Sunday, July 5, 2009


Contentment. Sometimes the word seems to evade me, flaunting itself just beyond my reach. One would think contentment should be calm and easygoing, patiently waiting for his companions to ease up alongside him. But he is not. I find contentment to be very energetic, dancing vivaciously ahead down the road, leaving me out of breath trying to catch up. When I seek the company of contentment, I always seem to lag behind, but perhaps this is only a perception.

I think I am not alone in being fooled into believing that contentment is a feeling. If I am content, then the evidence of my contentment should be exposed in the way that I feel. So often I battle with my feelings, longing to find contentment in Christ, wanting to be satisfied with where He has led me, and yet still feeling the pangs of unmet desires, even lusting after things that are not mine to have (at least in this time and place). In these moments I judge myself lacking in the quality of contentment. Inwardly I harass my soul for its selfishness, its lack of gratitude for all the good things God has placed within my life. My heart seems to have failed.

But what if it hasn’t? What if, like so many other aspects of the Christian faith, contentment is not a feeling, but a choice? I have begun to learn the lesson that love is not a feeling; it is a choice. When I love my family, my friends, my God, my feelings do not exude with easy affection and pleasure every moment of our relationship. Some days bring hard choices, choices made to pursue the actions and hard work of love even when the feelings are evasive. Is not contentment the same? The moments I find myself unsatisfied, maybe the true test of my contentment is not how I feel, but what I chose to do in the moment of dissatisfaction. Do I choose with my actions to be content despite what I feel? Do I press on to pursue what God has laid within my life? Do I run to his arms with my imperfect feelings and let him help me find contentment? Or do I give in to my feelings and let them carry me away?

I am encouraged to think that perhaps contentment isn’t always supposed to be a comforting feeling. Sometimes I think it is meant to be a struggle, and it is in the midst of that very struggle that I find my success. Instead of believing I have failed, I can rest in the fact that I am right where I am meant to be, fighting for something worthwhile.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

When love hurts...

I watched the movie “The Shadowlands” this past weekend. It chronicles part of the life of C.S. Lewis when he met and married and lost his wife Joy Gresham. When Joy knows she is going to die of cancer she tells Lewis not to shy away from or ignore the pain that is coming. She says, “The pain then is part of the happiness now.”

I have heard it said before that grief is the proof that we have loved deeply. I think that grief is not just the proof of love but an integral part of loving itself. One cannot find love without finding pain. Love opens the heart, makes it vulnerable, leaves it exposed. To love someone creates the risk of losing them, the pain of watching them suffer. To love invites the pain of separation, whether for months or the remainder of a lifetime. To love means watching those I love suffer and finding the strength not to turn away when it hurts so much it would be easier not to love. Sometimes it would be easier not to care, not to helplessly watch and feel love share the agony between my heart and theirs. But that is the essence of love—refusing to stop caring even when the heart is left screaming for relief.

Knowing this, is the happiness of loving now worth the pain later? Do I choose to love now even though I know it will hurt? I think about my future and the hope of loving a man. Is the privilege of loving him going to be worth the pain? Inevitably I will hurt him; he will hurt me. I will have to watch him suffer, watch my children suffer in one form or another. And chances are we will not leave this world together. We will be separated and the separation will rent one of our hearts with a pain I know I cannot fathom. Knowing all this, can I still choose to love? Should I?

The act of loving is the heart of life, community. If I do not love… I dare not consider the alternative. Though life with love is a life including pain, life without love… is it life? So many hearts try. They lock themselves away into isolation with cement walls built up around their hearts. They have tasted love and felt its pain and lacked the courage to love again. But what is left to them but their pain and isolation?

Pain is the beauty of love. It is the refiner’s fire that turns love into something stronger, deeper than the shallow affections of men. I ask, without pain, can love find life? So yes, I pray for the courage to love, though it presses thorns inside my heart. I pray for the courage to love my parents, my siblings, my friends, the family I one day hope to have, to enjoy the moments of happiness and to stay engaged in the moments of pain. I choose to watch when they suffer and not become immune. I choose to let their pain become my own, knowing very well there is nothing I can do to ease it but continually lay it before the throne of grace. This too is love, this pain. Perhaps the most beautiful part of love.