That was me after some minor surgery the other day. Still loopy from the anesthesia and very content with my animal crackers.
Today is my 24th birthday and upon reflection it’s no wonder I am culture shocked by my new life. In the past year, I launched a new ministry, spent two months in the middle east with four different groups of people working with as many different partners. Got married and moved to a new city. lol.
After all that massive change I settled into a routine here in Raleigh. I work two jobs that I love but are the exact opposite of what I did before and not exactly my dream job. I noticed bitterness creeping into my life. General discontentment with everything anything. Those feelings escalated into restlessness which gave way to full blown anxiety about nothing and everything.
That’s when I decided to practice being content. I have attempted to ban complaining and wishing that (fill in the blank) was different. Instead I try to replace it with what I am thankful for in the moment. For example, the other day, instead of saying “I can’t wait until we get a better couch” I said, “this couch has served us well in this apartment, and while it’s not my favorite, it does the job” (I know it sounds dumb, but whatever it’s been helpful).
I’m still pretty lousy at this practice. I have a laundry list of things I want to change, do, or force someone else to do.
I have made progress though. I enjoy having some margin in my life. It’s nice not to come home emotionally, mentally, and physically drained everyday. The slow pace has led to a new anxiety. The fear of being complacent. What if this slow pace now leads to a life of laziness?
I don’t like the sedentary, overindulged version of Christianity that has infected many in the US. We have our nice churches and comfortable community groups and become complacent in a world running rampant with injustice. We do not depend on Jesus, simply acknowledge Him when convenient. Our lives our prioritized around increasing comfort instead of increasing the rule and reign of Christ.
With each passing month I am terrified I am being lulled into this lifestyle.
Recently, I was going around and around in my head trying to reason out how to be content but not complacent when I asked someone older and wiser how we can be content but not complacent (thanks Peter). This is what he said:
“Smug and self reliant [complacency] vs at peace and state of dependency [content]. Drugs and praying provide similar short term results, both affect our view of the immediate. Drugs do so by short circuiting the natural brain pain receptors to provide short term changes in perception. But as they wear off it creates a deeper depression habit loop. A death spiral so to speak. Prayer creates a dependency on Christ (not mindfulness or meditation- which are emptying) to help you see reality differently. Drugs change our reality short term-prayer changes our viewpoint permanently. Complacency is a smug short term inoculation of life and meaning. Contentment is the result of dependency on seeing and trusting in God’s long term approach.”
Those words surprisingly quelled my anxiety. I am quick to condemn myself for not doing enough. I need to produce more to be worthy. If I’m not producing, I’m complacent in the injustice. That’s not true. Because even in this season of “unproductiveness” the Lord has been changing my heart. and teaching me to depend on Him through the unfamiliar territory that is a predictable schedule.
It also reminded me of the hope we have in Christ. We can find peace and dependence on Him in any circumstance (honestly, I hear the christian-ese here, and I’m sorry). I’m used to finding it in the crisis moments and now I’m learning to find and cling to it in the calm as well. In a world of instant gratification, I have found taking the long-view to both incredibly hard and incredibly logical. My feelings towards something may change 20 times in as many minutes. Those feelings are real and valid, but thankfully they don’t dictate truth.
Following Christ isn’t about a feeling. It isn’t about being productive. It’s about letting go and trusting the Creator is in control regardless of the circumstances. Which means I can depend on Christ just as much now as I did when life was turbulent and I can tell my anxiety to shut up when it tries to convince me otherwise.