Today I’m throwing myself a pity party. I’m being a baby, and I know it. I hate that about myself: these feelings of entitlement, of ‘being deserving’ even when I have done nothing ‘deserving’ at all,… of wanting what I cannot have. The list of things I’d do with $1 million dollars is growing, and I feel like a brat. It’s not attractive, and more importantly, it’s not at all God-honoring.
Last night I had a great phone conversation with someone I love so much who has hit a few unwelcome road bumps lately [then again, when are road bumps welcome?]. Despite the grief and disappointment that has come with those bumps, this person is trying to flip the coin over and look for something shiny. To see any flash of brilliance, any shade of light that might overtake the darkness of melancholy. And I appreciate that attitude. That kind of optimism, that kind of striving for hope, is to be admired.
Yet, I pointed out, while it is important to keep one’s chin up, it’s OK–necessary even–to sit in the pain. To feel the hurt. At least for a little while.
“Yes,” E* agreed, “…but in the scheme of things, do I really have it that bad?”
OK. If we’re comparing ourselves to the kids I saw in 2004 with my own eyes–using a filthy, stinking pit toilet in the middle of Africa, and returning home to a roof and four walls with no food and no parents–OK, no. We are blessed beyond measure. We are blessed beyond comprehension when held up to the rest of our world. Knowing this, and marveling at my good fortune should preclude the kind of stupid wallowing I’m giving into today.
In Philippians, Paul says that “He has learned the secret to being content in every circumstance.” [4:11]
As you continue reading, Paul talks about being content whether he’s well-fed or hungry, living in plenty or in want. I wonder if, when Paul was strapping on his sandals, he ever wanted new sandals. Better sandals. Designer sandals. Or if he ever looked around his tent and thought about redecorating. Or adding on. Perhaps tossing in a few extra floor pillows to “better minister to weary travelers.”
I know, ridiculous. If Paul was alive and among us today, he wouldn’t be pining for a new iPhone or new bedding or a new van. He wouldn’t be fretting about the catalog of dog-eared pages of things he wouldn’t be adding to his wardrobe.
Why do I give in to this trap of Western-bread materialism?
Do I honestly believe that the things lying out of reach right now will truly make me happy? Am I that person? Joyful only when the house is pretty and the closet is full and the car smells new?
That’s shameful. I don’t want to be that person. I want to live like that Tentmaker and know the kind of pure contentment he wrote about so long ago.
This has been hard to write, because in essence, today’s post is a confession. A confession that I have a lot of gratitude to catch up on, and a good share of sourness that needs to be scrubbed away.
Will you join me in the scrubbing?
What do you need to confess?