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Posts Tagged ‘perspective’

When I was a young girl, my family lived near Chicago in a three-bedroom, one bath home. One car parked in the driveway; there was no garage. My brother and I dreamed of owning an in-ground swimming pool but had to settle for the crowded, over-chlorinated conditions of the community pool.

 

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If someone had told me, “Nancy, when you grow up you will get married, have three children, and live in Florida for forty years. Every home will have two bathrooms and a garage. You’ll eventually own two cars, too. But, best of all, three of your homes will have a swimming pool in the backyard.”

 

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(Sometimes we enjoyed a bigger pool — the Gulf or Atlantic.)

 

I would have thought, Unbelievable! When all those heavenly things happen, then I’ll be happy and content.

Ah, but during those forty years in Florida I remember thinking on more than one occasion: If only this heat and humidity would let up. It’s like a furnace out there. Or, Why can’t these kids just get along with each other and give me some peace? Or, Houseguests are coming; gotta clean those bathrooms today. Ugh.

Contentment can be an elusive quality. No sooner do we possess one long-desired item, we discover another acquisition to wish for. No sooner have we achieved one level of success, we’re already reaching for the next—with a sideways glance at our neighbor who’s acquired or accomplished more than we have.

We know what scripture tells us: “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

 

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Our spirits sense the truth of it and recognize the gain to be had when craving, grasping, and unrest give way to peace of mind and tranquility of spirit.

But how?

Contentment is a choice of perspective. I can choose to affirm and celebrate my:

  • Possessions.  I have more than enough.
  • Position.  I have experienced more than enough.
  • Personhood.  I am more than enough the way God made me, with my particular personality traits, gifts, and abilities.

Like Paul, I can learn to be content by choosing again and again the proper perspective (Philippians 4:11).

 

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However.

There is one area where contentment is not desirable: in the spiritual realm. I never want to become content with what I already know about God or be satisfied with the current level of intimacy between my Heavenly Father and me.

I want to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 3:18).

 

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That’s an opportunity for a lifetime. Think of it: we never reach the end of his magnificence and influence. There is always greater knowledge to understand, more wonder to explore, more splendor and growth to experience.

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Lord, God, may I not look right or left at what others have, or what others have accomplished, or what gifts and talents they display. Keep me mindful of my utmost desire: to know you more intimately, follow you more closely, and live in the contentment of your sufficiency for everything.

 

Art & photo credits:  www.ancestory.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.pinterest (2).

 

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(John and me in our second home, 1957)

 

If I close my eyes, I can still see the various rooms of my three childhood homes in northern Illinois, but especially the one we moved to when I was ten–the one in which my parents still lived when Steve and I were married.

With great fondness, I remember reading in the box elder tree behind the house, playing Hotbox with Dad and my brother, watching television with a big bowl of popcorn on my lap, and the four of us eating dinner in the cozy banquette Dad built in the kitchen.

In all kinds of weather John and I walked or rode our bikes to school.  Before the bell rang each morning, one teacher supervised the entire student body of 400+ children as we arrived and played on the playground.  We learned Christmas carols in school and no one complained.

When not in school, John and I were out and about in the neighborhood, playing with the other kids, building snowmen and snow forts, riding our bikes to friends’ homes, to the library, and (in the summertime) to the pool.

I have to admit: my thick, rose-colored glasses cast a utopian hue upon those days. A person reaches a certain age and suddenly the decades of one’s youth become “the good old days”—far superior to the present.

 

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(1959)

 

After all, how many families today sit down together for dinner—with no television, ipads or phones interfering with conversation? What children can enjoy the freedom of riding their bikes clear across town without supervision? Where is there a public school that teaches children Christmas carols?

Times have changed.

To be honest, however, it’s doubtful those days of my youth were actually better.

It’s just my selective memory choosing the tranquil, happy moments. Overlooked are the arguments with my brother (and the teasing I did, for which I still feel deep regret!), those times Mom and Dad were being terribly strict or unfair (in my opinion), and the occasional upset at school or with friends.

I also have to remember:  the Greatest Generation that raised us Baby Boomers thought their good old days were far superior.

For example, in a book of Christmas literature we own, the editor wrote this intro for one selection: “This story is for those to whom the modern holiday season seems to get more glamorous and clamorous each year, but who still experience that old nostalgic feeling for the Christmas-time of a more quiet bygone era.” The year of publication? 1955.

Maybe we should put away our rose-colored glasses, unreliable as they are.

And yet, numerous scriptures encourage us to remember and rejoice in the good of the past—verses like these:

 

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  • “…Rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household” (Deuteronomy 26:11).
  • “Remember the wonderful works that He has done, His miracles…” (Psalm 105:5a).
  • “I will tell of the kindness of the Lord, the deeds for which He is to be praised, according to all He has done for us” (Isaiah 63:7).

So are flights of nostalgia right or wrong?

It depends.

Constant longing for the past creates dissatisfaction in the present. That’s obviously not healthy.

But remembering God’s blessings of the past strengthens our faith and creates a deep longing for more of him in the present. That’s obviously a good thing!

You know what else would be a good thing? To savor today’s blessings and not wait till a decade from now to enjoy them.

 

(Photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg and http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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