When you think of the word contentment, what is the first thing that springs to mind?
I think of a languid smile, warm summer sun on my face and the sweet, gentle smell of jasmine. I also think of letting go of all the bits and pieces I hang onto so furiously. Complete surrender to whatever space my life is in at that very moment in time.
I have come to realise that it is contentment that is ultimately the goal, not financial freedom, a house in France, a jazzy car, a wardrobe from Milan or straight A’s on my children’s report cards. When you really sit back and think about it, that is what we are actually all striving to find, contentment. Not success, not recognition, not fame or money.
Contentment is more often than not NOT the result of these things. We are led to believe through life, social standards and media that these things are the ultimate goal. In all reality it is actually finding the space where our souls are at peace that contentment and true success can begin to grow.
In our ignorance we begin to strive for all the things that we think will bring us contentment and happiness, the irony is that none of this will really result in peace and feeling ‘ok’ with the world and yourself. If we instead directed our choices to being content first, without all the baggage the world tells us determines success and happiness, how different would our behaviour and choices be?
This little word, which rolls off one’s tongue with such grace and ease, is by no means easy to come by. It is not like picking up a bottle of tomato sauce (or ketchup as the Americans say) and squeezing the contents liberally all over your toast and eggs. Oh if only! Contentment in itself is a journey.
This has been ringing in my head as I watched my life unfold rather unexpectedly in the last 6 months of my life with things happening completely out of my control and I had in that brief moment two choices, almost a bit like the red or the blue pill in The Matrix. I had to choose to either lose my head and my peace completely and get into a complete state of anxiety and distress or I could take it in my stride and trust that a solution was in hand. I must admit I have wobbled for a few minutes, maybe more. And then, I just let go, I made the choice to believe that in all of this there was a solution and I would get through it and be okay.
I am okay, God has the controls and I am not going to lose myself in the most effective aging product on the market, stress.
I am learning contentment. It is more like a black truffle than a condiment. It’s rare and once you find it you hang onto it and use it with care. Contentment is such a gift, it means in the midst of your lowest moments there is a gentle peace in your soul that says ‘life is good’ and ‘it will be okay’.
Let’s be honest – it isn’t always moonshine and roses, we don’t all get the ‘little picket fence house life’ but what we do get is to live with more than one perspective and an openness to possibility. When you have an outlook like this I believe it opens up other opportunities for growth and for God to do something new, something incredible with what currently looks miserable.
I say this with deep experience in the stormy waters, I have tried it the other way around and it really only helps you sink deeper into mire. Right now as I write this I am feeling like I could quite easily slip into something more comfortable like feeling sorry for myself but I am going to fight it – its better – for me, for my family, for my skin (stress equals wrinkles you know…).
There is a beautiful story about a widow in 1 Kings about Elisha and a Shunammite woman. In this story a woman and her husband make their home available to the prophet Elisha and ensure that he is comfortable and fed when he passes through their town. Elisha asks her what he can do for her because of her hospitality but she refuses him and does not want anything. She is content with what she has and with what she is able to give to Elisha. She knows she is where God wants her, doing what God wants her to do. Elisha then asks his servant what he can do for this woman and the servant tells him that she does not have a son and her husband is old. Elisha then prophesies over her and tells her that she will have a son and soon after that she conceives.
Now, is that is not an amazing example of contentment, that you are so content that you do not need to ask for anything and then even though you ask for nothing – God blesses you anyway. I am not saying it’s a formula – no – I am very wary of seeing anything in life as a formula – but I do believe that with contentment and an attitude of peace and ‘ok-ness’ – we become more open to opportunity and blessing in our lives. Sometimes the blessing is just peace, sometimes it is only something we will see later on in on our path but it is definitely there.
In contentment there is softness, peace, wisdom and stability.
In stress and impatience there is anxiety, volatility, unrest and uncertainty.