One of my favorite afternoons spent in Paris was the time Whitney and I spent in the gardens of Luxembourg Palace. The weather was perfect and the gardens were absolutely beautiful. There are these little green chairs all over the grounds for anyone to use - if I lived in Paris this would definitely be one of my regular spots. Although we were surrounded by beauty, it wasn't the scenery that made the afternoon so special... it was the conversation that Whitney and I had and the way the Lord used the afternoon to teach me some things that I think he has been working on for a while. Bear with me, this is going to be a long one.
Back in December my Bible study group challenged each another to ask the Lord to give us a word to reflect on for the year. We prayed about it and I quickly became aware that my word was contentment. Let's just say that I was not very... content.... with this being the word the Lord was giving me. In fact, I was really mad and all but begged for a different word. In my mind contentment meant that the Lord was most likely going to leave me in the desert to tough it out through the hard circumstances of the past year until I could find it in myself to put on a happy face. In other words... I was thinking that learning to be content meant being left in time-out until you learned to change your attitude. Believe me, I know this is not the truth, but that was still how I felt and I told God, "well, you are just going to have to prove me wrong then." (heavy on the sass when I said it too)
Like any good New Years resolution, I studied the word contentment and prayed about it for a whopping 2 months and then basically forgot about the exercise all together....
A few months ago I really felt the Lord urging me to lean on him and trust him with my circumstances more than I was. I was frustrated with my current situation but I couldn't figure out how to change it on my own. I started feeling like what I needed more than a change in circumstances was to have more "open hands" and hold less tightly to the things that I wanted. That's not to say that my hopes have changed, I just gave them over to the Lord more. I let go of the desire to have things on my terms and to let the Lord handle my situations and TRUST that he, in fact, would hear my prayers and answer them according to his timing.
As Whitney and I were talking in the gardens I was sharing with her about how what I had begun to realize over the past few months of practicing trusting the Lord, and really letting go of things, was that I felt like I had gained a lot of spiritual freedom. The more open my hands were, and the looser my grip, the more freedom I had. I wrote a post a few months ago about how I didn't want to miss my life by being too preoccupied with my life and miss precious moments in the present due to fretting about what was coming next. Well, the more I have handed things over to the Lord, the more free I have been to enjoy the moments I have right now... because God is already handling the future. Don't get me wrong, there are still things I am waiting on and hoping for... but I also realize that I wont ever get these current days back, so I need to live in them while I can and let the Lord plan my future. Having open hands is truly life giving... my spirit is free to really live because I don't have to be in charge of what comes next.
"And I pray that Christ would be more and more at home in your heart as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love." Eph 3:17
That is when it hit me... thats contentment. Its not about being stuck in time-out, toughing out a bad situation until your attitude changes. Contentment is the practice of trusting the Lord in ALL circumstances - with our worries, hopes, dreams, future, etc.- and in turn gaining the freedom that comes with giving it all over to Him. By doing this, by giving God the reigns, we no longer give our situations (good or bad) the power to make or break us. Thats contentment. I had forgotten all about this word that the Lord wanted me to study this past year, but God hadn't. He was just waiting for the right moment to knit together the things he had been teaching me and bring it all full circle. I asked him to prove me wrong, and he did it on a park bench in Paris with my best friend by my side. That'll show me to challenge the Lord again.