Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cultivate: Contentment

Are you interested in cultivating something in your life?  Cultivate is my word for 2012.  If you would like to share what God is cultivating in your heart, please let me know.  I would love to have you in this space.
Meet Sarah.  Isn't she just lovely?  She has graciously put together a post that speaks about her own cultivation journey, a journey to contentment in any circumstance.  
photo source
Maybe I'm a product of my generation. My parents, with hearts of love, constantly told me I could do anything. And really, truly, I believe it. To this day. I’m not alone in this either; so many of my peers were taught that and believe that.

Maybe I'm caught up in the hustle. I love juggling jobs, friends, family, community, blogging and oh-so much more. When I succeed, that thrill of work well done is undeniably delicious.

Nothing wrong with working hard and hoping for good fruit, I tell myself. 

And yet.

And yet the crack becomes a canyon when we lose contentment.

Like my fellow type-A overachievers, I have wrestled fiercely with contentment for much of my life. When I got a B, I wanted an A. And when I got an A, I wanted an A+. Grades were merely one area where I was not content. I grew older and this want for academic perfection became a want for professional and personal perfection.

As an adult, I strive, work and fight fight fight to make this world a better place and love others well and use my gifts for impact. Good things, yes. But I easily lose grasp of contentment. I want it all and I want it all now. Everything from a successful career to a fitness magazine body to a rom-com-quality marriage . . . the list is endless.

And this struggle with contentment magnified itself last year. In just a matter of weeks, I moved across the country, got married, launched a freelance business and left a job. In one fell swoop, I found myself trying to adjust to a new community, being a new wife, finding a new job and finding new friends.

It's difficult to be content in the easiest of circumstances. Much more difficult, though, when all that's around you is new and daily life is anything but steady.

In that moment, at that crossroads, I found myself less content than ever.

I wanted not a new job, but a perfectly fulfilling career. I wanted not a good home, but an immaculate residence. I wanted not a new and growing marriage, but a flawless, head-over-heels romance. I wanted not new friends, but a comfy community where I fit like a puzzle piece.

I found myself only craving and rarely appreciating.

In the darkest moments, I gave myself little grace. I sought everything but contentment. Diminishing Christ brought more floundering and thrashing; I had no desire to wake up each morning.

When I'm not content with what Christ has given me, I lose grace. I disrespect both God and myself: thinking I know what's best and hating myself when I don't meet my expectations.

Today, I look back at that dreary time with this strange mixture of anger and praise. Anger because oh, how I wish I had handled things differently. Praise, though, because God constantly, daily, equipped me for the journey.

Slowly and gradually, God is using that experience and that transition to cultivate contentment. It's a daily struggle, but God is graciously growing in me a new heart.

God is cultivating contentment by opening my eyes. All it takes is to simply open my eyes. And a slow, methodical, intentional 365-degree turn shows me how and why. God is teaching me that only in contentment can I clearly see the gifts He has given.

Sometimes, He uses prayer to stretch me. Sometimes, sweet friends to convict me. Sometimes, broken situations and terrible struggles and falling-down-the-stairs bumps and bruises impact me. Sometimes real, genuine pain and heartache bring me to my knees.

God is teaching me to praise Him no matter how I feel and find contentment there. Thanking God for all that He has given me helps me build a grateful heart. Noticing the little things, the tiniest gifts, helps me life a content life. A life where I appreciate the place where I am.

Uncertainty, no matter where we are in life, is constantly facing us. Each day brings new challenges and today I am in a season of uncertainty. What's next, I ask in nearly every corner of life.

And in that very uncertainty, in that very darkness, God leads me towards contentment. Contentment with what God has for me here, today, in this moment. Contentment with Him, no matter what.


Want to read more of Sarah?  Of course you do!  Click here to scoot on over to her place.

12 comments :

  1. I have Phil 4: 11-13 posted to my bathroom mirror. I plan on leaving them there until I am living it out consistently on a daily basis. So far, they have been there for about 9 years. Still learning. So thankful for His grace and patience with us!

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    1. Oh Eileen, that is a rich and beautiful verse! Thank you for sharing! And I, too, am still learning. Grateful for God's grace in the meantime.

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  2. I resonated with so much of your post. And your words are so true.

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  3. Great words of wisdom there today. Cultivating contention is a life long journey. I have learned that it helps to remind myself that there are seasons in life. Maybe I CAN do it all just not at the same time. LOL

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    1. Amen, Jean; I am constantly reminding myself of the seasons. Grateful for your thoughts here!

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  4. Sarah, I'm in a similar place of discontentment. I have struggled finding contentment in this discouraging season. The thing that keeps me pushing forward in finding contement right here is the desire to not like back in anger at my discontentment, which I've done a hundred times before. You're encouragement for me. It helps to see you, a living proof that the season will end, celebrating contentment.

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    1. Jennifer, friend, thank you for your honest words here. Glad this story could be encouraging. If there was a magic bullet cure to discontentment, I'd have already sent it your way! I will definitely keep you in my prayers for this; if you'd like to chat further, let me know anytime! sarahkoci at gmail dot com :)

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  5. I think you have addressed one of our tougher lessons: to be grateful in all circumstances. It is so easy to get caught up in the ideal image of something and to constantly compare how we are lacking. I, too, love Phil.4:11-13. What a great reminder it is to be grateful!

    Thanks for the encouragement today!

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    1. Oh how easy it is to get caught up in it all, Kim, you are so right. Gratitude, even when it is fleeting, is such a treasure for our hearts, isn't it?

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  6. Wow, Sarah-- this is a really valuable lesson. "I found myself only craving and rarely appreciating." How easy is THAT to fall into? I appreciate your perspective on how that disrespects our Lord and ourselves.
    Thank you!

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