The Winter of My Discontent

Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
(Ecclesiastes 7:10)

Why do I make such a habit of discontentment?

God has tailor made a million unique blessings to fit me perfectly right when and where I am, but I forfeit them whenever I covet another person’s life or situation or when I refuse the good of today by longing for days that are past.

Firstly, I am wrong every time I scorn the graces God has exquisitely handcrafted for me, both when I look upon His good gifts with contempt and when I foolishly long after the graces He has blessed another with. What rank stupidity- they will no more fit nor satisfy me than mine will him! They are just as singularly shaped to match him and him alone as mine are fashioned exclusively for me.

How is it that I presume that anything anyone else has must be superior to the gifts my Father is holding out to me? When I begrudge others of what God has blessed them with, I blind myself to the mercies He is renewing with loving exclusivity each and every day.

I find, though, that I am less susceptible to this first temptation than I am to the second one. I an overwhelmingly guilty of hoarding the goodness of past days.  Memory is a blessed thing that God has gifted us with, one of His purposes being that we should draw upon things from the past to enrich our present. Too regularly though I reminisce out of a bitterness that the days I cherish are no more. I do not trust God’s good design in leading me into a new phase of my life, nor do I trust He intends to make my present just as good as what I knew before though in a different way. This is how the good things I venerate in memory become tainted and infect both present and future.

It’s like I won’t allow for any day to be anything but yesterday. There are too many times that I have plagued myself with memories to the point of paralysis, such that I cannot flourish in the present. I opt instead to be frozen in the inertia of good things remembered that I have transformed into snares, and so I barricade myself within a prison of memory and lament that these days can only be half-lived within my mind. I realize now that in this frame of mind I’m not thankful to God that I ever enjoyed these days once- I am implicitly complaining to Him that they have to end at some point in time, and thus I rob Him of worship. I want Him to perpetually repeat the same gifts to me, down to the last detail, forever. And He will not. And so I do not offer praise to whom it is due.

C.S. Lewis writes poignantly to preach to himself and to others with the same inclination:

It seems to me that we often, almost sulkily, reject the good that God offers us because, at that moment, we expected some other good… On every level of our life- in our religious experience, in our gastronomic, erotic, aesthetic, and social experience- we are always harking back to some occasion which seemed to us to reach perfection, setting that up as a norm, and depreciating all other occasions by comparison. But those other occasions, I now suspect, are often full of their own new blessing, if only we would lay ourselves open to it. God shows us a new facet of the glory, and we refuse to look at it because we’re still looking for the old one. And of course we don’t get that…

And the joke, or the tragedy, of it all is that these golden moments of our past experience] which are so tormenting if we erect them into a norm, are entirely nourishing, wholesome, and enchanting if we are content to accept them for what they are, for memories. Properly bedded down in a past which we do not miserably try to conjure back, they will send up exquisite growths. Leave the bulbs alone, and the new flowers will come up. Grub them up and hope by fondling and sniffing, to get last year’s blooms, and you will get nothing.

(C.S. Lewis, A Mind Awake [Harcourt, 1968], pp. 163-64)

The memories are good and precious things that are meant to help us persevere in forward motion, not to waylay us. The past is meant to be the wind at my back helping me to surge into the future but instead I try to bottle the breeze and forever anchor myself in a moment that I can never retrieve as fully as I desire to. But God’s love toward us is simply too immense to allow that to be so. He is drawing you and me forward in time towards the fulfillment of promises that are so staggering, it’s not that our good memories will be extinguished, but rather that they will be augmented with perfection by that future glory and vice versa. Lord, open our eyes to see the wonders you surround us with everyday, and teach us to be joyful.

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