Just outside Kalispell, Montana, where I had a speaking engagement, I pulled my car off the road and turned off the engine. Opening the door, I zipped my coat against the crisp air and stood mesmerized by the autumn beauty surrounding me.
Later I called my husband from my motel room. "Steve! I've found the perfect town! Every street is tree-lined, every church has a steeple, every park has a gazebo. I even spotted the perfect house. And it's for sale!"
At this, Steve laughed. He's come to expect some version of this conversation every time I visit a new town. As a child, my family moved frequently. My brother, sister, and I joke that although we grew up together, we all have a different answer to the question, "Where are you from?"
Steve's childhood was just the opposite. Born and raised in the same town, he draws great security from his family's roots that burrow back three generations into this central Oregon soil where we live.
I've accepted the fact that marriage to Steve means staying put, but occasionally my wings become entangled in his roots. Then, if I'm not careful, discontentment starts weighing me down. And nothing else so quickly cuts the line of communication between God and me.
One dark autumn afternoon, when life seemed particularly redundant, God showed me just how he felt about these bouts of ingratitude. As angry gusts of wind and rain whipped around my car at a stoplight, I noticed a stooped, old woman hobbling down the sidewalk. She wore no coat, and as she drew closer, I realized her feet were bare.
Before I could even register my horror, the light had changed. As I drove away, God withered me with a single thought: How dare you complain!
Instantly overwhelmed with guilt for my narrowsightedness, I pleaded for forgiveness. The specter of the old woman brought my own life into sharp focus! I determined never to allow myself to become discontent again.
Yet despite my resolve, restlessness still sneaks in uninvited. Before long, discontentment pulls up a chair and settles in for a visit. When this happens, I read Psalm 77. There an anguished David lists his complaints: "Will the Lord never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever?"
But then David abruptly shifts his attitude by forming a different list: "I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds" (verses 11-12).
Contentment has nothing to do with what's going on in my lifeand everything to do with what's going on in my mind. The apostle Paul understood this when he said, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want" (Phil. 4:12). Godly contentment is achievable, depending on which mental list I dwell onwhat God hasn't done, or what he has done. The latter reminds me I'm already living in the perfect town and perfect housebecause it's right where God wants me to be.
Copyright © 1997 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian Woman magazine.