Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What to do with discontentment

I have a new job - waiting tables. Along with a new job comes new schedules, new expectations, new friends, and more stress. My husband and I knew that it would require more out of both of us, but it's one thing to know something and another to experience it. The stage was set for my heart to get hardened. After all, waiting tables in your 30s when you have a home to manage and children and a husband to tend to is a lot different than waiting tables when you are in your 20s. I started getting frustrated if I would come home at 11 pm to find the kitchen not fully cleaned up or when clutter started to accumulate more. I stopped thinking about my husband working all day to rush home and then deal with dinnertime, bath time, and bed time all by himself.  And then I had a conversation with a fellow co-worker - that was the icing on the cake. I was talking with this guy who is married with daughters. We talk a lot because we are some of the few workers who are not in college and who have kids. He talks about his wife all the time, and it's super sweet. He brags about her cooking and her parenting skills. He boasts that she leaves dinner for him on a plate every night when he gets home from work. He talks about their roles and the things that they joke about. I adore it. Well, one day, he was talking about trimming trees and mentioned how heavy branches can be. I told him I knew because I had some branches almost fall on my head when I was trimming some trees. He asked why my husband was not trimming the trees and I said that I do a lot of our yard work. He joked about it being the man's job and I told him my husband had plenty of roles in our home, but deep down I felt disappointed. I started to envy this guy's marriage. He and his wife seemed to have their roles so clearly understood. Jon and I have struggled with what our roles should be from the beginning of our marriage. I began to fixate on what my husband didn't do. I stopped trying to fix dinner before leaving for work because "he needs to help!" (Yes, sometimes it was just because I am not a super mom and didn't have time, but my heart definitely needed some work!) I forgot about the fact that he would most likely be juggle the kids while finishing up his work and fixing dinner. I began to complain about what didn't get done instead of looking at what did get done. My discontentment began to fester.

But then, I had a conversation with the same guy at work where I saw a glimpse into some imperfections in his life. I don't know that he felt that they are imperfections, but I know that they are. I didn't feel judgmental towards him or anything. It was just a slap in the face reminding me that we are all messed up and that without Christ, none of us do much right. Shoot, with Christ, we still mess up a lot. It's only through Christ that we get glimpses of perfection. I just kept thinking how blessed I am to have a husband who is a Christian man and who is constantly striving to pursue God and His will for our family. He may or may not get everything right, but he never stops trying. We may not have our roles figured out yet, but we are very much equally yoked spiritually.

As I began to realize this, my attitude started to shift. And then I noticed that there were so many other areas in my life where discontentment had been creeping in. I was discontent with our house and with our furniture. I had become discontent with my clothes and even with our healthy diet. How did I let my heart get so consumed with all these wants? Didn't I just get back from Haiti 4 months ago? Hadn't I vowed to not take anything for granted after seeing the joy my Haitian friends had in the midst of their hungry bellies and tiny homes and lack of electricity? But here I was hating my couch - which would not even fit in any of the homes that I saw in Chauffard - and wanted to change my wall decorations and was fixating on the color of my walls! And hadn't I felt convicted not so long ago once I realized that my buying habits enslave people? Yes, the fact that we eat off of paper plates almost every night and that I pick up cute little outfits for the kids (and sometimes me) from Target every couple of weeks causes people to remain in forced labor -some of them children. And here I am complaining that I just want some Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and some cuter accessories for my outfits. (Just a side note - all of this complaining was in my head so that no one could judge. Ha ha) I found out that my buying enslaves 70 something people, but I did nothing to change my life or my habits. I just felt sad but overwhelmed. I tried to comfort myself with lies like: I shop at Target, not Walmart (but still buy the items that are made from 10 year olds working 12 hour days!) And don't I complain about people like me?! Yes, discontentment fuels discontentment and it turns you into someone that is pretty ugly on the inside.

I had these realizations about myself but then went on with my life with a new list of ways I was discontent that centered around wanting to be more Christlike. I read through Judges and 1Samuel - which is all about how the Israelites were constantly discontent, turned away from God, became enslaved, and got rescued again, I cried over videos I would see on Facebook or blogs I would read about people who were sacrificing so much to serve, I watched a movie on child sex trafficking and learned how prevalent it is in my community, and my discontentment began to soar. I had to do something, but what?! And then, I butted in on some friends' conversation on facebook and learned about something called the 12x12 project they are starting - and they told me they would let me jump on board! The project deals with wearing one fair trade item each month for the whole month to help highlight the social issue it supports. During the month, we will raise awareness and funds to help with the issue. Really? Are you kidding me? As I read that first message describing this project, my heart quickened and I felt as if God Himself was speaking through that message. And then when we met about this it shifted and grew into so much more - how could we be bold, but not judgmental? how can we be disciplined in our faith? how can we simplify so that Christ is exalted? We talked about our hearts and the tons of social issues out there and how to not compromise. We did some scheduling and ate some homemade food and prayed. And I could sense that God is bringing at least some of the things in my life full circle. All these faith lessons He's been teaching me, all these convictions that I've had, all these things that break my heart are beginning to turn into action that will glorify Him! I do not need to wallow in my self centered discontentment nor do I need to sit and wonder what to do with my societal discontentment. I can live intentionally and encourage others to do the same. Check this project out on Facebook here or on Pinterest here and maybe you will find some small changes you can make that collectively can make a big difference.