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.