Last year a friend of mine posted the following for her Facebook status: ..Why is it that we feel compelled to upgrade everything in our lives? Why can’t we be more content with what we have and live more simply?
Ironically, in our American culture, contentment has become a pursuit. We think that our lives will be better or easier if we have a better or newer something. So we embark on our quest.
But we’ve got it mixed up. Contentment is being satisfied with what is—whether it’s our stuff or our circumstances. Pursuit is actively seeking something else—a hunt.
I understand this paradox. Hello, my name is Dianne. And I’m a tech junkie. But it’s not what you think. The calendar on my desktop computer seamlessly syncs with my iPhone and iPad. The calendars on my portable devices sync to my desktop computer. I never miss an appointment. I have constant reminders keeping me “on task and on time”–allowing me to be freely devoted to what is in front of me. Or am I?
But … I feel the need to justify. Before I had children, I worked in a fast-paced IT environment. My job was all about technology. Some people say, I work on a computer all day at work; when I come home, I don’t want to have anything to do with it. I am just the opposite. I wrote the stuff that made people’s lives better! So, when I see a good thing, I know it and take full advantage of it.
I was talking with my husband about this, and he told me about the Kano Model of Customer Satisfaction. In a nutshell, people are not satisfied even when a company meets the basic, expected needs of its customer base. When a company includes a Wow factor, going above and beyond what could ever be dreamed, it creates repeat customers. People’s level of dis-satisfaction continues to increase as companies provide new and cooler features. Smartphone companies are a perfect example.
I remember when I got my first iPhone–the 4S. I loved it. I came from a device that was, at one time, dubbed a “smartphone.” But compared to the iPhone, it was just, plain dumb. I had countless issues syncing to my PC. My iPhone was like heaven. Eventually, I had the opportunity to upgrade to a 5. I took it! I loved it! Even if the only conceivable difference was the increased size. Here I am, almost two years later, just waiting to upgrade again. The iPhone 6 is bigger and better! But I’m not eligible to upgrade until some time in January. *sigh*
But it’s not just about technology.
One weekend last month, I found myself trying to create an environment that would satisfy my teenagers, so that they would be content with us at home and not miss their friends too much. (That’s a tall order!) It’s not that creating a warm environment is a bad thing. In fact, it’s a good thing! But I found myself questioning my method. Last month was October, and my home is already decorated for Fall. (Don’t get me started on the boxes in my attic for holiday decorations! They are another deal altogether!) The pumpkin candy jar has constantly been filled with my teens’ favorite treats. Some “treating” had already taken place, which means more candy. And my choice for quality family time? S’mores on our little backyard pit on the pergola. It was a sweet time … literally. Sugar upon sugar. Teens seem to have an insatiable desire for it. (What am I talking about, I do, too!)
I’m preparing for a scrapbook retreat at the beach in a couple of weeks, and I am in pursuit of the just right embellishments. Oh, you can go crazy with that … overboard … and … out of your mind. The growing pile in my dining room is proof that I’m teetering on the latter.
It’s almost time to make fruitcake. When I started purchasing my ingredients, I wasn’t able to get everything in the right color combinations. Sure, candied pineapple tastes the same, regardless of whether it’s red, green, or yellow. But the balance of colors is prettier. I got what I could in different colors and made up the difference in yellow. The other day I was in the store and found more green and red! (I did pass it up, but the urge to put it in my basket was strong.)
All of this is rumbling around in my head and in my heart … and I am not at peace. It probably wouldn’t be such a big deal if all of this weren’t happening at the same time. But all of it is. Maybe God is trying to get my attention. Ya think?
I have to think so, especially when my Bible study for the last couple of weeks has been focused on “where my treasure is.”
Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV) “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
The truth is that our material possessions can be gone in a moment. I need to know how attached I am to those things.
I need to ask, what makes my heart break?
- Dropping my phone and watching the screen shatter? Or not being able to upgrade?
- The bleach stain on my good pair of black slacks? (Don’t ask … I know better.)
- The lost data on my computer due to a failure to back it up?
I need to ask, what overwhelms my heart with frustration?
- The growing, unmanageable pile of stuff that I’m taking with me on this scrapbook retreat? A place where I’m supposed to be able to get away and relax!
- An overwhelming schedule?
Or …Does my heart break over other hearts?
Specifically … the hearts of my husband and my children … my parents, my brother, my sisters? My other family and my friends? The lady I just met in the parking lot last week?
Matthew 6:25-34 reminds us that we are not to worry about all these details of life—not even about the food we’ll eat or the clothes we’ll wear. Our first priority is to seek the Lord. He knows we need all the other things, and He will provide for us.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:33-34 NIV)
I’m coming to believe that sometimes the pursuit simply isn’t worth it. Sometimes, “settling” is best.
I think I’m going to stop shopping for embellishments. Instead, I’m going to look forward to enjoying the peace of watching the sunrise over the ocean.
Image of phones: Creative Commons