Do you struggle with discontentment? I sure do, but I think I've had a breakthrough recently.
My parents teasingly called me Eeyore when I was a kid, because from a very young age I have had a special gift for seeing the negative in any situation. I've always been able to maintain a rainy cloud of discontentment no matter how sunny my life is. Like a good millennial, I constantly feel stifled and suffocated by my surroundings, even if my miseries are such petty first-world problems as "living in nasty Florida" or "my house is too annoyingly big."
But the movies and inspirational Instagram posts make it look like "spreading your wings to fly" or changing your situation in a dramatic way is easy, or at least that it merely requires "bravery." In reality, however, plenty of brave people don't have that option.
When you're married to a well-established local business owner, conversations of "let's ditch this town and get a fresh start" don't go over well.
And when you're the mom of three strong-willed kids whose personalities you might sometimes want to tweak a little, you don't get to roll the dice again and hope for a different turnout.
And, of course, no matter who you are, serious issues of actual suffering can't just be wished away. Life is short and, at risk of sounding too capitalist, you have to work with what you've got.
I've been thinking about that a lot in terms of creativity though. How many times have constraints beautifully shaped art?
Oftentimes the most creative stories don't begin with a blank sheet of paper, but with a prompt, a specific idea, a deadline.
The best improv skits don't begin with "Ok, just go onstage and be funny!" There's always a scenario, a prop, subject matter, or song style. (Oh, Wayne Brady, I admire you so.)
Russ Ramsey recently wrote a fantastic and insightful article about Michelangelo's famous sculpture, David. Other artists worked on David before Michelangelo was even born. He had to step into art piece that had already been begun and do the best he could with it. Limiting, sure, but if he had started from scratch, David wouldn't be the same masterpiece.
So we need to look at our lives squarely and acknowledge what we've been given, the desirable and undesirable. What we consider "hindrances" to fulfilling our goals are really what C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity might call "raw materials"; they're what God has given us to work with. Whatever disappointments or broken promises or shocking turns of events we encounter---whether it's an annoying professor or a difficult marriage or lifelong disability---we can see them as the creative restraints God is giving us. These limitations help us depend on Him, look outside ourselves for answers, and joyfully accept all things as a part of the masterpiece that God is making. Yes, God is the One making it. Though we work hard to persevere and we celebrate the glimpses of progress and beauty, He is the one creating a masterpiece.
So, friend, when you scroll on your phone and see your friends living the life you always thought you'd have, you can express your disappointment to God and know that He cares for you. But you can also remind yourself that He is giving you a joyful life of trust, dependence, and pioneering. You're figuring out how to work with something that wasn't part of your plans. There is adventure in that.
When you sit at your kitchen table, exhausted by your work that feels so very meaningless, dreaming of more "ambitious" endeavors that could have been, you can tell yourself, "I'm being given the opportunity to find a meaningful life that looks even more beautiful than I imagined it would be."
When you weep on the floor over a dream you've had to bury---at least for the foreseeable future---you can trust that the reality given to you by God is richer and fuller than the mirage you had planned for yourself. You're not entering this disappointment with knowledge of how many beautiful things will come from it or how many ways this will strengthen you. But God knows, and He cares more about your joy than even you do. He just takes the "let them see My glory" approach to joy-giving (John 17:24) instead of the "give them whatever they want" approach we all might prefer. :)
We can see our limitations as necessary, given to us by a God who ingeniously crafted the universe and for milennia has created unbelievably redemptive stories with the lives of very broken people.
From one recovering Eeyore to another, I love you, friend.
"In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials." 1 Peter 1:6
"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 5, 3, 1, and not-yet-born. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today