Contentment, revisited

Oh hey, blog. It’s been a while.

If you want to know a little something about me, just look at this blog. Not so much at the content of the posts, but at the blog as a whole. You’ll notice a girl who was really REALLY into this whole having-a-blog concept, you’ll see seven thoughtful (if I do say so myself) posts, and then… crickets. 17 months of crickets, to be exact.

I’m like that.

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A Tale of Two Football Players

from Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

This week the game of football lost one of its stars. At the age of 43, former San Diego Charger Junior Seau was found dead in his apartment, after an apparent suicide. Family, friends, and fans were left to pick up the pieces of a life that ended too soon, and the question on every tongue was “Why?” Why does someone who seemingly has the world in his hands choose to throw it all away? Why do we not see this coming? Why do we always assume that 19 successful years in the NFL, millions of dollars, multiple successful businesses, three beautiful children, and the adoration of  teammates and fans will somehow save a man from all his pain? Why do we call that same man “selfish” or “weak” when he ultimately decides his pain is too much and none of the good he has is worth living for?

Even if we give lip service to the truth that “money can’t buy you happiness,” I think most of us have it in the backs of our heads that somewhere there is a line you can cross, an invisible threshold that carries a person into the magical realm of “enough.” If you have $100 in your wallet, then maybe you think that line lives somewhere around $1,000. If you have $1,000,000, maybe “enough” is $2,000,000. Or maybe “enough” isn’t a number. Maybe it’s fame, glory, and screaming fans.

We’ll never know what this “enough” is because no one has ever received it from the world. Junior Seau clearly didn’t. There’s a lot of speculation surrounding this story, so I won’t pretend to know what was going through Seau’s mind in those last moments. But regardless of the causes of his depression – chemical imbalances, concussions, run-ins with the law, etc. – Seau’s fame, glory, screaming fans, and money were simply not enough. For him or for anyone else.

So what’s the answer?

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Blogs are a funny thing.

For years I’ve thought I should probably have a blog, not because I necessarily have incredible things to say, but because it just seemed to follow the typical progression of my life. When it comes to new things in the world of the internet, I’m usually not too far behind the trends. I’m certainly not on the cutting edge, but I try to catch up pretty quickly. I like to think I’m simply “fashionably late” to all the best internet parties.

However, blogging is the sad exception. I’m a good 10-15 years late to this party. There are a number of reasons for it, ranging from kind of silly to flat-out stupid. But when you boil it all down, I basically had one big issue:

I had created an imaginary list of rules that were prerequisites for good blogging. A bunch of rules that I just couldn’t follow. Rules that said I had to find one topic to write about for the rest of eternity, or had to be at a more interesting certain stage of life, before I could have a blog worth reading. I would say things like, “Well, when <insert major life event here> happens, it’ll be a great blog topic.” Or “If I spent more time reading books about <insert topic here>, then I could write a really fun blog about it.” Or a big one (thanks to Pinterest): “When I become more creative, this blog will write itself!”  The perfect blog post was always a year or two, or twenty, down the line.

My thoughts about a potential blog often wandered into the unknown. Instead of planning the blog posts of life right now, I’d plan the blog posts of future me. Pictures of the perfect wedding in the perfect location with the perfect husband. Descriptions of the perfect birthday parties I’d plan for my perfect children, with every perfectly crafted detail in perfect place. Mouth-watering stories of the perfect recipes I’d make in my perfect kitchen with my perfect appliances, for the picky (though no less perfect) little boys I would have, with of course the most perfect names. Perfect homeschooling methods and perfect vacations with perfect family friends would follow. Even life’s struggles (nothing too tragic) would be handled with the perfect amount of heart-wrenching emotion. Blog awards for my perfect blog would be the next step. And if all went well, a perfect book would eventually be written about my completely, utterly perfect life.

And while the actual thoughts in my head were far less organized, and consequently didn’t sound quite so ridiculous as they sound now, what they betrayed was more than just a gigantic case of writer’s block. The scary truth: if those were my ideas about a simple blog, what were my ideas about my life? If a perfect blog can’t exist unless all the prerequisites are in place, is life somehow empty if the “necessary” pieces of the puzzle (as defined by me) are missing?

My discontentment regarding blogging revealed my discontentment with my life. What I was really saying all that time was, “My life’s not worth much until I get this or do that. Everything until then is just passing time.” Mentally, I’ve been aware of discontentment for a long time, but I never saw how it covered almost every aspect of me.

In an article in the book Fantasy, Betty Blake Churchill writes about what she calls the threads of discontentment: envy, cynicism, bitterness, and sin. These ugly little threads make us – make me – see the life God has provided as not enough. But, as Churchill later writes, the contrasting threads of a life focused on Christ, thanksgiving, and community, lead to abundance, the “peace of God which surpasses all comprehension” (Philippians 4:6)… contentment. Hence the name of this blog.

So maybe it’s not blogs that are funny things, maybe it’s just me. Normal people probably don’t analyze blog-writing like this. In fact, by writing this, it’s fairly likely I’m losing some of the readers I don’t even have yet. And that’s okay. What I’ve realized is that I really just want to blog, and the “perfect” conditions will never come. But maybe if I can focus my thoughts on the things in the right now – the lessons I’m learning, the things and the people I love – and write about them, I can start to weave together the strands of contentment in my own life.

This isn’t to say that every post will be serious… because, between you and me, I like a lot of un-serious things, like cupcakes and football and cute babies. It’s also pretty fair to assume that this won’t be the most cohesive blog ever written, because the things I like are way too diverse for that (i.e. cupcakes and football and cute babies). It’s even possible that some of my posts will still carry the stench of discontentment, because, as the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11, contentment is something we learn… and I feel like I’ve only just started learning it. So grace is always appreciated.

Needless to say, I’m not sure what this whole thing will look like in the end. Time will tell.
I can guarantee one thing though: not every post will be this long.