Friday, March 30, 2007

Finding Contentment With Help from the Scriptures

Our Relief Society lesson last Sunday was on scripture study. While reading the lesson I realized that my personal scripture study has been lacking. One sister in my ward suggested that for more meaningful scripture study it’s often helpful to pick a topic and look up the scriptures relating to it. Seeing as how I’m constantly struggling with contentment, I chose it as my topic. Here are a few references and how I’ve learned from them.

1 Timothy 6:6-8 “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”

In other words, don’t focus on material things. Be grateful for what you have. Having food and clothing is enough to be content with. In the food category, I enjoy Dannon Light ‘n Fit yogurt, crisp gala apples, crunchy carrot sticks with fat free ranch dip. And about raiment. Just this morning I realized that I get to wear my favorite clothes every day – jeans and tennis shoes.

When I find myself making mental lists of what it would be nice to have (new furniture, high- speed internet, a dog crate), I’ve found it helpful to repeat a simplified version of verse seven to myself – “you can’t take it with you.”

Jeremiah 29:7 “And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.”

A little background information first: Jeremiah is a prophet to the Israelites during their captivity in Babylon. In prior verses he was instructing them to build houses, plant gardens, and marry and raise families. So what verse seven is saying is . . . make the best of a challenging situation. And because the world we live in is often referred to as Babylon, we can follow Jeremiah’s advice too. I liked how he said, “pray unto the Lord for [peace].” I learned that contentment and peace are worth praying for.

At the end of verse six, Jeremiah gives an explanation of why it’s important for the Israelites to make the most of their challenging circumstances . . . “that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.” Can’t we say that about ourselves too? When we go about our lives in peace -- building houses, planting gardens, raising families – aren’t we increasing? But doing the same things in a spirit of discontent – keeping up with the Joneses or Jones-itis, as I like to call it –
causes us to feel diminished. And if we go into debt to feed our discontent, we can literally become diminished -- spiritually and financially bankrupt.

Alma 29:3,6 “... for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.... Why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called?”

Like Alma who wanted to cry repentance with angelic zeal, I too have some grandiose desires. Mine run along the lines of . . . write books to captivate and energize young readers. . . speak at EFY retreats and inspire youth to greatness . . . publish a book for women that helps them feel better about themselves. Those are the things that I dream of doing, but yard work, laundry, and running errands seem to eat all my time. Reading verse six, where it says, “Why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called?” made me wonder if I’ve been called to do house work.

I decided to find out. First, I sat down with my patriarchal blessing and a sheet of paper. I read through my blessing and wrote down anything that it gave me instruction to do. Next I read through a journal where I write down spiritual impressions. I looked for instances where I felt like I’d received answer to prayer on what direction to take in my life. Finally, I compiled the two lists into one.

I won’t share the entire list of what I’m called to do, but here are some highlights:

bear children and be a content at-home mom

write about my experience with depression

serve my family

be a partner to my husband

be happy and cheerful

develop and enlarge my talents for my benefit, the benefit of my family, and the benefit of others.

As I read the entry “serve my family” I felt something. I think it was the Spirit trying to tell me that the things I do to serve my family, the things that seem to eat up all my time, are actually important. For just a moment, it’s as if I saw my daily tasks as the Lord sees them – necessary jobs that accompany raising his children.

Seeing things as the Lord sees them as helped me feel better about my life. I've begun to realize that the things I do as a mother to serve my family are part of my life’s calling, and instead of discounting them, thinking that they don’t count in the grand scheme of things, I need to recognize them for what they are and be content to perform the work – yes, even house work – that I’ve been called to do.


scienceteachermommy said...

Thanks for your sibling comment on my post. I have a sister whom I love dearly. We get along well as long as we aren't living together, and I think of her first when I have big or exciting news. She is my only sister. We couldn't be more different if we tried. I have often thought that if we just met one another somewhere we probably would not have been friends. We would mostly have annoyed each other and the personality conflict would have been darkly apparent. Anyway, of the four of us (there are two brothers); she has always been the one to stay close to home. For a while, she was the ONLY one close to home. My mom, at not-so-random occasions over the years has made comments to this effect. I am sure that my mother doesn't mean to be hurtful, but sometimes I feel like I have to fight taking offense. Also, this is the sibling that always lands on her feet no matter what. You know the girl: head cheerleader, married the guy who was the captain of every team after she waited for him on his mission where he was OF COURSE the AP. Oh, and she only went to two years of school but because she became a nurse she has always made more money than me and they were able to buy a house while they were in college because she worked for four years while he played off of a BYU football scholarship where he was very much a small town celebrity. No worries when the NFL draft didn't work out because he beat out 150 other guys to become a drug rep even though he'd never held a job in his life.

Omigosh, that was lenghty. And not very a flattering reflection on me I must say. I have prayed for many years that somehow this bad feeling would leave my heart. That I would get to the point where some things like this wouldn't matter to me anymore. But I haven't done it yet. Would I want to BE my sister? Not for all the gold in California (tea in India, stars in the sky, you get the idea). Nor am I so naive to think that trials do not come to every life. She has stress with her neighbors and her in-laws because her tolerance level is low and she immediately grabs attention from every situation when she walks in the room. I guess it just seems like all of the things that have been such a struggle for my husband and I ever since we got married have just been a piece of cake for her.

Things like having a really well-decorated house cluttered up with lots of silly things don't really matter to me except when I am around her. I feel this constant tug of not measuring up--my hair isn't bleached enough or big enough; my kids aren't styled enough, heck, half the time they don't even wear shoes; my clothes aren't trendy enough . . . .

Okay, whose blog is this? Anyway, it isn't her. IT IS ME. I've just got to find a way to get through it because getting over it really isn't working.

Also, I was thinking about your repeating that feels like nagging. We just had general conference this weekend and didn't we hear "prayer, scripture study, attend church . . ." like a broken record? Like always? Perhaps it is in human nature to be need reminders. I have no explanation for your dog.

scienceteachermommy said...

I like the idea of finding contentment. That is really the key to my relationship with my sister. She doesn't think I'm a rival. It is all me. I think you just have to get to a point where you say, "I am an adult, and if stealing every corpuscle of attention in a room is important for my sister, or perhaps just unavoidable, then I need to let her do it without even batting an eyelash."

Anonymous said...

Christie, I too have studied the scriptures by topic. I also love to "capture" what I am thinking at the moment in my scripture journal. that makes the scriptures more meaningful to me.

I also have a patriarchal blessing journal. On the top of each page, I put one line from my patriarchal blessing. When I come across a scripture that fits that one line of the blessing, I write it on that page. Last year, I used those scriptures for my subject of scripture reading. It was very very enlightening. I learned so much.

I truly feel that you are a kindred spirit.