Staring at the ugly pumpkin walls of my tiny motel room in Honduras, head itching because yes, after all, some lice survived the last pick-through by Glenda at the orphanage, I feel lonely. Every time I leave the room, I get warned by some security guard to go back (maybe because of the drunk man who sat with me for so long in the park). I wonder why on earth I am here by myself just fifteen minutes from the most dangerous city in the world–what can God possibly be thinking?
Months later, I’m at the top of a volcano in Nicaragua. A beautiful view of the lake and mountains surrounds me, a cool wind refreshes me, contrasting sharply with the heavy humidity and heat at the bottom of the volcano. And I can’t help thinking that I would enjoy all this so much more with someone else.
Fast forward 1 1/2 years. I’ve been married for a few months now, and that means that I have a traveling partner, someone to enjoy the view with and someone to keep away the drunk guys in the park. Right?
Life turns out differently than you think it will. We aren’t going abroad; we’re moving to a mid-size city in the South, and we’re talking about things like buying a house, digging a garden, saving for retirement, replacing ugly tile in bathrooms. The hazy dream I had of climbing volcanoes with someone is replaced by the solid reality of building a life together.
It’s wonderful. I get excited about the idea of making a house a home. But it makes me realize that contentment can never come from your circumstances. When you’re single, you’re tempted to complain about the loneliness. When you’re married, maybe it’s the boredom of everyday life– finding the cheapest deals on groceries, doing yet another load of laundry.
Discomfort comes not just from being in a foreign country and dealing with head lice or a broken bone or no washing machine or cold showers or no showers at all–all things I’ve experienced in the last couple of years. In those situations, you can usually “man up” and think about how much God is teaching you by putting you through these trials. Discomfort may manifest itself as discontent more readily, however, when it arises from the seemingly simple home-things. When you have to leave behind friends and think about making new ones in a different city, when you have to turn down one job and then immediately look for another, when you have to clean that bathroom for the fifth time this week, when you have to learn submission to another person.
The apostle Paul shared what he had learned with his brothers in Philippi: “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
May I learn from his example. May we all draw nearer to Christ and learn the secret of contentment that will keep us at peace not only in the obviously hard, impressive trials but also in the little prickles of daily life.