This Wednesday’s What-Not we investigate the key to contentment. Contentment is not as elusive and complex to attain as we sometimes make it seem. A simple concept crossed my mind while out for a run on a cold Chicago winter day.
People have been known to ask me, “How can you run in the cold?”
One of my responses is, “Layers”.
When the temperature drops below a certain level, I change my attire. I add a hat, gloves, running scarf, and a jacket. These additional layers keep me warm and comfortable in inclement weather. If I were still running in my summer shorts and tank top, I would be miserable. I wouldn’t have enough layers to keep me warm and I probably would stop running until summer returned.
Conversely, if I ran with all my winter gear during the sweltering season of summer I would be uncomfortable in a different way. I might come down sick with heat stroke. Certainly, I’d get some strange looks from passers’ by.
Life is like running. Sometimes we need more layers. Other times, God calls us to a season of less layers. If we try to proceed in life with too many or too few layers, life becomes uncomfortable —and if allowed too long, could become downright miserable. If we’re not in the place God wants us to be, He can change the thermostat enough that we’ll desire to change our attire.
Look at what you are wearing. Is it right for this season in your life? Do you feel bogged down? Take a layer off. Do you feel too buoyant (like you might float away into oblivion)? Add something in.
For a fashion-loving gal like myself, I appreciate that God gives us a whole wardrobe of options to wear.
We can try new things on and see how we like them. Perhaps, we’ll keep them like a favorite comfy sweater. We can love that layer and look forward to putting it on day after day, year after year. The more we wear it, the more comfortable it gets. It’s one of our favorite things to do. This layer perhaps, the very purpose God placed us here for in the first place.
There will be other attire we try on and determine, “that’s not for me”. That’s okay. Donate that layer to someone else. The task you don’t enjoy doing may bring someone else great joy. Let them wear that layer. It might look better on them anyhow. Orange never was my color, but it looks great —fabulous even—on one of my friends.
Sometimes, we really like the outfit and really enjoy wearing it. We can hardly think of donating that layer. But God, “It’s one of my favorites. I don’t want to stop wearing it. I love it.” (Insert whiny voice here.) God knows it’s one of your favorite “outfits”, so if He has asked you to stop wearing it, trust that He has a good reason.
Have you ever painted furniture? Over the course of time many layers of paint build up until the next décor change you make requires that you strip the layers of paint before you can put a fresh, new coat of paint on. The new paint will bring back the luster of the restored piece. But you can’t add another layer of paint to the existing coats. You have to do the work of taking off the existing layers before you can add a new one. What lustrous new layer might God want to add to your life? Don’t make Him break out the scraper (speaking from personal experience).
I think this is a question He wants me to ponder. It’s the New Year and a good time to contemplate these things. Perhaps, God wants you to consider them as well.
Last November God gave me a word during prayer. The word slipped into my quiet time. The word was acoustic. Since that time in mid-November, I’ve asked God what acoustic means specifically for me and my life.
In the most general sense and what spoke to me immediately about an acoustic version of a song is, it is stripped down and simplified. Acoustic is intimate. You’re not in a big concert venue with blaring electric guitars (not that I don’t love electric guitars – I do). Rather, you’re situated perhaps in a coffee shop, hand strumming guitar strings with a simplified sound.
An acoustic version of a song is not necessarily easier to play. It might take more talent. In fact, mistakes may be more noticeable in that more vulnerable version of music. Playing the wrong chord highlighted because there is less noise to distract.
Today, I learned the Greek word for acoustic is akoustikos of hearing, from the Greek akouein to hear.* To hear. Interesting. I need to listen. I will hear something. What, I do not know.
I will continue to ask God what acoustic means for me. I will listen. I will hear.
In the song of my life, God has recently stripped one layer off. It was a good layer. However, my husband and I felt called out of our small group. We don’t know what paint color God has selected for our renovation, but sometimes God calls us to act in faith not knowing what the next thing will be. There are undercurrents of what God might be doing in terms of community, but we are still praying on that. Like when you are a little kid on the monkey bars, you can’t reach the next rung without letting go of at least one of your hands. Prayerfully, that’s what we did.
I’m praying on some other areas God may ask me to give up. I’m getting a sense He might. Even last week’s sermon at church was speaking to that potential. These are things I love, things that “are my color”. They’re not orange. They’re blue and purple, the jewel tones that bring out my best. But if God asks me to give them up, He has a good reason.
I trust Him. He has brought me so much good, so much love, so much more than I could ever have possibly imagined …. so much more. Maybe that’s what this is. He’s bringing me so much more – things not even on my radar. Things I haven’t imagined. I don’t know. Finally, I think I don’t have to know.
So, maybe even though we are in the midst of winter, God is perhaps calling me to take some more layers off. Contentment happens when we wear the layers God has knit together for us. His layers are custom tailored to fit us to perfection.
Questions / Actions
- Have you considered your personal contentment might be related to the layers (tasks and activities) you put on or take off?
- Prayerfully ask God what layers He is calling you to put on or take off for this season of your life.
* Merriam-Webster, I. (2003). Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc.