Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Why Contentment Isn't Enough


Back when you asked me all your burnings questions, one of you asked, "If someone dropped $40k in your lap right this minute--what would you do with it? Can you justify going on vacation or do you easily talk yourself out of it because you could better spend that money feeding the hungry/housing the homeless, etc?"

Now THAT is a question.
In the 2 months since then, Cory and I have had 20 at least conversations about it. It's a fun one to ponder and I highly recommend it the next time your husband is relaxing on the couch with his nose in a book. :)

We've been all over the map. Family Vacation. Giving to missionaries. New camera lens (Cory). All of the throw pillows in all of the stores (Shannan). I daydreamed about replacing our towels and buying a good set of pans (the things that seem necessary after 15 years of marriage, but never seem to actually happen.) We'd like to finish the basement, and we tell ourselves we "need" to. (Another post for another day.) There's the despairing fact of our two troubled mini vans. And the looming threat of braces. And still, after all this time and all we've learned, there remains the pulsing instinct to "put it in savings".



Every time it came up, when the daydreams had thinned into the air around us and all that was left was the truth, we came back to this: We would pay off our house and immediately buy another one.

We'd buy something small and grubby, in our neighborhood. We'd doctor it up and figure out how to become landlords. And that's what we'd be. Against all logic, Dave Ramsey be danged.

If you'd asked that question two years ago, or even one, our answer would have been different.

But you can only sit around the table so many times with beautiful, broken people and watch the world close in on them before it starts to kill you a little. And isn't that the point of life? Aren't we suppose to lose ourselves?

We're in a season where God is making good on His promise to bring us a new community, and it's a community of brokenness and deep need. Patterns keep emerging, a never-ending rabbit trail, the curling loop of infinity.

It's the broken child who becomes the angry man who commits a crime who does the time who puts ink to all his pain who won't be hired who can't find a home who works for minimum wage who owes the system who doesn't see his kids who has no car who signs over his soul to a slumlord who is bled dry by greed who walks to work in the cold with a flame at his lips who wants to quit, wants to save, wants to dig out, wants to start fresh, wants to know God, wants to feel loved, wants to lock eyes with another human, wants to convince me his gang is full of "good people", wants to change, wants to move, wants to leave, wants to quit, wants to try try try. But can't.

Those blue eyes, they're so kind and he will never get out from under the system. Do we really want him to? Do we care?

We tell him to change, to prove it when he has, but would we even listen? Will his change ever look like enough to you and me?

Not when half his teeth are missing and "F**k the world" is scrawled across his forearm while our eight-year old sits with her bowl of soup, just two chairs down. Not when bed sheets covers his windows and he gets jittery when he needs a smoke. Not when he pays through the nose for a crap-hole because no one else will trust a felon. Not when nothing about him shows us he's moving up.

That's what we want. We want everyone to move up, to meet us where we are, but we keep climbing while they crawl and we know they'll never catch us. We kind of like it that way.

Do you want the secret to contentment? Break bread with someone who has nothing then watch their backs get smaller and disappear as they walk home on ice-covered streets wearing thin, zip-up hoodies. I dare you to go to bed that night and think about what you need. You'll fight sleep as you look around your cute, cozy bedroom. You'll swear you'd rip the fixtures from the ceiling and sell the duvet if you had to. Your cheeks will flame in the dark while you pretend your closet doesn't hold 12 pairs of shoes.

I've been so wrong, so long. This death is hard. It's painful.

People like to tell me it's okay to have nice things, or that it's wrong or prideful to get caught up in having less. I understand it. I feel some of those things, too. I don't think we're called to be monks or make our shoes from cardboard.

It makes us uncomfortable to consider choosing a life of lower means. We want our stuff so badly. I want it. I like it and I love it. It makes me happy, brings me joy, gives me something on which to hang a bit of my worth. My stuff defines me.

His does, too.

