Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want...but the realization of how much you already have.
Paul hinted at the same idea above when he said: "Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am." -Philippians 4:11
I've been burdened with a certain sickness that is infecting more and more people that I love, know, some I observe from a distance and others that I pastor. It's hard to name, it's slippery and difficult to always pin down or diagnose. It often appears as an "angel of light"...it can appear to be nobel, godly, just, admirable and industrious. The good Puritan influence in our American religious heritage, often praises it as a work ethic that is maximizing talents or living up to ones potential. And sometimes I imagine those things are probably true.
But there's a darkside to this "angel" that finds its roots in our cultural brokenness and the fruit that is starting to grow is sometimes more sour to the taste than sweet. It's a identity crisis that stems from unloved childhoods. It's a hunger that begins to awaken in the unattended, unshaped, unguided latchkey lives. It's collateral damage in the worship of materialism. For some its a cancer that eats away a sanctuary of peace that was supposed to be built within their inner lives through a loving, attentive, instructive and accepting home and family.
It's a drive for meaning, purpose, identity that seeks to justify ones existence instead of reflect a peace that comes from knowing who one is apart from accomplishments. It's a childhood joy that is missing from so many hearts. A deep inward sense of just being loved, accepted and special that so many people I walk with are missing.
It's a task master that drives people relentlessly and often there is a wake of discarded lives behind them as they ambitiously ascend to the highest of heavens with the zeal of Icarus. Friendships, relationships, marriages, churches, jobs, good works, ministries, hobbies and careers are flippantly discarded once the juice is drained. Nothing can satisfy because nothing outside can truly quench that thirst.
It's a medusa like spirit or mindset that turns to stone everything that it gazes upon...in time. One can't look to long at something or someone or some place until it slowly begins to fossilize, lose its luster, change from beauty to ugliness. lack of contentment is eating away at the very fabric of people lives and the God ordained means of discovering meaning and contentment become the very things that are consumed and abandoned.
Too many people long to be great because...too many people were never loved greatly.
They are still looking for that affirmation, consolation and validation through their conquering of one task, one person, one goal or plan after the next. But no matter what is built, it just seems to be washed away by the waves of the next idea, dream, fantasy or longing.
For some they are like extreme Megalomaniacs. And though this post is long, the below explanation perfectly deiscribes many peoples inner torture:
Megalomania is an unrealistic belief in one's superiority, grandiose abilities, and even omnipotence. It is characterized by a need for total power and control over others, and is marked by a lack of empathy for anything that is perceived as not feeding the self. Although megalomania is a term often ascribed to anyone who is power-hungry, the clinical definition is that of amental illness associated with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Narcissism is most simply defined as self-love. Though it is considered healthy to care about your own well-being and have a healthy self-esteem, when someone loves himself to the exclusion of all else and others become objectified to be used only to serve the self, this is no longer considered healthy or normal. Megalomania is also sometimes associated with bipolar disorder; a depressive illness that is characterized by mood swings from extreme lows to extreme highs. During the latter cycle, people often suffer delusions of grandeur and feelings of infinite capability. They talk about unrealistic plans and goals as if these plans and goals are within their grasp.
That simply describes the hell many people are living within and subjecting those they love, to endure.
But true freedom of spirit can be found in the simple way of Jesus, who taught us that:
...the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great. -Jesus (Lk 9:48)
and...unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. And whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. -Jesus (Matt. 18:2-6).
It's ok to just be you in the Kingdom of God. In fact life in the kingdom is characterized by a wild, carefee, grace accepted abandonment that often seems childish but is actualy the most liberating wisdom.
Accepting our own smallness and all that comes with that revelation; is a life transforming grace.
“In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”
- Mother Teresa
Once that discovery truly begins to happen, everything takes on a new found peace and one learns to be content in every moment because they have new eyes to see, and new ears to hear...and a recreated heart that is finally full. This enables them to learn to find God, life, joy and meaning all around them. Not some deceptive mirage that is only found in accumulating accomplishments; but in uncovering what has already been given by grace and nature.
Poets best retell this, so I will end with this familiar yet regrettably unlived invitation:
Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
-Elizabeth Barrett Browning