Thursday, November 8, 2007

Lack of Contentment May Mean a Lack of Imagination

The word for me today is contentment. I get home from work, which has been demanding but rewarding this week, and find an e-mail from an old friend. I am separated from him by distance but our contact is always warm, if somewhat infrequent. I had e-mailed him to let him know I had started the blog and am approaching a personal milestone of which he is aware. Dave emailed me encouragement in his gentle way. He finished his e-mail stating he thought I was a contented man. Perhaps, but there is more to know. I have every reason to be content, though like anyone I suppose, I have to address the content of my thoughts.

Then I check the blog of another old friend, he can be read at Looking for the Long Ride link on the right. He has written his latest blog entry exploring among other things, contentment. I do not find such overlap a coincidence. God is in every aspect of my life, and such circumstances as these described here occur continually in my life. I always accept them without question as God calling my attention to something. This may cause you to question, but I don't anymore. I have seen this proven over and over. It a reason I am content in the Father. His faithfulness to communicate with me never fails.

Last year at work, a colleague lamented, "I want to hear from God, if that's possible." I ached for her. Her Christian tradition has shaped her by liturgy and tradition. Her concept of God is deeply carved but limited by the cut marks of her particular system. It has informed her for years on end how to perceive God, and so she does. The culture she participates in communicates strict boundaries for the structures she must abide in, the symbols she must reflect upon and draw inspiration from, and the conflicts which are hers in the natural.

After we left the church we had been in for 18 years, I visited many local congregations. I was open to the Lord leading me again into the arena of organized groups. On one Sunday, I entered a congregation to discover in attendance there a family whom my wife and I knew from community soccer. The husband was an usher and led me to the pew in which his wife sat. I slid over near her, and we greeted we another. Since I was seeking, and she was "full-time", I led off after the pleasantries with, "So how do you like it here?" She was visibly shaken and turned to me with newly formed tears and spoke of her disappointment and disillusionment with this particular system. I did my best to sound supportive and remain neutral. I began imagining what could cause such a reaction. She was a chronic complainer, though her example on the sidelines of soccer disproved that muse. She did not clearly understand her circumstances and was overwhelmed by life, though her respected position in a local public school undercut that possibility. Her true feelings erupted when I touched on the sore spot of her life. That clicked with me as the truth of that moment.

At another prominent evangelical church in our community a week or so later, after I had been handed a "Prospective Member" card to fill out in Sunday School. (I filled this in with the questions "Why do you automatically put me in the category of prospect?" and, "If I am in Jesus like you, am I not part of you already?") During the Sunday School class itself, a regular member (some one with far more status within this group than most) delivered a scalding message of condemnation against anyone who was not actively witnessing for the purpose of expanding the roles of the church. Hmmm...it was clear from these two social mechanisms, the card and the message, that the church was focused on numbers. Additionally, the abject disparity between Romans 8:1 and the empty-hearted scolding I had just heard demonstrated this group 's spiritual lack.

What did these three people have in common? My takes is a lack of contentment because of a failed or inactive spiritual imagination.

3 comments:

Jesse said...

Is it imagination? Or the unequivocal force of modern American society. My point being, that the society we live in drives people to never be content. Why be satisfied or content when you can have more. Is that not the "American Dream" that is robustly driven into our everyday life. Always pushing and striving to have the next best thing. In my experiance, ufortunatley that way of thinking has wedged its wat into the church and become part become part of the unconscious message carried out to the church follower who is searching for anything they can, to find peace away from the everyday rigors of life. Look at the modern church that is constantly building these huge super churches and facilities to carry out "God's will" Leaders bog the church membership down asking them support elaborate crusades and be their at every waking moment to take part in this fight against the world. All this money and energy is spent trying to create the best possible way to follow Jesus. At the end all that is created is an exhausting chase that people were trying to get away from to begin with. Thus your left feeling empty and often times hurt by people you grew close to in the process. I amnot saying loss of imagination creates a loss for contentment but that maybe the church operates in the same manner has our society breeding ill-contentment.

ded said...

Jesse, thanks for your comment. The issue of discontent in the heart of man predates modern American culture, I think. Man living without God has always known a discontent. American culture connected with affluence has taken the meaning of discontent to new levels. I completely agree with your observations of church acquisitions of buildings, etc. as evidence of fruitless efforts to achieve God.

It is that empty feeling you correctly identify that is leading me to write these series of posts. I don't think what I have to say is the answer to emptiness for every Christian, but I believe some may be helped by the few things I feel God has laid on my heart about this. I think you show great insight with this comment, "...the church follower who is searching for anything they can, to find peace away from the everyday rigors of life."

Why as Christians in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit do we not show deep peace in the face of the everyday rigors of life?

Craig V. said...

I've also seen what I first took to be coincidence as being from the gracious hand of God. It's often in the little things. All of the sudden, or so it seems, a new insight will be shared by several people in my church community.