May 09, 2009
Contentment has become an enemy of the religious mindset. It has been made to look like a lazy, negligent, short sighted and unambitious trait that stands in the way of real spiritual growth. If someone claims to be content, they're immediately looked upon as arrogant, unteachable and even spiritually blind. We're warned against such feelings because they supposedly set us up for imminent disaster. The religious mindset I'm talking about basically says that the moment we think we're okay, we're letting our guard down and leaving ourselves open to attack. To even suggest that you are content is the same as saying you have arrived and you no longer need anything else. Such a disposition is frowned upon in institutional Christianity.
It is sad that the basic element necessary for human personal sanity has been stripped from millions of good-hearted people, all in the name of religion. The moment we buy into this line of thinking, we are literally giving up all chances of future happiness and joy. I believe that people must come to a point where they reverse their decision to despise contentment. They have to make a conscious choice to accept contentment as a good thing in their life.
I can recall feelings of guilt and fear the moment I felt the slightest bit of contentment in my life. It was as though I had been programmed to believe that if I gave myself over to that feeling, I could expect something terrible to happen in a matter of days. Contentment was the calm before the storm. Fear was safer than contentment because it causes us to put our guard up, be alert and strive for something better. Contentment has been associated with complacency and apathy. Many Christian circles have even rewarded a LACK of contentment with titles such as "humility" and "teachable," making it less acceptable for folks to relax and enjoy life.
It has even become a mark of spiritual maturity for a person to openly declare their lack of contentment with themselves. We're told that God is always changing us from the moment we come to him and the process of spiritual growth will last for the rest of our lives. No matter where we are in life, we can always do better. There is never a point where we will be finished growing and changing as a Christian. At any point where a person decides they are content with who they are, they are resigning from God's plan for change and growth, according to today's mindset. They are immediately perceived as arrogant and close-minded.
I remember sitting on the stage as a young Pastor many years ago, listening to the Senior Pastor give the altar call. As the people came forward with tears in their eyes, we were singing "Just as I am" and I had a sick feeling in my spirit. I felt like we were luring innocent children into our car and we were going to kidnap them and take them far away forever. I remember thinking to myself; "These poor people have no idea that "Just as I am" applies only to the first visit. After this romantic moment, they'll never be allowed to be themselves again.
Ever since Christianity's purpose has been redefined from "joy abundant" to "spiritual growth;" contentment is hard to come by. In fact, I believe it's damn near impossible to obtain. When we see our relationship with God as a life-long rehabilitation process where God is constantly making us better and helping us to sin less and less, contentment at any given moment becomes unattainable. When the purpose of our religion is altered and polluted, everything from the top down becomes contaminated as well. Sadly, due to the belief in the necessity for constant "spiritual growth," contentment is the first to go. It must go because it stands in the way of achieving a higher spiritual level.
True contentment will never be captured until a person comes to an understanding of why Christ came in the first place. It wasn't to help us quit sinning and to slowly transform us into mini-christs. He came that we would have life and life abundant. Contentment is the first fruit of that purpose to spring up. Alter the purpose, and the result is perpetual unrest, inner frustration and dissatisfaction. Sound familiar?
I think most Christians don't believe it's possible to be spiritually content. Such satisfaction seems out of reach. It's almost idealistic to even think it exists. I have news for you; it does exist! Not only is it possible to be content, but it's absolutely necessary if you want to experience freedom. Life doesn't even begin until you're okay with YOU. This is perhaps the biggest obstacle for people in the Christian world today. They aren't okay with themselves. They haven't embraced themselves for who they are. They're caught in a destructive cycle of always trying to fix their flaws.
One of the first things I encountered when I entered the wild was contentment. It happened one Sunday morning when I was lying in bed with my wife and kids. I just noticed it. I noticed that I didn't need anything else in life. I was satisfied. I no longer had that inner nervousness that drove me to desperately try to fill a void. I did have voids, but I no longer cared about them. The purpose of my Christianity went from "working on my life" to "relaxing in His presence." Once I allowed that to happen, contentment came. It was what I call Wild Contentment. I knew then that if I were going to embrace this wonderful state of mind, I would have to do so with an edge of rebellion in my spirit. I knew intuitively that I would have to brace myself and get ready for the inevitable religious backlash I was sure to receive from my Christian friends. I knew they would "warn" me against getting to comfortable and accuse me of not striving to go further in Christ. Ironically, that's percisely what I was doing. Embracing contentment is essential to life in Christ. I've learned that you have to forcefully grab hold of it because everything in your religious upbringing will attempt to pry you lose from it.
I realized that I'm a likable person just the way I am. It felt arrogant at first, but once all the pre-programmed religious feelings ran their course through my veins, I was free to enjoy my contentment, with no apologies. This wasn't something I was willing to give up because I knew in my spirit that life wasn't worth living without it.
When a creature that was meant to live in the Wild, is caged; contentment is striped away until that creature breaks free. I believe that contentment in the Christian life happens only in the wild. We were meant to be free. Once that freedom comes into our lives, we become partakers in wild contentment.
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