Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Disquieting Effect

On Sunday evening Jobina and I picked up our kids from my parent's house (we occasionally drop them off there) and we were hanging out before making the long drive home. My Dad mentioned that the sermon in his church that morning was on contentment. As he started telling us about it, he mentioned that the pastor asked the church to answer the question "Are you content?" For some reason when my Dad said that, I noticed that it had a disquieting effect on me. Ever had that happen to you? Someone mentions something and internally it kind of throws you a bit. Maybe some discomfort. Or the hint of fear. Emotionally you react to it and the overall effect is somewhat unsettling. "Hmmm . . . that's interesting," I thought, trying to be the professional counselor and being self-aware of the effect it was having on me.

Then my Dad mentioned that the pastor said that it was up to us to "choose to be content." That's when the disquieting effect really kicked in. I found myself questioning this out loud. "How is that possible, " I asked, "and what does it look like?" My parents must have noticed the slightly different edge to my voice and looked at me curiously. Later on the ride home I told Jobina about my internal reaction to the conversation. I think that the idea of contentment is something that has always mystified me. How can you be content without being complacent? How can one be content in the moment yet still fervently pursue worthwhile accomplishments and vision? What is the secret to this. I think that I experience moments of contentment but my Dad's comments stirred something deeper in me, a knowledge that my desire to experience contentment is not being adequately met. I have been thinking about it for the past few days and the thinking has been good. Sometimes a disquieting effect is just what the doctor ordered. . .

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone is ever completely content. In general i think i am pretty content, but if i think about different areas of my life, there are definitely areas where i'm not content. You can choose to have a positive attitude, but i think that differs from contentment. I don't know, i'm curious to see what others think.
Eric

Jay Boaz said...

It's an interesting quandary you present here Mark. I agree with Eric you can choose to have a positive attitude (or, conversely, a negative attitude), but that isn't necessarily contentment.

Perhaps contentment with life needs to be separated into two separate categories; material/tangible things and your personal being. You can be content with your car not being brand new, for example; there's no need to strive for a NEW car if the one you have is working properly. On the personal end, you would still want to strive to improve yourself, your relationships, etc.

I don't know if that makes any sense; I think I know what I want to say but it'd be easier with verbalization. Sorry!

Jobina said...

When i think about "Am I content?", I'm thinking material, personal, physical...everything. I think that with material things it's definitely a case of developing the ability to discern what I want apart from what I need and being ok with not getting something I want. Even enjoying the fact that I have all I need. Personally, can I be happy with who I am, where I am, what I am, who I married, my children, etc, or am I not enjoying the moment? Am I always looking to the next thing so much that I'm not content with where I am now? Physical-am I ok with my shape, size, health, etc. Can I love who I am? Or am I looking at others, seeing what I want to be and then beating up myself for not being that?
I want to live in the moment, enjoy it, celebrate it and thank God for it, even while I'm asking God to keep changing me and molding me and challenging my life.
That's what contentment means...at least to me.

Anonymous said...

ok here's a thought, based on Jobina's comments. I think there is positive contentment, and negative contentment. Positive contentment is like Jobina says, being able to accept those personal, physical, material, etc. things for what they are, but continue to strive for better. Negative contentment would be not WANTING to better yourself, because you are 'content.' I think it's important to separate contentment and laziness.
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