Contentedness in the Midst of Discontent

I am currently sitting in a coffee shop, blissfully alone, with a list of things to do a mile long- such is the life of a teacher that decides to teach on her summer “off.” I was supposed to meet a friend here, but work caught her up, and we had to push back our meeting time. Since I am reliant on public transportation, the text came in when I was halfway here, but my first thought was that I could actually sit and write. So here I am, my large warm mocha with just a hint of cinnamon in hand, attempting to wrap my mind around the myriad of thoughts swimming through my brain. In the past, I have written about what God is teaching me. The primary lesson being to let go and trust Him in the midst of all seasons. With graduation and this new adventure in the city that has become my home, comes a new set of lessons I am learning to embrace with an open palm. This new lesson being in contentedness. Since moving into my quirky little one bedroom apartment in the northern neighbourhood of Edgewater in April being content is something I have struggled with. I love the city, but after spending almost an entire year living with or close to my family in Ohio, I have wrestled with loving it as I once did. My little apartment has many flaws, the biggest being that it is an hour from where I work and right for me and my ideal roommate who wants to live in another neighbourhood where she does ministry. Going from student teaching to substitute teaching, and into fulltime summer teaching without any real break was a poor choice that has left me exhausted. My goal of running the Chicago marathon this year has not only been 100% thwarted, but I have been kept from doing much of anything with tendonitis that progressed into tendonosis since May. I could dwell in the nit-picking negativity and probably come up with more, but all this to say I have been discontent. Discontent with where I am living, the choices I have made, and the consequences of these decisions. Discontent with how my plans have been changed and where I have been left. But then, that is of course life. Plans change, expectations change, emotions change, and we are left to pick up the shattered pieces of out pride and best-laid plans after thinking that we could ever really control the present let alone the future.

And this is where I have been for the last three months. Discontent and at times irritable from both the itchy internal feelings and the physical pain that has come with the tendonosis. I have stood shaking my fist at God like a greedy toddler asking why He is not giving me the desires of my heart in my timing while simultaneously shielding these same desires from Him in an attempt to avoid letting it all go to Him. In that way it has been the same lesson all over- the sanctification process is slow, and I evidently am not quick to pick up what He is teaching in that respect. But on to this new lesson and God’s timing. My Bible study group has been focused on studying the spiritual disciplines- a topic I have become very familiar with over the last two years and learned to fall in love with. With this, we were challenged to dig deeply into and meditate on the book of Philippians. This particular letter, written by the Apostle Paul, never ceases to convict me, and meditating on it helps re-centre my mind in so many ways, so I was excited to dig into the passage once again. And it was going well until I hit the fourth chapter. I grew up in the church and wore the sweatshirt in high school with pride that said Philippians 4:13. In middle school I would write the verse on my back during summer swim meets, but I like many conveniently ignored what Paul says right before this statement. And when it came to meditating on this passage recently, I wanted nothing more than to feign ignorance and escape the conviction I knew was coming:

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. ” – Philippians 4:11-13 ESV

If you are anything like me, this passage felt like a slap to the face, and I knew it was coming (see Mom, that Bible college degree got me something!). Yes, my plans have changed, and I have a pain I never intended to have. My apartment is not what I would like in the neighbourhood I want, or with the roommate I desire, but I still have a place to live and food to eat. I may not be (and never will be) in total control of my life, but I have a Maker-Creator who is and wants me to be content with nothing more than Him and Him alone. So here I sit, a flawed human being who still has those feelings of discontent and anxiety about the future, but a renewed perspective that could only come from the Lord. His timing is better than my own (as I have learned) and His plans are far greater than anything I could dream up. In these circumstances where I am facing plenty and abundance, He is all I need and my greatest contentment even when I get wrapped up in my own little world, with my own small plans. Through Him alone, I can learn to be content in all things for it is He who strengthens me.

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