If I had this riddle all worked out I probably wouldn't be tapping these keys. We're learning to be more content, but I still have miles to go. All I have to do is look to the South, look to the North, and I'm schooled. It's in my face, and I still resist it every day. I find it impossible to reconcile the woman I am and the woman I'm meant to be.

It's not much, but here's what I know for sure about contentment: If you want more of it, stop only hanging around people who have as much as or more than you. Spend time with friends who tell you that every pay-day, they go to Goodwill and buy a dish or a pan or a sweater because a few months ago, they were evicted again, lost everything, and had to start over from scratch.

Here's one more thing: If you do this, you will never be truly content. Your wanting might mellow a bit, but it'll be replaced with the hot burn of injustice at point-blank range and you'll begin to believe it is your job to right some wrong things. You'll find it impossible to watch humans around you - humans you love - suffer.

The truth is, if $40,000 dollars fell into my lap, we'd take these kids of ours on a simple vacation.  As sure as I'm sitting here, we'd make an unnecessary trip to Target and eat somewhere nice without that fluttery feeling in our gut. And then we'd find that little cottage and believe that it could change something for someone.

I guess I'm some kind of a holy roller this morning. I'm here running the aisles because I'm tired of sitting still. I'm spitting into the mic, crashing the cymbal, begging you to believe we were given this job, to find these people and love them straight to the cross. Let's not be content with contentment. Let's believe it's our high honor to give a rip.

We can support them in meaningful ways and love them to the feet of Jesus. From there, the rest of the work is His. We can do this, friends. We can do the job we were given - a tangible job, nothing theoretical or hypothetical about it. We can actually do actual things for His kingdom here on earth. Today.

We can decide to never be the same again.

"Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone." 1 Thess. 5:14


37 comments:

  1. Yes. Love when you get "holy roller" on us because this is the stuff, girl.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm eating up your words. I'm feeling the same things. I'm grateful for your voice.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This knocked my socks off! Thanks for being REAL and for this reminder. I don't want it to just be a reminder, but spring board to truly being intentional about loving people, not just my friends, but those you would be surprised to find me with. Let's do this! :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Your prophetic and beautiful words (as usual) brought me to my knees and made me think of this quote from one of my favorite books: “Lay your life down. Your heartbeats cannot be hoarded. Your reservoir of breaths is draining away. You have hands, blister them while you can. You have bones, make them strain—they can carry nothing in the grave. You have lungs, let them spill with laughter. With an average life expectancy of 78.2 years in the US (subtracting eight hours a day for sleep), I have around 250,000 conscious hours remaining to me in which I could be smiling or scowling, rejoicing in my life, in this race, in this story, or moaning and complaining about my troubles. I can be giving my fingers, my back, my mind, my words, my breaths, to my wife and my children and my neighbors, or I can grasp after the vapor and the vanity for myself, dragging my feet, afraid to die and therefore afraid to live. And, like Adam, I will still die in the end. Living is the same thing as dying. Living well is the same thing as dying for others.”
    ― N.D. Wilson, Death by Living: Life Is Meant to Be Spent

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will now immediately buy this book and devour it. This is so on point with what I'm writing right now (my book proposal). We have to spend our life well! I almost put <<- that exact line in the post, but forgot. Haha. Thank you so much for this. Life is not short, it is LONG. We have so much opportunity to waste it. "You have hands, blister them while you can." This is SO GOOD! Thank you times a mil. xo

      Delete
  5. Well. I'm sufficiently wrecked. Yesterday was the first installment. This post is the second. So yesterday I'm studying in Exodus and there's this cross reference to 2 Cor 8:2-5 where the believers -- even though in "extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity...they gave beyond their means...for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints..." Cue the tears and burning conviction.

    It's been a season of ends not quite meeting {I know, that's way personal info here in the comments section} and so we've been praying for them to meet. It's not "extreme poverty" but it feels lean. I've stressed and prayed. But then yesterday I read that passage and realized that my prayers were only about my own needs. And so I'm asking that God will show us how to provide relief and to do it with joy, even in the midst of unmet ends. It seems like crazy talk and I don't have easy answers.

    Thanks for running the aisles this morning.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The combo of the post and this comment have me crying this morning. We are in a similar season as yours. I walk the house, thinking, "What can I sell? What can I make to sell?" And yet, even in this, I can give beyond my means, for Jesus is my abundance.

      Delete
  6. Just know, today, that God used your words in a BIG way. BIG.
    I will never stop being delighted when stranger/ friends are able to write the words that are stewing in my heart.
    I was so close to buying Miss Elizabeth's house. Just a bit out of reach still... And it leaves me questioning my choices and with renewed inspiration to live intentionally.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Beautifully said. You sure know how to provoke thought. As I sit in my warm house with a winter storm outside your words will haunt me all day. I must do better

    ReplyDelete
  8. It's not so much about replacing one idol (all the nice things) with another (cardboard shoes) but about living as tho it is really true that death brought life...that death brings life. That's what I hear you saying anyway and find it inspiring to continue on through the deaths, painful as they are, because Life is there waiting just around the bend and it will be worth it, oh so worth it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "death brings life" - yes. thank you for these words!

      Delete
  9. I have no words. Simply beautiful...convicting...and truth.

    ReplyDelete
  10. These words make me want to follow Jesus more and be broken and think really, really hard about some stuff. Thank you, Shannon.

    ReplyDelete
  11. This post echoes rumblings in my own heart so closely! Contentment in and of itself certainly is a dead-end unless it tangibly benefits someone else. Now I just have to figure out how to get that from my head and my heart to my hands....

    ReplyDelete
  12. Beautiful post! So much good truth! But, I have to say my personal favorite line was "All the throw pillows from all the store!" I laughed out loud at that. I hear you, friend! (Thankfully on more than just the desire for more decorative pillows.) :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. I love the snot out of you, oh yes I do!

    ReplyDelete
  14. now THAT is a ?. hmmmmm. so many ?'s really. I think you answered honestly. we have been getting a chunk of $$ every year for the last few. a pretty good sized chunk - not $40,000 but a good chunk. normally it ends up in our bank acct. we use it for the bills, the braces, the mission trips, the sports teams, the house projects, (sometimes a camera lens or a laptop computer), a good sized gift to help orphans. to be honest it just ends up joining the rest of our money. supporting the life we already live. I'm not sure that is good or bad. I wish we would sock it into something big and we always think we will. I want to give more. I want to live more. I want to give everything really and I hope we are doing that. I think that is what you are doing. giving everything.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Such a thought provoking post. So so true. Amazing how you can live with less. We have been there. But giving that extra to someone that needs it more, is even more important. I don't even mean financially. Alot to think about for us all.
    ..

    ReplyDelete
  16. Just beautiful! This is why I am doing the Seven Experiment and why I wrote Bountiful Homeschooling on a Budget and why we go to an orphanage in Mexico every year. This is also exactly why we don't have an xbox or a new car or many clothes that were bought new. We give a rip and giving a rip is fun and rewarding and a beautiful way to partner with God.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Keep these posts coming! Life changing

    ReplyDelete
  18. Every single word---A Big Huge Yes!! I so needed this today.

    ReplyDelete
  19. your heart's cry is one lesson after another. i read your mission on here, and i am always stirred by it. and i battle with how i can get past my own judgment. then i realize that i will never fully understand this culture of poverty, because i haven't grown up in it...and it makes my longings to fully let go feel hopeless....hopeless to escape my judgment and suspicions. but i keep reading what you say, and hope comes back. keep speaking....you are changing hearts.

    ReplyDelete
  20. This is good. I actually love that it's all over the place because I feel like this is what you'd say if we were sitting down having a cup of coffee. And I'd just nod my head and agree with every word, because I do. Thank you. :)

    ReplyDelete
  21. Moved to tears. WOW. Your words were on fire with a truth we ALL needed this morning. Thank you for the soul shake-up. This is exactly the kind of motivation and food for thought that will put the world in motion. Bless you!

