Being Content (8 of 8)

Because we live at such an extraordinary point in history, where the very definition of reality requires revisiting. I offer these two definitions for clarification: (1) The definition of the word itself – “Something that constitutes a real or actual thing, as distinguished from something that is merely apparent.” And (2) The philosophical definition – “Something that exists independently of ideas concerning it.” Now, we all might all disagree on how best to interpret reality – but reality itself, is intrinsically an ontological matter . . . as opposed to an existential preference.

There is a tension between the what is and the what ought to be of life. We live in the what is experience of reality, while simultaneously being ever drawn into the what ought to be. The net result is that we tend to interpret reality through the filter of our what ought to be perception. Which is to say, we look at what is, and can’t help but prefer that it be different . . . placing us at odds with reality. So what are we to make of this – that contentment can only be achieved if we pessimistically give up our hope of what ought to be?

It would seem there are only two choices – 1) to ignore the reality of what is, and existentially recreate your own reality. Or 2) accept the reality of what is, and prepare for the worst, and be wary of anything good that occurs as being an unrealistic anomaly. But if reality, by definition, is to be “distinguished from something that is merely apparent” and “exists independently of ideas concerning it” – then maybe the issue isn’t really with reality, but rather with our fallen perception of it. Therefore, to accept or ignore a broken view of reality will always lead to the wrong conclusion.

contentmentSo contentment has nothing to do with whether you see the glass as half full or half empty – because your opinion about the glass only confuses the matter. The better question is – what do I plan to do with the glass that I’ve been given? In this way contentment doesn’t concern itself with the content of reality, choosing rather to focus on the context of reality. Because the circumstance, people, and stuff in your life will ever be the transient content of your life – while the ultimate context of your life is ever held in the transcendence of God’s sovereign care.

Before Paul makes the well known profession that he “can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) – he first let’s us in on the secret he learned about being content (verse 12) “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. 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.” How else could he have been so bold as to declare “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)? Therefore, we should see contentment, not as a reluctant surrendering to the hardships of reality, but rather as a faith driven bold pronouncement, that you are ready to take on all that reality can throw at you – because the Lord of all things holds you in His hand.

“. . . and to die is gain”


Being Loved (7 of 8)

The question of whether life has purpose, meaning, and significance is the very heartbeat of our presuppositions – but like much of our philosophical formation, it remains in abstraction, allowing the more pressing issues of our day to day to take center stage. And even though these presuppositions often abide largely undetected, or are ruminated on as the grand themes of life, far removed from our practical daily experience – they still seem to have a way of making themselves ever-present, taking the shape of longings and desires stirring within us, seeking resolution.

The transcendent forces of love and beauty defy definition – the best we can do is to offer our experiential descriptions of them. I would argue that they are elusively defined precisely because they are transcendently sourced — affixed to the underlying purpose, meaning, and significance of life. So that all that is evocative and beautiful might give us a glimpse of what makes life meaningful. And we all have an abiding desire to be known and loved, because intuitively we are all being drawn back to that transcendent source where love originates.

The adage “love is blind” is misleading, as if love were somehow left in the dark about who we really are . . . and if ever discovered would soon depart. No, love is eyes wide open – choosing to look beyond our faults and failings, choosing to embrace us as we are . . . so that we might be truly known AND truly loved. Because behind the larger philosophical question of whether or not life, in general, has significance, is the question: does my life have significance? . . . and love answers with an emphatic – Yes! This is the starting place for knowing what it means to be loved.

imagesGod is love (1 John 4:8) isn’t merely a scriptural Hallmark greeting card sentiment – it is an ontological cornerstone on which the whole of creation is to be understood. Because the otherness of God is shrouded in mystery, the transcendent nature of love gives us a peek beyond the theological definitions of God to find a knowing of him (and ourselves), that defies definition. So when we read “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” ~ Romans 5:8 . . . God isn’t only showing us how much love he has for us, but he is also revealing something essential about himself – that love is who he is AND what he does.

It is a curious thing that such a cruel device of tortuous execution would come to symbolize the most profound expression of love – in fact, the epicenter of all love. That the very love that spoke creation into existence is the same love that took Jesus to the cross . . . and now love itself is measured in this way. Being loved and feeling loved are not always the same. But being loved, for each of us together and separately, has been sown into creation from the very beginning. And in a redounding crescendo that split history wide open, love was on full display for everyone to see, in the cross of Christ. So you may not always feel it – but being loved is an inescapable fact of who you are.

This Pierce Pettis song always explains it better than I could ever hope to . . .