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Cultivating Contentment
by Maricia Mlynek
     

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Do you remember the old story about the Quaker who put a sign on his house about contentment? The sign said: “I will give this house to any man who can prove to me that he is content.”

It wasn’t long before a man came knocking at the door. He saw the sign out front and wanted to claim the house. “I have everything I want, all the money I need, everything in life that could satisfy. I am perfectly content,” said the passerby.

The Quaker was quick in his response, “Friend, if thee is so content, what does thee want with my house?”

Desires are quick to creep into our thinking. We live in a time where bigger is always better. Style is necessary and practical is unthinkable. We must compare ourselves. We must be smarter, stronger, better looking. We divide society into those that “have” and those that “have not.” We equate contentment with our human needs. We feel cheated when we struggle with trials or when life is not going our way.

We are born with an innate desire for more. Human nature is not easily satisfied. Even as a toddler, the words “mine, mine, mine” seems inevitable. Thus, we suffer from the lack of contentment.

So, where is our contentment anchored?

Each person I have asked this question to has had a different answer. Perhaps the question should be “What is contentment?” Is it as Merriam-Webster defines, “ease of mind”?

Scripture states that it is the sense of assurance that God supplies needs (1 Timothy 6:6). The same word occurs in the Greek of 2 Corinthians. It means, literally, “sufficiency.”

I am uncertain of the state of your contentment. The over-achiever will say that contentment is a lack of drive. Mothers may recognize contentment as laziness. Those that claim contentment say it is the greatest wealth. Those without it say it doesn’t exist. We, as a society, are so busy looking for happiness that we have forgotten the value of being content.

According to Gilbert K. Chesterton, “True contentment is a thing as active as agriculture. It is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it. It is arduous and it is rare.”

So rare, in fact, that some would say it is all but extinct. I challenge us to work to protect one of mankind’s greatest treasures. In the next several weeks, I will continue my research, and I will record my results. Perhaps, as I work to cultivate contentment, as Chesterton suggests, my discoveries will become contagious.

 

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