Recently, my family made the trek to Oklahoma to visit my husband’s extended family. Four generations of Hanley men in one house was a precious and rare privilege. Ralph Hanley, my husband’s grandpa, raised up a heritage of men and women who then raised up a generation of men and women who love and serve the Lord. At one point, over twenty-five people were congregated in Gram and Poppa’s house.
At one point, my father-in-law mentioned how life expectations were so different fifty years ago than it is now. He said, “If you told people, they were going to live in a two-bedroom house with no indoor plumbing, electricity or central heating, they wouldn’t know what to do.”
Monday morning has become a source of grumpy cat memes, jokes about excessive coffee, and a general aura of complaining. But, contentment is about perspective. The more we focus on what “isn’t” the more disgruntled we become, but the more we think about what we’ve been blessed with, the more we live with a sense of wonder and joy. This morning, I woke up to a chilly morning in which I didn’t have to trudge outside to use the facilities. I had blankets and cozy comfortable, central heat, and an oven that started (without chopping firewood or lighting a stove). I had plenty of food in my pantry and didn’t have to hunt for it or wonder where the money would come from for groceries. I sat down to my computer to accomplish a job that didn’t require I change out of my pajamas. Aside from all of those little details, I was born into a country with freedoms and privileges; I was born into a Christian home where I learned the truth of who God is and who I am.
Although I love my house, I’d be dishonest if I didn’t get jealous of other people’s spaces at times. I long for an office room or even a basement. When we compare our “starter” home to what many friends live in, discontentment is sure to follow me, but when I contrast what we have to what many Americans had 50 years ago (or even what many people across the globe live in today), I see how abundantly we are living. According the the World Health Organization about 74% of the world uses a basic sanitation service (673 million people defecate in the open: street gutters, behind bushes, etc.) ” The USDA estimated that 11.1% of US households were food insecure in 2018. This means that approximately 14.3 million households had difficulty providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources” (Poverty USA).
Aside from the privilege of never worrying about where our food will come from, whether we will have electricity or running water, or if our children will have a bed to sleep in, we are only second to Australia in house size. Most people around the world (even in advanced 1st-world countries) live in smaller spaces. The storage units we keep our forgotten junk in are nicer spaces than what people in third-world countries endure.
Perspective. When I lose sight of the surrender Christ has called me to and why I am here, I can blend His calling with the American Dream and think “this is it. Make the most of it.” This isn’t “it” and this life certainly isn’t the best of it. I am on this Earth for a purpose and it isn’t to acquire stuff or even access comfort. My security is in Him, not in what the world promises.
Jesus told his disciples: “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics” (Luke 9:3). I realize Jesus is challenging his followers to truly trust him, but in all honesty, this verse makes me squirm. I don’t like it.
As an American, I value achievement, success, stability, 4O1K, insurance, health, autonomy, and ease. But those illusions vanish when we try to grasp at them. And if we do manage to clasp on for a season, we realize they aren’t as strong and stable as we’d once hoped. Only Christ says, “Follow me” and makes us few temporary promises: eternally, we are held fast in Him, but materially, we are promised tribulations. How is that comforting, you may ask?
Regardless of what happens, He promises to never leave or forsake us. The God of all power, knowledge, love, and perfection promises to walk with us. Because of this truth, I can wake up on Monday morning with gratitude and hope–regardless of the circumstances I face.