Friday, October 31, 2008

More on contentment...The "Little Whiles"

In the excellent article on contentment at Homeliving Helper, Lady Lydia contrasts steadiness with restlessness:

"One way to gain the ability to be satisfied with life is to have a steadiness of purpose. Although it may rain when you wanted it fine, you are able to quickly find a substitute activity that will be useful and beneficial. Contentment sometimes depends upon your ability to be resourceful, a trait which can also be learned by substituting things when you do not have what you need. Being resourceful means finding different ways of doing things when other plans fail. Steadiness can be achieved by sticking to something until it is completed, even if it cannot be done all at once. If this is not practiced, it may be more difficult to stay dedicated to other kinds of duties which require more commitment.

Many women are restless and unable to understand that there will be an end to some trying times in life, and they will not put up with any inconvenience or any boredom or any hardship. If they learn at home, they are much better prepared for life's ups and downs, and can be content, even when others around them are undependable, disloyal, rude, or ungrateful."

Oh, how I needed this lesson when I was a young mother (and still need to remind myself of it.) I recall that an older friend of mine once counseled me to "be patient in the 'little whiles' of life."
She said this when I was nearly in tears over our family's second bout of LICE -- gasp! I was horrified and embarrassed that I had failed to protect my dear children from catching them. Eliminating the pesky critters required that everyone in the family take showers with nasty smelling shampoo, a lot of washing of linens, putting stuffed toys in bags for the prescribed amount of time, and painstakingly combing my children's thick, thick hair with a little tiny comb. My children and I had to stay indoors, and we had to miss our usual activities. None of this was in my picture of how things should be going at that moment. Of course, the Lord works all things for good, and I should have been looking to His picture of how things should be going.

What are the "little whiles" of life in which we must be patient? These are little trials -- such as lice -- which will soon pass. These little things will pass whether you have a good attitude or a poor one. If you let them unnerve you, as I was doing, the trial will pass slowly -- or it will feel that way, at least. You will make yourself and your family miserable in the process. If you maintain a hopeful, cheerful attitude, the little trials will seem to pass quickly. You and your family will even be able to find some things to be thankful about in the process.

By the same token, if we are prayerful, God can help us stay focused on his purpose for our lives even in the midst of a string of "little whiles". As in the parable of the sower, I can so often be the soil that is full of thorns -- the thorny soil that chokes the good seed with the worries and riches of life. God, however, can help us all to be the good soil -- the soil in which the seed multiplies to a large harvest. Mark 1:1-20.

Resourcefulness in the "little whiles" of life turns what might be a trying event into an opportunity. I learned that I wasn't the worst mother in the world just because my children contracted lice. I also learned that I needed to keep this little calamity in proportion. It's hardly the worst thing that can happen to a family. In fact, our "quarantine period" was a great opportunity for my children and I to spend a lot of quiet time together.

On this earth, Jesus was always mindful of his purpose. A great study to do is to read through the gospels and jot down every statement Jesus made about why he came to earth. Sometimes, his disciples got so focused on their own idea of the mission that they walked unwittingly by the very people God wanted to reach. Not Jesus. He took the time to talk to a troubled woman by the well, to call an eager tax collector out of a tree, to talk to a woman who had touched his cloak in a crowd, and to bless little children. Jesus was so in tune with his father's will and his love for people that he knew exactly when to stop and when to move on. Luke 4:42-44

Jesus said that to do the will of his Father was his food. John 4:34. Even when it was hard or uncomfortable, Jesus found satisfaction in carrying out his Father's mission. He traveled around, spreading the news of the kingdom and healing people. He had a purpose for His goings; He
wasn't just running to and fro because of a restless heart.

Much of our restlessness comes from a lack of unity with God's purpose for our lives. One thing about the homemaking life is that our quiet labors bring us in touch with what is going on inside of us. If we are not filled up with the Lord, we will keep searching for something to distract us from the emptiness we feel deep inside. We will find it hard to endure tedium or to cope with the "dailiness" of life. We will demand instant gratification and be unable to wait for things to come to us in their proper season. We will start one project and flit to another and never finish either one. Ecclesiastes is a portrait of a man who searched out every occupation and every entertainment "under the sun" and found them all to be wanting. He concluded that the best course in life is to fear the Lord and keep his commandments.

The woman who finds her satisfaction in the Lord will have a more peaceful heart. She can endure the "little whiles" and even the "long whiles" of life, knowing that the Lord works all things for good for those who love him and are called according to His purpose. She can be content even if her marriage is not all she wishes it to be at the moment. She will have faith for her children's future even if they are struggling with something in the short term. She sees little trials as an opportunity for her faith to grow and to be refined. She looks for ways to serve the Lord in everything -- from scrubbing a toilet to spending happy hours with her family to sharing her faith. She trustfully obeys the Lord and faithfully looks to him for the outcome.


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