How to Deal with Discontent
What do you do when the feelings of discontent creep over you? There are books and books of self-help gurus who can persaude you to be grateful for what you have – and they are useful. But sometimes I think we run too quickly from the emotion of discontent, and we lose the lessons it teaches us.
Nine years ago, I climbed a mountain in the Lake District, in England. I got to the top, the wind whipping my hair, and surveyed all the land beneath me. I whooped, just a little. I didn’t know it was the last mountain I would climb.
I have an autoimmune neurological illness, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. It crept up slowly upon me, over ten years, slowly taking away my independence.
For almost six years I have been housebound, and my world has become smaller. These days the only land I can survey is the bedroom carpet (brown swirly splotches with stray Lego bricks dotted here and there). I spend 22 hours a day in bed.
Most of the time I am okay with being ill; I have adapted. But sometimes the grief hits me and I miss being able to walk with my husband hand in hand. I long to be able to dance in the kitchen with my son; I long for a body that does what I tell it to, a world without suffering. I long to be able to wake up and think, ‘I’ll go for a run around the park today’, and then walk down the stairs, open the door, and feel the satisfying smack of running shoes on concrete.
I experience it more physically than most, but we all feel it: that longing for freedom. We want to be able to try the abundance of fruit in the world, we want to do all the things, and we strain at our leash.
We are all limited. The limits are different for each of us, but there is always something: a lack of money, time, energy, space. We feel that yearning for freedom and independence, but there is a snake coiled tightly around our legs, and our feet are made of clay.
There are days when we forget that this world is not enough; life is full, the sky blue and clear. It feels like enough. Our world is so tantalisingly near-heaven that we fool ourselves into thinking we have already arrived.
Then there are other days which remind us that we are not home yet. As I write this, the sky is grey, and the trees silhouetted against the skyline are charcoal. I feel grey. The white net curtains overlay the window, and I remember that I cannot see clearly, and will not see clearly until heaven.
There is a stirring of memory in me that recalls a world of colour. We are homesick for Eden, homesick for heaven.
How do we respond when we are faced with our limitations? There are some who would tell me to focus on the positives, and concentrate on my blessings. My blessings are numerous – my relative riches, a country without warfare, supportive friends, the ability to write, a husband and son who love me. But still, every January, I look upon another year of life with chronic illness, and the landscape of my life looks pretty cold and bleak.
I am learning to lean into my longings. I long for freedom. There are good and bad motives mixed in with the longing; the pomegranates together with the hiss of the serpent. But I am learning to listen to my longings.
Sometimes the church tells me not to think about my body, and just focus on my spirit. My longings tell me that my body matters, and that in heaven I will have a body that works.
Sometimes friends tell me not to worry so much about other people, and only focus on my own family. My longings tell me that I am right to weep for the sufferings of the world, because the earth is groaning with me in eager expectation.
Sometimes the church tells me that I should not be sad, because Jesus is enough. My longings tell me that though Jesus may be enough, I do not always see Jesus clearly, feel him near. Jesus may be enough, but I do not yet have enough Jesus.
We do not walk with God quite as we did in Eden. Not yet. We need to listen to our longings. They speak truth to us.
So today I look out on a grey sky, and I feel grey, and I tell myself it is okay to feel grey. I pause awhile, close my eyes. The birds are offering a tentative song, and I feel the hope of their chirping. It is a reminder that the cloud’s covering of the sun is temporary, and one day, we will come home, we will walk with God in the cool of the day, and I will run up a mountain and survey the land of a new Eden.
Over to you:
If you have read it, I appreciate your honest reviews in those places as well. Thank you always for coming here, for living real, and for celebrating my and others’ stories of desire and longing.