    ReplyDelete
  22. These words need to be shouted from the rooftops and the pulpit, and shared in the quiet of our kitchens and over the backyard fence. Challenging and encouraging and convicting all at the same time.

    ReplyDelete
  23. This post left me lightheaded - it was a wake up call. Thank you for your words, your passion, and your fight.

    ReplyDelete
  24. So yesterday morning we met with a young man whom we have loved like a son. He and his wife and three children are heading to one of the largest cities in the world to work with women in the sex trade, to get them out. Hubby and I have had this dream of buying a small used motorhome and have been saving every month for it. When we left that meeting I told hubby that God is saying no to the motorhome and that money belongs to our friend Matt and his work overseas. Hubby said yes you are right. All there was was JOY! I wish I could explain it but our hearts feel so light. I love it when God gives such clear direction!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Covered in goose bumps! Sometimes obedience can hurt so bad, it can be a painful process. But once you take that leap, could there be a better, more soul-filling feeling??!

      Delete
  25. Every ounce of this is so good and so true and so hard. This is our struggle. Thank you for putting it into words.

    ReplyDelete
  26. when are you writing your book, sister? because i need about 345 pages of this truth.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I keep trying to comment on this post but keep getting teary and then I stop! We too are in very lean times and I am selling what I can and trying to figure out some little something I can do to make side money. We partially chose these lean times as a leap of faith- I decided to home when I was pregnant with my second baby because my small teachers salary was not enough to pay for daycare for both babes. We knew that, on paper, the ends would not meet but we prayed God would provide. And He has, for three years. Things have been lean but we have made it. I often find myself not being content and wishing for more. And I have even said before...we need to find new people to hang out with! Most of our friends have much more than average....and I love my friends but it totally makes it difficult. And it makes me un-content. Our heat is broken right now and this morning I have decided I am going to be thankful that we have a house and tons of cozy blankets and a wood stove with a fire while we save for a new unit instead of being upset about it being broken. Your words really just sprinkled salt in my wound in a GOOD way. This comment is all over the place but just know your words are powerful! :)

    ReplyDelete
  28. girl, we have got to get together sometime. just sitting here quietly, crying in my bed . . .

    ReplyDelete
  29. Shannan,

    I wrote a beautiful comment, that disappeared. It said something to the effect of I admire you, your vulnerability, and willingness to share your faith. I came across this article yesterday, and I think you will like it. It seems to speak to your family's understanding of your mission. Please keep writing!

    http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/taking-risk-god#jBA3OTdMdGusoEUi.99

    ReplyDelete
  30. maaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnn………………………. so good.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I read this quote yesterday..."Nobody gets into heaven without a letter of reference from the poor."-Rev James Forbes (via Anne Lamott-Small Victories) (PS: there is a chapter in there that you will underline and jot the margins to pieces--" 'joice.") I get the sarcasm here, but behind that is SO much truth and bare bones. Anyway, two years ago, I would have thought that meant a nice little mission trip and a coat donation or two for the needy at my school. That is a nice place to start, and full of good intentions, but that was blown OUT of the water. The key is in the relationship and friendship, the come to my house even though I'm a little more than nervous about it, the texts, etc, etc, etc. Thank you for this. Printing this one out and tucking it away forevermore.

    ReplyDelete
  32. I think this might be my favorite post of yours ever. Ever, and that's saying something because I love most of your posts. Also, have I ever told you that this is EXACTLY what we would do with our money too?! for real, for sure. Adam keeps trying to figure out a way to make this happen.

    ReplyDelete
  33. I'm so glad I clicked over to your blog today and read this. How blessed you are to have a spouse who shares your spiritual vision. Any advice for those who have spouses who don't share their vision? It can be a real struggle.

    (I used to see your new blog posts pop up in my FB news feed, but I'm not getting them anymore. I haven't changed any settings; any idea why, or do you have a new page?)

    ReplyDelete