Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Are We Really Just Chasing the Wind?

When I was a school girl, I thought, "if only I had friends..."
When I was in high-school, I thought, "if only I could be a cheerleader..."
When I was a stylin' hair stylist (before having kids), I thought, "if only I had a great figure..."
When I was a young mom, I thought, "if only I had a nicer house..."
When I was in the middle-school-parenting years, I thought, "if only I were a better mom..."
When I was first an empty-nester, I thought, "if only I had a couple more kids..."
Now...if only...I could lose the 15lbs...and move to Florida every winter...(in that order of course)

Whenever I focus on the "if-only's" or my "have-not's" my focus leaves anyone else and fixates on 'poor me'. 

All my 'if only' statements are external, temporary things. Things that do not ultimately satisfy, and are fleeting. {are you picturing it? Elementary friends? High-school accomplishments? Great figure when I'm 80? (okay, don't picture that one!) The house 10 years after a remodel? The inevitable empty nest?} Going, going, gone!

Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man's envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after the wind. Ecclesiastes 4:4

This week our STUCK focus was on becoming content (unSTUCK from our discontent) and can you believe we came up with more than a few areas of discontent on our list?  And it appears that different seasons bring different things that we struggle with. The common denominator in discontent is paralysis or bondage (ie: stuck). We get stuck if we are focused on the things we don't have. 
What is the remedy?
Realizing that God gave us longings, and that He wants us. (YES! He wants us!) He placed within us the longing in order that we would long for Him and that we would reach out for Him and find our joy and satisfaction in Him. 

How does that sound to you compared to a large vanilla latte? Compared to owning a brick house with grand pillars and white board fences along your grandiose driveway? Compared to a successful career surrounded by people praising you? Compared to a Hawaiian vacation every year?

At first glance, that Hawaiian vacation looks quite appealing to me at the end of this seemingly endless Wisconsin winter. Unless I were to compare my longed-for vacation with eternity.

Everything pales when you think of eternity. The forever place of continual discovery of God, the glorious Artist.

I attended the play Kingdom Undone last weekend. I was drawn in by the amazing artistry of the playwright and the artistic talent of the director and the actors and by the moving music of the orchestra. When it was over, my heart wanted to run and grab and hug each person invested in the play because they gave me something I treasured, a life-experience that took me beyond myself and brought to view a greater glimpse of God's amazing eternal story. I wanted to do more than watch. I wanted to 'engage' with the artists.

I think that is what it is like with God. Last summer I spent about a month in Montana, I marveled at God's artistry as the carver of magnificent mountains and the painter of stunning skies! Seeing made me want to engage more somehow with the Artist. It was so wonderful, so amazing, but it somehow STILL didn't feel like enough! I wanted something more. You know what I mean. You have had the same experiences. Where you delight in a moment, then the moment is gone and you want more, but it is done. There is a thrill, and simultaneously-or shortly afterward-a regret that there isn't more...

A true artist leaves you with the desire for a connection to more art, yes...but ultimately to the creator of the art itself... That is God's desire in ALL of His good gifts (Like friends, and houses, and our bodies, and our vacation experiences, etc): It's like He is saying in each of them, "Enjoy these displays of my love for you because I want you to want more of ME!"

If we enjoy something and never look up and give thanks, we lose our joy. We are left wanting. Thanksgiving is one of two keys of removing the discontent in our hearts, lives and frees us to live fulfilling lives of purpose and meaning.
The first key, which is necessary for thanksgiving to take place is found in focus. Where we focus determines our attitude. Our contentment is based on where we set our sights. 

So the first key is focusing our hearts on HEAVEN!!! If our mind is heavenward, our expectations (focus) are not on this life and the fleeting outward things that disappoint us or leave us feel unsatisfied. If our mind is on heaven, we keep proper perspective and can give thanks in all circumstances because of His promises to bless and keep us. And ultimately we know that He is going to take us home where we will be free of all the brokenness and longings of living this fleeting life. We will be truly satisfied.

Isn't that how we endure our hard things? Things like having a baby? We endure the temporary pain knowing that we receive relief and joy on the other side. Or doing a difficult project, we endure the work knowing we will have the satisfaction on the other side of the difficulty.

The keys to contentment then, are: 
Eyes on Heaven & Hearts of Thanksgiving! 

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 
2 Corinthians 4:16-18


Alicia said...

kathy, I LOVED this study and I love your wisdom tucked into this post today. I sure can relate to all your "if onlys"... so glad to know there's a remedy for that subtle discontent that can so slyly suck my joy.

Happy Easter, dear friend!

Warren Baldwin said...

Very good!