© 2016 Lynn Abbott
Necessity birthed creativity in me.
Since my parents had little money, I learned to create rather than buy stuff. As a family, we made do with hand-me-downs and “Penny Saver” finds. Life had planted us in some difficult financial circumstances.
Yet, Mom and Dad remained upbeat.
In jest, my dad always bragged that he bought new socks once every 25 years whether he needed them or not. My dad’s mother, an immigrant to America during World War I, had obviously taught him the fine art of darning socks.
At the very least, it could be said that Dad and Mom’s finances were a bit thin. And only by virtue of Dad’s “fix-it” skills did they keep everything going.
But I was complete unaware of the potential financial tsunamis my mother feared as she leaned over the old mahogany secretary desk to make careful marks in her large, black ledger.
When I came home with tales of the new toys I’d spied at school friends’ homes, Dad encouraged me to make my own. And I learned from Dad that there was nothing I wanted that couldn’t be constructed from whatever we had on hand.
I especially remember being enamored with a carry-along, doll house. I wasn’t really interested in dolls–just the doll house. Miniatures fascinated me.
Thus, one Saturday morning over Kellog’s Rice Crispies I described the carry-along house to my father. In response to my daydream, he pulled out a miraculous cardboard box, an Exacto Knife and the always useful, silver, duct tape.
Using the tape, he attached a cardboard roof, and cut a drop-down flap that could be secured shut with the simple turn of a paper fastener.
Soft nylon rope, strung through holes in the box top, served as the case’s handle. And Crayola added the necessary, finishing touches–that pop of color.
I was as proud of the finished product as any child who had received a pricey doll house. Actually, more proud.
My dad and I created that doll house with love. We laughed and shared the joy of creativity together. And time with Dad was worth more than all the store-bought, doll houses in the world.
Unfortunately, I lost sight of that valuable wisdom somewhere along the way. In high school, I began longing for store-bought clothing like that of my friends. And with earnings from part-time jobs, I purchased stuff.
Looking around me, I saw what my school friends had. And I longed for more.
My dreams extended beyond the material, however. I also wished I could recreate my appearance: acquire a more Grecian nose, a shorter neck, or a change in hair color or texture.
Don’t get me wrong. Working hard or trying to improve can be a good thing. The apostle Paul, in fact, admonishes, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,” (Colossians 3:23).
But when those things draw my attention away from Abba, the “worries of the world” choke out the seed of faith, (Matthew 13:22).
This much I know to be true–when that perpetual spirit of discontent distracts me, the broad shortcut begins to look attractive.
After all, our culture and Madison Avenue encourage such a path. If there were any doubt of our passion for “more,” our recognition of growing personal and national debt would close the argument.
At some point in life, the lure of “more,” or “new and improved”–the longing for the beauty, accomplishments, fame or fortune of others– plagues us all. We even long for good things.
Yet, we compare our circumstances to others. As an impatient and discontented spirit grows, you and I falter.
Let’s face it. The never satisfied, “I want it now” drives many quarrels. At its most extreme, it gives rise to war in this world, (James 4:1-6).
Obviously, that’s old news.
Scripture records a whole host of saints who have fallen prey to the unhealthy “I wants it”: Adam and Eve, Cain, Lot, Rachel, Achan, King Saul, David, Solomon, John and James–the sons of Thunder, and of course, Ananias and Sapphira. Each wanted something different–knowledge, approval, wealth, success, love, power and prominence.
But for each, trouble began with seeds of discontent.
Discontent invariably makes a mess. I know this. Nevertheless, periodically, the monster “Malcontent” rears its ugly head. In response, I impatiently run ahead of Abba.
In such instances, I’ve grown weary of my life’s lot, and instead of waiting on God, I push ahead. That always spells trouble.
Fortunately for both you and me, God “gives greater grace,” (James 4:6). He is, after all, a compassionate High Priest.
Indeed, Christ understands our weaknesses and the pressures we face. His first temptation in the desert–to turn stones into bread–capitalized on his human needs.
However, Jesus responded, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God,'” (Matthew 4:4).
From the outset, His earthly circumstances did not promise much. Our Savior had planted himself in difficult soil when He took on human form.
Yet, He focused on His Father. He trusted His Father to supply what was needed at the proper time.
Me? Well, I wish I could say that I follow my Savior in all things. But I have a long way to go. As it is, I frequently resemble Sarah.
Sarah, Abraham’s wife, became discontent in her circumstances even though God had promised Abraham and Sarah a child.
Yes, they had waited. And waited. And waited some more.
Then, seeds of discontent began to sprout. I imagine Sarah began to wonder if she had misunderstood God’s promise. She impatiently began to scheme. She may have excused her behavior with the thought that God wished her to actively forward His plan.
Thus, instead of persevering in faith, she took matters into her own hands. She suggested that Abraham should father a child with the help of her maid servant.
And her plan sowed long-term trouble.
Even so, our God remained true to His promise. Grace trumped Sarah’s discontented disaster.
Sarah, nevertheless, reaped ongoing heartache. Her plans had not satisfied her need or hopes, but rather had created a monstrous and complicated mess.
Alas, I certainly have been there and done that.
Of course, my mother used to remind me that I could not pick and choose my personal qualities from a catalog. And she also noted that things wear out and must be replaced, (Matthew 6:19).
Mom was right. The quest for “more” is never complete. Thus, when I pursue the makings of life without Abba, I become like Mary Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein. I create a monster.
Ignoring God and going my own way is like that. It’s tremendously empty despite what the world promises; it’s an endless chasing after things and transformations that never seem to fulfill.
Perhaps like me, you’ve periodically pursued Madison Avenue’s mirage instead of Abba’s Living Water. It’s easy to become distracted by the “worries of the world.”
Even Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, wandered. He describes his resulting disillusionment and discontent in detail in Ecclesiastes.
Yet, he concludes his treatise with hope: “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, ‘I have no delight in them,'” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
Actually, when I ponder his words, I realize that in this instance my interaction with my earthly dad particularly parallels my relationship with my heavenly Father. You see, the cure for my childish discontent was time with my dad.
And this recollection leads me to a simple truth…
When Abba and I creatively approach life together, I find peace and contentment. What I do with Him has greater value than anything I attempt on my own.
Paul wrote, “Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4: 11-13).
Herein lies the key to contentment. When you and I find ourselves impatiently discontented in the “whatever” life hands us or in the “wherever” our journey takes us, we need only talk to our heavenly Father about it.
Spending time with Abba, we discover contentment even in the midst of our “whatevers,” and “wherevers.”
I may not like my current circumstances. Indeed, life may throw tremendous obstacles in my path.
Yet, His grace surpasses all that you and I long for…
He leads beside still waters and restores the soul, (Psalm 23:1).
In Him, we shall not want. He is Living Water.
In His time, He graciously provides all that we need.
Thus, as I wait for His plan to unfold, I turn to my Heavenly Father. He helps me create beauty from the “whatever” I encounter “wherever” my walk with Him may take me.
In fact, you and I will find greater joy in what we do with Abba than anything this world can give.
Yes, in Him, we find grace sufficient to bloom wherever we are planted.
“But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness,” ~1 Timothy 6: 6, 7 and 11b
“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake, for when I am weak, then I am strong,” ~2 Corinthians 12:9-10