I was halfway through my second year as a single mom. And six months into a career I spent a decade in college working towards. Also, I’d recently made the third payment on my first mortgage.
10 years prior I would have considered this my dream life. Now that I was living it, I could only think of more.
I wanted more improvements on my townhouse. With a little effort and extra cash I could make it magazine worthy. I wanted more (more meaning at least one) Mediterranean trips with the girlfriends. Especially the dream trip of eating my way through the Italian countryside.
Then people would notice my hard work and sacrifice. And then, maybe,I would be respected. And maybe, just maybe, I would finally respect myself.
But between mortgage payments, student loans and child care I had less spare change than before I started grad school. My expenses added up to more than I originally calculated. No matter which way I turned my budget, the numbers were still short.
I worked, paid bills, and carried my baby to and from the sitter. Having my dream career and owning my own home was not giving me the sense of arrival I hoped for.
I was still wanting and waiting for a successful life to begin.
At 32 I’d hoped to be in a certain place. I’d worked so hard over the last few years. Shouldn’t I feel successful now?
I considered working overtime to bulk up my income. I calculated time and dollars, and it added up. But time away from my daughter, and the extra energy exerted at work would starve our relationship to near extinction.
I couldn’t afford that. My daughter couldn’t afford that, and neither could what remained of my single-mom sanity.
Plus, God wasn’t confirming my suggestion to work more overtime.
But there was another option.
During the next few months I had a choice to make. Enjoy the blessings in my life or forever pine those things my heart craved. A magazine image home. A slick wardrobe. Tickets to Rome and Morocco. Respect.
I needed to surrender my image of success. A part of me needed to die.
I felt God saying. “Be content with this. Appreciate what you have here in front of you, Tara. Be thankful for this life.”
I was having trouble being satisfied. So, I asked God to show me how. Until then I could only see the lack. No husband. No money. Average home. No travel itineraries in my inbox.
Soon He started showing me. I remembered where I came from and thanked God for all He had done.
Gratitude for what God already provided unlocked contentment.
I was exhausted and living paycheck to paycheck. But I had so much. My house was clean and pretty enough. And I was earning a decent living doing something I loved. My girl was healthy and we had the best babysitters ever. They were practically family.
Embracing contentment was a relief and a gift.
Contentment is like the calming of ripples on a lake. When the ripples settle, when all is still, you see His watery reflection smiling back at you.
His vision for our lives comes into focus. And we stop hiding behind ambition. We stop shading our nakedness with overachievement.
We trust His plan and His timing.
Instead of squinting towards what I can’t afford, I recline into who I am right now. I’m learning to like myself here. I thank God for what He is providing in my life and for my life. Even the parts I don’t like, I trust them to God’s saving work.
Contentment vs Complacency
Don’t let the enemy trick you into thinking contentment is complacency. Complacency denies our need for God. We stagnate in it’s pond of old achievements.
On the other hand, contentment squashes the pride of life. It assists us in enjoying the journey we are on. Contentment trusts God for what we have, where we are, and where we are going.