Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Beauty of Discontentment

There is a philosophy that says we can experience joy and contentment if we simply accept our lives as they are and focus on the positive.  It's just not true.  You don't have to feel guilty when counting your blessings doesn't make you feel better.  It never will. It's time to embrace our discontentment instead of shoving it to the side and thinking "thankful thoughts".

5 Reasons Discontentment is Good for Us:

1. Being discontent reminds us that we need God.

Nothing reminds us that we need God like a feeling of actual need.  There are so many beautiful prayers in the Bible that come from places of pain, distress, and being overwhelmed.  Of feeling angst and aimlessness.  God is there.  In those dark places.  He isn't hanging out with the people who are doing "okay", he is chasing after the heart that has sunk so far down it needs RESCUE.  That is what our savior specializes in: saving.

2. Our anxiety creates room for God's peace. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Thankfulness has a role here, but it is the how not the what.  We approach God with thanksgiving, but also with anxiety!  The thankfulness isn't what produces peace.  God's peace is a gift we receive when we need Him, only He has peace that transcends understanding that can wash over our souls to guard our hearts.

3.  Discontentment can be the courage to say something needs to change.

Good intentions to invest in our marriage simply fell victim to tight budgets, overbooked schedules, and sheer exhaustion.  I told myself it was alright.  Love is a choice.  Although I have a husband I can be thankful for, I have officially decided I am NOT content with rarely having quality time with him.  Date night was born.

Do not talk yourself into being thankful for a life that could benefit from change.  There is an element of mothering young children that will always feel short on time, money and sleep.  Instead of being content with martyrdom, consider how you might make small changes with a big difference.  Once you've poured all of your anxiety at God's feet, ask Him for some practical guidance (James 1:5)

4. Discontentment mean's I'm not perfect.  (Shocker.)

There is a real temptation for me to fall into the "Count your Blessings" trap.  It has a lure of positivity, control, and self-determination that all appeal to me.  Realizing that two small children can break me to my knees and create an absolute dependence on God is humbling in an uncomfortable way.

I have to be the real can't-handle-it me to truly know the peace and joy of the real can-handle-it God.

5. Here comes the Holy Spirit.

I know that real joy and contentment is the outcome of the Spirit of God in my life, not a sentiment I can manufacture or create.  It's crazy for me to realize that God's Spirit lives in me.  There's still plenty of "me" in me.  The Spirit of God is loving and full of joy.  I'm invited to walk with Him and have Him transform my perspective and attitudes, but that is a decision I make moment by moment.  When I find my heart is full of angst and discontentment, it's an instant reminder that I am not allowing God's Spirit to guide me.  Those icky feelings of bitterness, angst, or jealousy remind me that life apart from Him is far more difficult and less desireable than the challenging life I strive for in surrender to Him.


Inspiration for the discontent and overwhelmed:

O God, listen to my cry!
Hear my prayer!
From the ends of the earth,
I cry to you for help
when my heart is overwhelmed.
Lead me to the towering rock of safety. Psalm 61:1-3

But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength;Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning,For You have been my stronghold And a refuge in the day of my distress. O my strength, I will sing praises to You;For God is my stronghold, the God who shows me lovingkindness. Psalm 59:16-17

In my distress I called upon the Lord,And cried to my God for help;He heard my voice out of His temple,And my cry for help before Him came into His ears. Psalm 18:6

She, greatly distressed, prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. 1 Samuel 1:10

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Daddy's Little Helper

My heart leaped in my chest.  She chose ME.  I asked my 2 year old Olivia if she wanted to watch Curious George or come help mommy sweep the kitchen.

Let's be clear.  Olivia and her little red broom are not really helpful (observe the empty dustpan).  She spends most of her time wildly sweeping the crumbs I've gathered back under the cupboards.  

I didn't ask her to help me sweep so that she could clean the kitchen for me.  It was an invitation to spend time with me.  I hope that as I tell her aloud how to start in the corners and make little piles she will figure it out by the millionth time, years from now.  I hope that she learns a heart of working hard with a smile (and loud music).  Mostly I just think it's adorable when she uses the teeny red broom I gave her to try to be just like mommy.

Then it clicked.  I am "Daddy's little helper" in the Kingdom of God.  

I get confused about doing God's work because of the analogy of workers in a field that is used in the Bible.  It feels like I am busting my heart out sweating in the field, accomplishing rows of planting or harvesting, while the "master" sits in his big comfortable house.  I think that I am working hard to show what I have accomplished to God one day in heaven.  I think that I am a warrior, a worker, a woman to whom much has been given and who bears a great responsibility of stewardship.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  I am a baby with a tiny broom.

My calling to the work of God is an invitation to be with Him, to learn from Him, to work alongside Him as he accomplishes great things.  He uses another analogy about working in the kingdom of God that explains it beautifully.

Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.”

When a young ox was being trained, they would put him on the yoke of an older more experienced ox, to walk along side him.  By being tied to the other ox, he would learn how to do the work by doing it.  God isn't putting a light yoke on us, He is inviting us to join Him like an ox joins another closely on a yoke.  He promises that He is strong and knows what He's doing, so it will be easy for us.

I know it's oxen, but it's pretty intimate isn't it?  It looks incredibly annoying for the strong ox to have the young ox pulling the opposite direction.  I can hardly believe the God of the universe has invited me to be tied together with Him.  To learn from Him by shadowing closely.  To walk along side of Him as He in His strength and wisdom accomplishes great things, and to some how think of ourselves as a "team".

I couldn't imagine how God would WANT to do this, until I look at my little Livs holding up her empty dustpan so proudly.

It's so unhelpful, but so beautiful. I'm so thankful for the time I get to spend with her.  I appreciate her effort and am incredibly proud of her- not for her accomplishment or contribution to cleaning the kitchen, but despite the fact that there was none.

God doesn't want us to work FOR His kingdom.  He wants us to work WITH Him, with the tools He gave us.  To learn, to build relationship, and to try

Are you working for God or with Him?  Think of the ways you are leading, serving, or volunteering.  You'll know if you are doing the work with God because your relationship with Him will be getting deeper in trust, dependence, and mindset- not to mention He will be doing the heavy lifting!

Do you feel further from God than you would like to? He is inviting you to walk closely with him in his work.  Pray and ask Him to show you where you can work together with Him so that you can spend meaningful time with Him, learn from Him, and grow closer in your relationship. Consider how you can act in love alongside Him.

Daddy's working on a BIG and BEAUTIFUL project, girls.  Let's "help" Him out.