"Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God." Proverbs 30:8-9 ESV
This makes a beautiful verse, no? But if I ask myself, "Is this my prayer?"; I'm not liking my response. This verse is like others that are beautiful to read, and make great tweets and greeting cards, but are not as easy to live. You know the ones: Love your enemies; Turn the other cheek; Sell all your riches and give to the poor; Blessed are the meek. And really, the list could go on. But in this moment, it's the one above that I'm thinking of.
Yesterday morning was a typical Friday morning. My husband and I drank coffee and he did the bills. THE DREADED BILLS!!! Why does it seem to me there's never enough? Even as I write this I'm ashamed. I WANT to be content with what I have; but often I want what others have...(okay, now we can add 'Thou shalt not covet' to the list). I don't mean that I want to take it away from them, I mean I want it too! The vacations, the designer clothes, the restaurants, the shopping, the jewelry, the shopping, the cars, the shopping......
There's just so much to want!!
But that's completely contradictory to this verse! Now this isn't about obedience to God's word. The Bible isn't a rule book, it's a love letter. It maps out our Father's love for us, from our creation to today.....and that love is unconditional and never ending. My love for my kids isn't contingent on anything. So when I tell them things, it's not arbitrary rules so that I can test their loyalty to me; it's because I know what they're going through and I can help them.
That's what this is to me. It's not a rule to follow, rather it's a guide for living. For living the abundant life that Jesus came to give us.
So how can not being rich be a good thing? Isn't pursuing wealth the American Dream? As I read this and other similar verses, I know in my heart that they're true. When we have much, we tend to forget God. In our minds, God has become an ATM machine...we put our prayers IN and He pops OUT financial resources. Because we just can't get ENOUGH. Material satisfaction alludes us. It's always just one more pair of boots away. A larger house. Just a little bit more income. Satisfaction is far from us. It's the bait. It's the rabbit on the end of the stick as we're racing down the track. It's the whip on our backsides that spurs us on. Because somehow, we really believe that just a "little bit more" will make us happy.
I've found that happiness is easier to obtain than contentment.
A few years ago, you would have heard me proclaim, "I just want to be happy"! But I'm finding that happiness is fickle. If someone had told me that I'd get to live in an apartment like I'm living now; but I wouldn't be able to eat out much, I'd have said, "Who cares?! I'd be so grateful just to live in such a nice place, I wouldn't care if I NEVER ate out!" In the abstract, we think we'll be "happy" if only (fill in the blank). But the reality is that as soon as the "if only" happens, we up the ante to the next "if only" because the happiness buzz is a short lived high....it wears off fairly quick - usually in the time it takes for the next In Style magazine to show me the latest shoe! Now, I'm living in that fabulous apartment that was only a dream a few years ago, and I find myself with whiny "why can't I ______) thoughts.
Contentment, on the other hand.....now that's the trick. Contentment is what I yearn for now. "Having food and raiment, therewith be content" Contentment - having what I need today and not wanting more. NOT. WANTING. MORE. That's the hard part!
Contentment is basically satisfaction. Like a baby that's just gotten it's fill of milk and sleeps peacefully, knowing that when he awakes, more milk will be there. Babies don't worry. Heck, CHILDREN don't worry. They're pretty easy to please...feed them and snuggle them and they're satisfied! But those easily contented children grow up to be striving adults. Always striving for a just a little bit more.
And this treadmill of running frantically, wanting just a little bit more, just doesn't turn off. Actually, it's the same with so many things in our lives:
- Just a few more pounds (I thought I'd be happy at Sz 10, but Sz 8 is teasing me, oh wait, I can get to Sz 6!)
- A more thoughtful husband (Yeah, he works hard, but he just doesn't encourage me the way I want him to)
- A better job (I make a good income, but I think I want to be challenged more and make even MORE money)
- My kids are healthy and happy (But this isn't the life I planned for them. I wanted them to be a _______.)
See? It just never ends.
So that's my goal.....contentment. Happiness is easily scored high. But it's addictive and it always takes a little bit more each time to get happy. Contentment, however, requires nothing more than gratitude and faith. Gratitude for what I have. Faith that my needs will always be met.
And the wants? Well, those are pretty fickle too. If I can't have what I want (which frankly, changes ALL. THE. TIME.) I can want what I have.