Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Winter Of Our Discontent

By: Jenny Bruce

There are two things I've been pondering this week.

First: Discontentment. Because if there ever was a breeding ground for discontentment, winter would be it. The four hours of sunlight, the endless parade of lousy movies, soaked and muddy jeans, the complete lack of decently priced Granny Smith apples - I could go on for pages.

Second: The United Kingdom of Israel. Last Sunday I taught the elementary schoolers about the circumstances that drove the Israelites to demand a human king (we also played "Unite the Kingdom" - which was basically an attempt to turn "Blob" into a teachable moment.) The point of the lesson was that the Israelites' problems of oppression by other nations and turmoil between tribes could have been solved if they had simply chosen to obey God and submit to Him as Lord. Instead, they tried to solve these problems by adopting the practices of the surrounding nations and asking for a human king.

These two unrelated thoughts went about their lives until the day they met, went out on a few dates, fell in love, got married and had the baby that is this post.

Just like Israel's problems, the problem of discontentment can be solved by simply obeying God and submitting to Him as King. But just like Israel's demand for a human king, I use other means to attempt to fix this problem.

Over the next few Saturdays, I'm going to examine my own (unbiblical) solutions for the problem of discontentment with the hope that if I recognize what I'm doing, I'll see the futility of my actions and choose to trust God instead. Perhaps you'll relate to some of my solutions. Or perhaps you'll think, "Wow, Jenny's really messed up. I'm a better person than I thought I was." Either way, I hope it's helpful.

Jenny's Unbiblical Solution #1: I'll Be Content If I'm As Happy/Happier Than Everyone Else In The World

Sometimes I think that comparing myself with others will solve my discontentment problem. This solution shows up in two little games that I like to play.

The first game is called, "Well, At Least You're Married" and I often find myself playing it when married friends are sharing prayer requests. For instance, a friend might say, "I just lost my job and I'm worried about how we're going to make ends meet. Plus our roof is leaking, our water heater needs to be replaced, and our dog needs to be put down." While I genuinely feel bad for her and nod my head sympathetically, a snarky little voice in the back of my head says, "Well, at least you're married. Your life isn't as hard as mine." Because according to solution #1, I will not be content until I have everything that my friends have.

The second game is called, "Well, At Least I'm Funnier Than You" and I like to play it when I'm surrounded by people who have things that I want. For instance, I might meet a gorgeous 28 year old who runs every morning, enjoys eating 5-8 vegetables a day, is loving her successful career as a freelance writer/children's clothing designer, just finished a graduate degree in philosophy, got engaged last weekend, and volunteers with both her church's middle and high school groups. While I smile and make conversation, that snarky little voice in the back of my head says, "Well, at least I'm funnier than you. Which makes me better than you in at least one arena." Because according to solution #1, I will not be content unless I'm equally skilled/better at something than every person I meet.

Not surprisingly, solution #1 isn't very effective. First, it's utterly sinful, narcissistic, and covetous. Second, it ruins every party you attend. Third, it turns life into one big competition. Fourth, it's completely ineffective. I'll never be satisfied if I base my contentment on what others do/do not have because I will inevitably meet someone who has something I don't. No matter where I go, someone will always be funnier, smarter, prettier, richer, godlier, nicer, thinner, more insightful, more talented, wittier, more well read, or loved by children than me.

Now I know this all reads like a lesson from the Teen Girls' NIV Study Bible, but I'm still figuring it out in my late twenties.

Next Saturday I'll write about solution #2 and discuss why Dario Marianelli's score for "Pride and Prejudice" is a lie. Until then, does anyone know where you can find Granny Smith apples for under $2 a pound?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, I am so guilty of they "Well, at least your married" game, followed closely by the "Well, at least you have children" game.

But I'm actually happier (less discontent?) in the winter - love to curl up in big blanket with a big book. Of course, I live in the south, and it's sunny and 65 degrees right now. It's our summers that can be a living hell.

Looking forward to the rest of this series of posts.