyboard

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Amazon Prime makes it too easy. In two days, I can have just about anything I want delivered to my doorstep. Add Alexa to the mix, and all I have to do is make a request from across the room and she places the order for me.

To be honest, I’ve been on a mini-spending spree lately. There’s something about planning for a vacation that transforms my normally frugal self into a zealous shopper.

Some expenses can’t be avoided . . .like the airline ticket, lodging, and the dog-sitter. But the travel wardrobe is my downfall.

With limited suitcase space, I’m trying to put together a collection of clothing and shoes that is color-coordinated so I can “mix and match.” Then there’s the fact that some of my warm-weather clothes mysteriously shrunk during their winter hibernation . . .hmmm.

Bottom line, it’s easy for me to justify my frequent online shopping trips.

But the “high” I feel from my short-term retail therapy always comes crashing down when I receive my credit card bill.

One morning, as I was reading in the book of Hebrews, I caught a glimpse of God’s perspective on finances.

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Some day my prince will come

bloom blossom bouquet couple

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I confess, I watched it. I turned on the TV in the wee hours of May 19, 2018 just in time to see Prince Harry and Meghan Markle kneeling at the altar in Saint George’s Chapel. The sight of Meghan, her ethereal silk veil stretching sixteen feet behind her literally took my breath away.

Later, I watched the entire recording of the wedding, captivated by every nuance. I wasn’t alone, as an estimated two billion people around the world tuned in to catch a glimpse of the American “commoner” marrying her handsome British prince.

The love story of Meghan and Harry (now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex) breathes life into a classic song from the Disney movie, Snow White:

Some day my prince will come
Some day we’ll meet again
And away to his castle we’ll go,
To be happy forever I know. [1]

The tune, originally released in 1937, is so popular it was ranked the 19th greatest film song of all time by the American Film Institute in 2004. [2]  Perhaps one reason is because the lyrics appeal to the deep desire that most women (and men) have to find their perfect soulmates and live “happily ever after.”

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming of Mr. or Mrs. Right. We are all wired with the need for companionship and intimacy . . . and marriage is a sacred union ordained by God.

Unfortunately, real life isn’t a fairy tale.

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My unexpected path to career contentment

Sometimes I glance at the two diplomas on my office wall and think back to the sacrifice my parents made so I could get a college education. They wanted to be sure I had the chance to go “further” in life, since they only had the opportunity to complete 7th and 9th grades.

I worked hard to get those degrees. I can still hear my college advisors and professors telling me what an outstanding student I was, even naming me “Senior of the Year” in the College of Forestry.

It’s clear many people thought I had a lot of “potential.”

But here I am, over thirty years later, serving in an administrative support role.
Many of my high school and college classmates have achieved lucrative careers and lofty titles. In comparison, it would be tempting to feel as if I have failed to live up to my capacity or wasted my education. Continue reading

Ambushed by aging

retail-store-metal-mirror-and-footrest2[1]It happened in front of one of those unforgiving, full-length mirrors.

I had stepped into mom’s adjoining dressing room so we could show one another the clothes we were trying on.  Instinctively, I reached out to smooth the white blouse on my mother’s slightly stooped back.

I was in my thirties, and she was in her seventies.  We stood side-by-side, looking at our reflections.  I think that’s when it hit her . . . hard.

At home I noticed a tear trailing down her cheek.  Alarmed, I asked her what was wrong.  Continue reading