There is an elderly lady in our congregation named Bea. Her health is not good and she lives in a nursing home. My husband, her Pastor, loves his visits to Bea because she is always cheerful, positive and thankful. According to Bea, the caregivers are so kind to her; her children and grandchildren visit often; she has a prayer partner in another state whom she has never met who calls her, sends cards and prays faithfully; she has a loving church family. Bea says she has so many reasons to thank God.
Did Bea have an easy life? Not especially. She didn’t finish school because she married very young. She raised a large family. Her first husband died fairly young. Her second husband also predeceased her. Yet Bea tells my husband she is thankful to have had two good men in her life. She has been in and out of the hospital due to pneumonia, but when asked how she feels, she believes that each day she is getting a little better.
Bea is not blessed in the eyes of the world. She is old and ill; she had no high powered career; she is not rich or famous. Yet of all the people I know, she is one of those I consider truly blessed. She loves God and like the apostle Paul, has learned to be content in all circumstances. I struggle every day to become more like Bea.
“Now there is great gain in godliness and contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” 1 Timothy 6:6-8
Today is the day that we all sit down with family and eat and eat and eat. While we’re doing that I have a few things that I’d like all of us to think about. Part of this month’s theme has gluttony in it. Gluttony is usually associated with food, but let’s take it to the next level.
Thanksgiving is all about being thankful for what we have. Gluttony is the opposite of that. Webster defines is as “greedy or excessive indulgence”. So why talk about this on Thanksgiving? We, as a people, need to learn to be thankful for what we have and be content. The marketing companies in this country are always about having more, or better. We find ourselves wanting more.
I’ve been there. We were pretty poor, on Food Stamps and Assistance. One year the local church came with a box of food, a turkey with all the trimmings. Needless to say, I cried, and I felt so humble. Here I was feeling bitter because we couldn’t afford the whole meal and the Lord stepped in and had these wonderful people bring it to me. Yes, I was very thankful that year.
But I still wanted more out of life. I wanted the house, the car, the job… all the things that this world tells us we must have. Didn’t matter that we had a roof over our heads, food to eat and a vehicle to drive. I wanted better. I won’t go into how the Lord brought me to where I am today, but let’s just say that life has never been easy for me.
Through all these years I’ve learned to be content. Content with what I have, which is more than what many others have. I have a wonderful family, a roof over my head, food to eat and a loving church family. What more could I want?
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content.” Philippians 4:11
Part of good stewardship is being contented. After all, how can we share what we have, if we’re convinced it isn’t enough? Everything about our society seems based on consumerism and having more, more, more. Ads constantly barrage us with the latest or better new product we need to purchase. The lifestyle of a family on the average television show would require an income of $200,000. Styles change quickly so we feel compelled to add to or change our wardrobe. Phones and other technology are constantly updated, so that older models become “obsolete.” We’re always sure we’ll be satisfied when we get one more raise, the next new car, the slightly bigger house, and so on. Unfortunately as sinful humans, that little bit more doesn’t satisfy, it just whets our desire for the next thing. We never reach the point of being content, so we’re never thankful for what God has given us, and we’re never willing to be generous with what we have. We don’t have time to serve others, because we’re so busy chasing after the latest and greatest toy on our list. According to the apostle Paul, this kind of discontent leads to disaster.
“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into this world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. It is through this craving that some have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” 1 Timothy 6:4-10
If you’re an older person, you’ve seen that money, jobs, hobbies, trips and all the fancy trappings we try to surround ourselves with don’t last. When we’re gone, people won’t remember what we had, they’ll remember what we did with what we had. Did you live a life of integrity? Did you serve God? Did you love others? Those are the things that will be important. So practice the art of contentment — it’s one of the keys to good stewardship.
“Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely hind, a graceful doe.” Proverbs 5:18
Beth Ann’s post got me thinking about my own marriage, also one which has also required perseverance. We’re both strong willed, complicated people. Over the years we’ve had financial problems, problems with teenagers, conflicts with relatives, disagreements with each other, job stress, depression, anxiety, etc.. It seems like just when one area straightens out, a new problem crops up. That’s life, I guess. Or at least life in a sinful world. Yet we’ve managed to stick with it for 46 years. As older folks, we’ve reached a kind of contented plateau. The kids are grown and on their own; careers are over or winding down. Finances are settled, for better or worse. Instead of striving for the next big thing, we’re looking back at how we’ve done, what we’ve accomplished …and for the most part, we’re satisfied.
One special thing about a long marriage is knowing so many different aspects of your spouse. Yes, I could be widowed and marry again, but nobody but Terry would remember me as a teenager, a college student, or a young mom. No other husband would share the birth of my children, my first “adult” job, all the years of growing in Christ and so much more. I once read a book where the main character said something like this, “in this house we are not just two old people — we are all the people we have ever been.”
Like Beth Ann, I wish I could convince people, it’s worth the hard work. If you are married to the love of your youth, rejoice! Let’s hear from some other lady bloggers, what do you have to tell us about the marriage relationship?