I mentioned in a previous post that I was going to attempt to be less critical. You may have wondered why there were no further reports on progress … and in an effort not to be critical of myself, I’ll refrain from comment and leave you to surmise for yourself how it’s been going.
With that in mind, I have been considering what to do about Lent this year … Lent wasn’t something we really did growing up, and I really only began to be much aware of it, or consider it, when I went to work at DePaul. One year I gave up chocolate, one year cupcakes, but really the best – in the sense of the most challenging, productive, thought-provoking, and meaningful endeavor – was the year I gave up complaining. This is not to say it was a perfect effort; but I’ve discussed that in the other post so I won’t go back through all that again.
I recently started reading Charles Spurgeon’s devotional, Morning and Evening, and an entry on contentment struck a chord, given my Lenten contemplations. Complaining and contentment are mutually exclusive. Yes, I know, there are some who find a measure of contentment in their complaining, but considering each as a way of looking at things, I find them to be in opposition. To be content is not necessarily to be completely satisfied, to have nothing further to wish for, to have ceased to strive – one definition I like fairly well defines it as, ‘accepting one’s situation or life with equanimity and satisfaction.’ Life is imperfect. If everything has to be ‘finished,’ or ‘right’ for me to be happy, I can forget that right away. For myself, I’m interested in finding a space in which I can, with a cheerful attitude, restfully contemplate both those things that are ‘going right’ and those which are less pleasing … a life where I’m not held hostage by my immediate circumstances. A permanent forecast of ‘mostly sunny’ for my personal weather system.
So, I’ll be taking a crack at the complaining again this year for Lent. This is my public announcement for greater accountability. If you catch me complaining, feel free to remind me of my project. I thank you in advance.
In case you’d like to read it, the aforementioned text from Spurgeon (emphasis mine):
“I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content.” –Philippians 4:11
These words show us that contentment is not a natural propensity of man. “Ill weeds grow apace.” Covetousness, discontent, and murmuring are as natural to man as thorns are to the soil. We need not sow thistles and brambles; they come up naturally enough, because they are indigenous to earth: and so, we need not teach men to complain; they complain fast enough without any education. But the precious things of the earth must be cultivated. If we would have wheat, we must plough and sow; if we want flowers, there must be the garden, and all the gardener’s care. Now, contentment is one of the flowers of heaven, and if we would have it, it must be cultivated; it will not grow in us by nature; it is the new nature alone that can produce it, and even then we must be specially careful and watchful that we maintain and cultivate the grace which God has sown in us. Paul says, “I have learned … to be content;” as much as to say, he did not know how at one time. It cost him some pains to attain to the mystery of that great truth. No doubt he sometimes thought he had learned, and then broke down. And when at last he had attained unto it, and could say, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content,” he was an old, grey-headed man, upon the borders of the grave–a poor prisoner shut up in Nero’s dungeon at Rome. We might well be willing to endure Paul’s infirmities, and share the cold dungeon with him, if we too might by any means attain unto his good degree. Do not indulge the notion that you can be contented without learning, or learn without discipline. It is not a power that may be exercised naturally, but a science to be acquired gradually. We know this from experience. Brother, hush that murmur, natural though it be, and continue a diligent pupil in the College of Content.
– Entry for Feb 16, AM