Finding Peace

Hope Deferred Teaches Contentment

October 7, 2017

There’s a thing I want. Have wanted. Longed for. Cried over.

Begged God for.

I’m talking about years. Not weeks, days, or months. Years have been spent on this….thing.

It’s not a new car or some tangible, quantifiable, relatable item. It’s an intangible over which I have no control. No power to change or invoke into being.

Belligerently, it remains a thing defying the cliché, “If you only believe you can have/do/get/achieve anything you want.”

This? This I cannot do.

I cannot manufacture this from the sheer strength of my need for it to be sated. To be sincere, it will, more than likely, never be something experienced or enjoyed in my lifetime.

No level of wheedling, conniving, manipulating will coerce this dream into being. I know how foolish I am. And yet? It is written into my frame to long for a thing I cannot have.

There is no prayer that will make this happen. No sacrifice.

It is, frankly, a fantasy.

I’m not going to tell you what it is. That’s not the point.

Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

 

At this point, the longing itself has become so intrinsic to my nature that the tinge of it colors the edge of my psyche on most days. It whispers and yells. Tempting me to ingratitude and frustration on the one hand and a gentle melancholy on the other, it is rarely silent. I have not yet learned to make peace with its absence. What I am learning is to see the slender sweetness of an unrefined and clumsy contentment in the midst of the truth of the moments where I truly live. Not the ones of which I dream.

Before you judge me too harshly, this longing, this unfulfilled desire, is neither a sin nor any kind of bad thing. It is, if I were being brutally honest, a thing which most of humanity would consider a right. So much so that many would scoff at me for being willing to live without and there are very few who wouldn’t suggest that it was my birthright to demand. They would suggest that I should shout and throw down ultimatums. As though anyone has ever created a beautiful, delicate thing by throwing dynamite at it.

Besides, I’ve tried that. It doesn’t work. It could never work. Like a bondservant cannot be coerced into the honor of an ear piercing or as one simply cannot command the adoration of a child it is a thing that must be freely given. In order for this longing to be rightly fulfilled, it must be a free gift or it will never be more than a paper-mâché moon hung from filament and wires. Empty. Shallow. Fake. Despicable.

Settling for the masquerade would make it something that would quickly become repulsive. Abhorrent.  The prize I had determined to set my heart upon would instead become a fixation suited only to hatred and repulsion.

It is not simple, this learning to sashay an awkward tango between heart and mind. A hope deferred defiantly contrasts against the abundance of goodness existing within a gentle world of checkered floors and carefully arranged life.

Paul knew this dance. I’m not quite there.

Philippians 4:11 “…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”

Paul is and was so many many things. My big brother in the faith, the Apostle to the Gentiles, the thorn in Peter’s flesh, and I have read and reread his letters like the lifeline that they are.

He is kind. Brusque. Jarring. Gracious. Eloquent. Angry. Frustrated. Resigned. Happy. Focused.

And yes, he had found the mystery of contentment.

Looking at his circumstance, he knew all he might possibly have been entitled to enjoy. Elements of his role should have brought him position, provision, purpose… Or whatever it was his heart had cried out for in shipwrecks and prison cells.

Yet, instead of being heartsick, he settled into his circumstance, even and especially in the most desperate of places. He embraced, pressed into, and held tightly to a thin sliver of life that denied all he could have had, if had he stayed as a Pharisee of Pharisees.

Contentment gave him perspective and insight into finding the secret of welcoming all the gifts as they came.

ALL of them. The beautiful and the not so beautiful.

The gifts of longing, need or hope deferred. The gifts of plenty and the gifts of lack.

Paul knew when longings are fulfilled, needs are met, hope is realized in their own perfect timing, rather than human contrivance, that he could recognize the gifts as they are. Gifts.

No one owes you a gift.

Besides. The gift is never the point.

Paul reminds us to live wholeheartedly where we are while not losing sight of the Gift Giver. Because, when the curtain falls, He is the only One who matters anyway.

So, I will tuck myself into my bed and shush the voice that says, “I should, I need, I deserve, I long for…” and I will instead murmur a litany of the things which I do not deserve that have been abundantly poured out onto someone who deserves so much less.

I will fall asleep to the reminder that today was more than I could have forced into reality on my own. The laughter. The struggle. The success. The failure. The sunshine. The rain. All existing and thriving beyond my power to create as every moment drops into place. Another stone in the legacy of a life.

My restlessness will settle into the revelation of this soul’s abundance as the Gift Giver continues preparing my heart to learn it all over again.

Tomorrow.

There is no end to longing. There is no end to learning to be content.

  • margl

    Same here.