Practicing Contentment

It’s currently naptime and I was really debating whether or not I should take a nap myself.  Unfortunately, the days of all four boys napping at the same time are becoming fewer.  And while I love to get a quick catnap in to refresh myself for the rest of the day, I also enjoy the peace and quiet of a still house.  So today I’m choosing to unwind by writing.

It’s a Discipline

In different seasons, I have attempted to teach my boys what it means to be content. I’ve learned that this is a difficult concept for the boys to understand.  We’ve talked about being grateful for what we have and not always wanting more.  I’ve tried to teach them to slow down and not always wonder what we’re going to do next.  And we’ve discussed not being jealous about what others have.  It seems simple enough, but the discipline of contentment is tough for all of us and it’s one that needs to be practiced.

I think contentment is often confused with complacency or settling for less than what we desire or deserve.  But this thinking is so flawed.  Settling for something brings bitterness and disappointment, while contentment brings joy and peace.  Instead of drowning ourselves in despair because we are never going to have as much as this person or look as good as that person, we can have peace knowing that God is constantly working in us and through us.  Even, and especially, in those moments when He asks us to be still, the Lord is at work.  We can be confident in knowing that God has our best interest in mind even when we don’t see prosperity in our future.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

The Secular Influence

We live in a society where we always want the latest and greatest technology.  We want to go on vacations right now.  We compare what we have to what others have and become jealous and greedy.  It’s that ugly part inside all of us.  I think a lot of times it comes out in our insecurities and the desire to make up for what we lack.

But contentment is not about “playing a part” to make it look like we have everything together.  It’s not about giving up or quitting because we’ll never have what others have.  It’s quite the opposite!  Contentment is about realizing that this is what’s best for us RIGHT NOW.  It’s not about changing our dreams, but about adjusting our expectations.  It’s about realizing our purpose in this season.

Just Be Content

By teaching my sons to have the right attitude and perspective of what it means to be content, they can experience freedom to look forward to what’s next without being consumed by it. At 3 and 5 years-old, this means being content with the lunch they were given instead of asking for more.  It means that the moment we step in the door from playing outside, they resist the urge to ask what we’re going to do next.  It means accepting a “no” or a “not right now” for an answer without becoming upset or disappointed.  This is not an easy concept to teach them, but it’s one I choose to work on with them while they’re young because I know how much it will help them as they grow up.

Another way that I’ve found helps my boys understand contentment is by being intentional with the words and phrases I use around them.  When my oldest asks to go outside but it’s not a good time responding, “that’s a great idea and I’d love to take you outside, but right now I need to put the baby down for a nap,” is better accepted than, “no.”  Validating kid’s requests and desires is important as it teaches them how God values every one of our thoughts and desires.  It lets them know that they are being heard even if their request isn’t met.

Practice

Personally, I’ve gone through plenty of seasons of discontentment.  Some were shorter than others.  Coming out of those seasons is tough.  It ALWAYS happens not when all my desires were met, but when I change my attitude and allow myself to be still and trust God.  It’s when I choose joy and hope instead of despair.  It’s when I choose to live instead of sulk.  It’s when I pray and seek to find my purpose in the present.  And it’s when I choose to wipe off the smudges on my glasses that are clouding my view to experience life more vividly!  These are the lessons I hope to teach and model for my sons now.  By planting these seeds, my prayer is that they’ll practice this discipline daily and find freedom and joy in being content in the Lord.

Let’s raise His mighty warriors TOGETHER!