Some time ago as we went through the arduous process of settling in the United States after years of living overseas, I began realizing that every time a friend said they were traveling somewhere I would look at my life with complete and undisguised discontent. I didn’t want my life. I was discontent with much of what it had to offer. I wanted the life of another. I wanted to be the one on the airplane saying “Goodbye!” – I didn’t want to be the one left, waving goodbye. I didn’t want to be the mom that accompanies the kindergarten class on their field trip to the airport, I wanted to be the mom that packed up her child at the age of 5 and in a frenzied rush of packing, goodbyes and promises to keep in touch settled with a sigh into seat 28C and listened to “Good evening, this is your captain speaking….”
I wanted to be the one with the amazing stories, the stories of a car being held up by four men while the tire was being changed in the middle of a city street. The stories of traveling over mountains and through deserts, having to walk across international borders because you needed a bathroom so badly, sitting at truck stops eating bowls of greasy curry and chapatis while your car was being fixed. So many stories. I didn’t want the stories that could sit on the shelf of a cubicle in a government building, I wanted stories that lived, I wanted a life that mattered and being overseas was representative of a life that mattered.
You can only hide discontent for so long. I remember the day I cried out to God in my discontent, weeping the soul tears that come from deep within and leave you exhausted and humbled. Like the giant hot dragon tears that Eustace Clarence Scrubb cried in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” when he saw his reflection in water and realized he had turned into a dragon. And just as Eustace through his monstrous actions took on the skin of a monster, I had drunk the poison of discontent and become poisonous in the process. I realized that day that I hated the place my children called home. I was a dragon of sorts and needed to have my dragon skin taken off no matter how painful.
But taking off something that I had internalized for some time was a challenge. Just like poison that needs a strong antidote to relieve people of its deadly effects, I needed something strong. It initially took the physical act of writing down everything that I had – not what I wanted. It was a long list. It included a Victorian home and healthy children. It could have been someone else’s dream list. That was a shocker. In my discontent, was I living out somebody else’s dreams?
I was thinking about this recently as I began reading a book new to our library. The book had been recommended to me by a couple of different people but I remember shrugging it off, thinking “Wow does that sound dumb. Sounds like a sugary, syrupy non-book”. And then, in yet another humbling experience, I had the opportunity to read the first chapter free. The book is by a woman named Ann Voskamp and called “One Thousand Gifts.” The words on the pages took in my unwilling heart as I read of the pain of a death in her family keeping her from really living. In the words of my sister-in-law, the author writes in “staccato urgency” – she has a message and she wants people to hear it. Her premise is that from the beginning of time, even when there was a perfect garden with more glory than can be imagined, we were “lured by a deception that there was more to a full life*” that God wasn’t really giving us what was good, that there was more. In a poetic passage she says “We look and swell with the ache of a broken and battered planet, which we ascribe as the negligent work of an indifferent creator (if we even think there is one) Do we ever think of this busted -up place as a result of us ingrates, unsatisfied, we who punctured it all with a bite?” These are biting words to be sure, but she goes on to say that in her journey, she realized that if ingratitude was the sin, the solution was gratefulness, gratitude, giving thanks. I won’t give spoilers because I have none – I am slowly ingesting and digesting this book.
But certainly in my life, my life where discontent has, at times, poisoned me, the antidote is gratitude. It’s as simple as giving thanks. It’s as difficult as giving thanks.
What about you? How has discontent manifest itself in your world and what is your solution?
*The quotes are taken directly from the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp Copyright 2010 Zondervan
6 thoughts on “The Poison of Discontent;The Antidote of Gratitude”
Oh how I identify on so many levels!
Sophie – I’m thinking you, me and Robynn Biss would do well to get together for tea! Would have to invite Deb and Eunice too.
You took the words out of my mouth! I used to live overseas and had a life full of adventure, now I live in the US, a stay-at-home mom, and I feel envy and hurt every time I hear of someone traveling or moving overseas, doing “meaningful things” with their life. I struggle with discontent daily. But God is at work in my life. Somehow it takes more faith and reliance on Him to live this “normal” and comfortable life then it did to live a crazy and unpredictable missionary life. I am glad I am not the only one experiencing this. Thanks.
That’s exactly my story Maria – moved back to the US with 5 kids and so struggled, as you see articulated in the blog post. I echo what you say at the end of your comment – I am the same. For me it takes far more grace to live in the US. I’m so glad you read and shared a sliver of your story.
Marilyn, I’m trying really hard to be thankful for going on 5 days with the hot water heater waiting for an important element to arrive from the factory so that hot water is a tap away! Okay, I do have water and that is a priceless commodity elsewhere in this world. Thanks.
Oh that is so tough! It’s funny that you say hot water – that is one of the things I love SO much. I love the warmth of the shower or a bath….I thought of that so much when I went back to Pakistan and did flood relief. One day I had been in the shower about 20 seconds and the water ran out. It was one of the not so pretty moments with Carol!