The Christian life is full of (seemingly) contradictions. We are taught to be content, yet to long for heaven. How do we do both these things at the same time? Contentment is a hard one. Like myself, I bet you had dreams for your life. Plans. Big plans. When we are young, we make such grand plans. We boldly pronounce that we will leave town and get a flat, in say, Paris or sail around the world. Dreams are free. Free of cost, free of reality. Free of the entanglements of life. But all too often, dreams get canceled. We show up at the airport ready to board our plane only to find out our flight has been canceled. We bought the ticket, mapped it all out—and life happened.
Do you have a suitcase in your closet for that life you never lived? Most of us do.
Have you packed up a wedding dress that never walked down an aisle or put away baby clothes that were never used? Did you plan to finish college and got sidetracked by a baby? The move to Paris or Rome never materialized, and you live in the same town where you grew up. The job pays the bills, but you had dreams of a career in fashion or owning your own restaurant. You thought you would go out to conquer the world, but instead, you deal with chronic pain or depression, and conquering the day is all you can manage. Or you were going to show your kids the world and everything you loved as a child, but they live in their own quiet world that you can’t quite reach.
We set goals and make New Year’s resolutions. We storyboard and bullet point what we hope to achieve in the next year, 5 years or 10 years even. I can strive to write more, have less clutter in my house, and find something to be thankful for each day. But the truth is these aspirations often must be crossed out and re-imagined because life happens. We move again, someone gets sick, someone gets born, we switch jobs, we age. There are triumphs, of course. We meet the right person; we get a promotion, we start a business, we finish school. But the trouble with even achievements is that they fade, and we find ourselves longing for something else.
Related Post: What if Your Plans Don’t Succeed?
Why aren’t we ever content and always long for what we do not have?
We humans are geniuses at longing for what we do not have. If it weren’t that thing, it would be another. I’m easily tricked into thinking, if I had what I wanted, then I wouldn’t want what I have now. That if I had gotten on that “flight,” I would be happier somehow. But it is a lie. If we travel, we long for home, if we are secure, we want adventure. When we have responsibilities, we want none, and if we have none, we ache for them. We are funny, fickle creatures. We are always chasing something and always wanting more, or less.
I can tell you my perfect life as I’m sure you can tell me yours. We are told the trick is balance. But we can’t, no matter how hard we try, stay in balance; we just hit it once and while, on the way to being out of balance. I’m all for being mindful and intentional. Make New Year’s goals; I did! But what the Bible says in Philippians 4: 11-13 is true; we must learn to be content in whatever state we find ourselves—in plenty and in need. I’m always in both these spots in various parts of my life. Flush with friendships but struggling at work or dry spiritually but in good health. The life I wanted is not this. How could it be? I long for balance, for perfection, and something is always out of sync.
This Is Why We Need A Savior
If I could make it all work, I would not need a Savior. My goals are sweet, but small. They speak to the here and now, which will never, ever be enough. I can have the best marriage, kids, job, vacations, and it would not come close to being enough. One of the greatest blessings in my life are friends, as dear as sisters, and family I enjoy like friends, but it is only a taste of what I long for.
Achieving dreams is amazing. I met a goal of getting over 100 pieces published, and it was rather exciting and a feather in my cap; but it does not give my soul purpose, it is merely a feather, ornamental. I very much wanted our unique little house with the wall of windows and mid-century modern fixtures, but I have to be very careful not to complain about its lack of a second bathroom and doors that don’t close tight. Opening our own business was exciting, but at the end of the day, it’s a job and a hard job at that. All the dreams that do come true are still not enough.
God knew this life would never be enough
Our bodies were not designed to die, but to live. Hearts were not created for envy and longing, but for a perfect, complete love. Minds are meant for good, for edifying thoughts, not negative and evil imaginings. We use our liberty to create bad as well as good. We are victims of others’ free will, and they are our tragedies, as well. Thus, the world goes: broken, lost and hurting even in the best of circumstances.
Related Post: How Much is Enough?
The Bible teaches us to control our thought life, to think about things that are good and lovely; not because we will necessarily manifest a better life that way, but because we will need this discipline to navigate life. (Read about this in Philippians 4:6-8 NIV) It is a bumpy road. Sometimes the plane leaves on time and we get upgraded to first-class and life looks good; but other times we have to sleep in the airport, just to find out we are seated next to a fussy toddler (who is often our own!).
We are nearsighted, and God is farsighted
This post is not about how we miss one flight to make another, different but better excursion. Our lives are a lot of canceled trips, lost tickets, missed opportunities and so forth. But we are mostly nearsighted. We look at the life unlived and we mourn, while God sees eternity, knowing the end from the beginning. He knows our hurts and our disappointments. He is farsighted! Where we see loss, hurts and failures, He sees the refining of our souls. He knows we are pilgrims, just passing through.
As it turns out, we didn’t miss the flight at all, we are still waiting to board. It’s a bit of a delay, so we set about doing things, having families, working that job, putting our hearts into a ministry… all while we wait to live our (yet) unlived life.