Noah and I decided to visit our local Wal-Mart yesterday. As we closed the door to our house and walked toward the car, I was immediately perspiring. Carrying my 24 lb man-baby and a rather large diaper bag, I grumbled to myself, “Holy moly it’s HOT out here!!! Why did I bother taking a shower this morning?!”
I got Noah strapped in the backseat of my little 2-door Ford Focus, climbed my way out, wiped my forehead, and climbed back into the driver’s seat to get the air blasting. I checked the rear-view mirror and saw Noah happily reading one of his books.
We stopped at the bank first, waiting in a long line of cars for our turn to send a deposit through those nifty rocket blasting containers. I had the music on and occasionally looked back to check on Noah. He looked a little flushed, but happy as he stared out the window at the swaying tree branches.
When we got to the Wal-Mart, I pulled out the stroller first, got it ready, and then climbed back to extract Noah from his seat. When I popped up next to him he gave me a big smile and sweet little, “Baba!” and showed me a picture in his book. I smiled back at my precious monkey and started to unbuckle him.
As I put my hands around his torso to pull him out, I felt wetness! Noah was soaked with sweat! The back of his head was all matted and curling from sweat. The back of his shirt was so damp I could have literally wrung it out right there in the parking lot and made a puddle. Even with the air blasting in the front of the car, Noah’s rear-facing car seat hadn’t benefited from the gale-force winds. I felt horrible!
But looking at Noah, all dripping and smiley, I realized that he was as content as a duck in a pond. He didn’t mind the popsicle-melting-in-3-seconds weather. He was perfectly happy sitting in his sweat, looking out the window and reading his book.
I immediately thought of the Scripture verse, “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” from 1 Timothy 6:6. I looked at my boy and praised him for having a heart of contentment in spite of his uncomfortable circumstance. Then I thanked the Lord for giving Noah this quality and prayed that He would continue to develop this virtue in him for the rest of his days.
What exactly is contentment and how is it gained? As I pushed Noah through Wal-Mart I asked the Lord to teach me more about this character trait that Paul stresses in his letter to Timothy. Here are a few of my thoughts…
1. Contentment comes from having a grateful heart. Instead of sitting in the backseat complaining about the heat, I imagine Noah was thinking, “Oh how I love my book! Thank you God for this great book!” and “Oh, wow, look at those trees dancing back and forth in the wind! Thank you God for the beauty of the earth!” Noah’s ability to look beyond his discomfort and focus on the blessings God had placed around him is evidence of a life marked by the presence of the Lord. As Christians our goal should be to put off the negative things – the complaining, the craving, and the comparing – and put on the new qualities of conforming to Christ. Jesus was the best at living with little and remaining happy about it! He ALWAYS gave thanks to His Father. Even in the garden His final surrender, “Not my will, but your will,” was an example of His gratitude to the Father for always having a better plan in spite of what it was going to feel like.
2. The more grateful we are, the HAPPIER we are. To be content is to be grateful, and to be grateful brings great JOY! I recently went to a friend’s house that she had just finished renovating with her husband. As I walked from room to room and noticed the beautiful decorative molding, the custom-made drapes and bedding, the carefully planned paint choices, etc., I felt a growing sense of envy in the pit of my stomach. I caught myself having thoughts like, “Why can’t we afford molding like that?” and “Why can’t my house be clutter-free? If only we could afford a storage unit…” and “This gal is such a good decorator… My home looks like a disaster!” The more my eyes took in, the more my thoughts spiraled down into a place of want and resentment and feeling like a failure because I couldn’t make a house look as nice as my friend had.
When I got home that night, I immediately started cleaning. I tore open every closet and drawer I could find and started throwing things away in a determination to clear the clutter and make my home better. For days I sifted through our house, looking at everything and thinking, “Would my friend put that there?” and “She would never have painted her walls like this!” and “We need new carpets because of all Noah’s poop explosions and spit ups!” I went to Ryan several times with comments like, “Do you think we could put up some new molding in the study?” and “Let’s re-paint this room – it looks awful!” In my quest to be “happier”, though, I started to hurt Ryan’s feelings. Ryan works his TAIL off to provide us with everything we could possibly need and allow me to stay home with Noah. My comments were beginning to make him feel like a failure because there just isn’t money in the budget for redecorating.
God convicted me of this last week as I sat in His presence wondering why my heart felt so heavy. Comparing and craving and complaining are such joy stealers! God whispered, “Julie, look around you. You have a home which has been decorated beautifully with my love. You have an amazing husband who is wise and strong and leading your family in my ways. You have an incredible son who is healthy and growing. Your home doesn’t have to look like it’s out of a magazine. What it needs to be is a place where my Spirit lives and where your husband and son sense my peace and guests sense my presence. That’s all that matters.”
I opened my eyes and looked around our home – the couch which we bargained with the seller down to a steal, the comfy chair that God provided that just “happened” to match our dining chairs perfectly, the entertainment hutch given to us from a friend… There are so many things about our home that are evidence of God’s provision – not my spending hours at designer stores looking for just the right pieces. It’s way more magical that HE decorated my home and not someone I hired.
So I began thanking God for His provisions and in the process found my joy again.
Walking through the Wal-Mart and looking at my son who was happily trying to pull all of the rice bags off of the shelf, I realized that contentment is indeed great gain. Next time I am tempted to focus on myself, I am going to remember to be like Noah – be grateful for what God has done, be satisfied in that, and walk in His joy.
Even if I’m sweaty.