Neck Strain

I live in a semi-rural area. What I mean by that is that my house is built in a subdivision, which was formerly a cow pasture and is still surrounded by farm land that has not been sold off piece by piece to encroaching developers. The whole county is made up of this patchwork of growth and resistance. It makes for a weird amalgam of city and country which appeals to my somewhat schizophrenic nature.

On the way home from my errands today I drove by a particularly idyllic pasture which sits at the foot of the local spillway. As the pasture fence and the road merged and ran side by side for a bit, I noticed one big black cow bent down on its forelegs, rear end in the air, with its head stuck sideways through the barbed-wire fence trying vainly to reach a tiny patch of green grass just beyond its grasp. It was awkward and embarrassing.

“Now isn’t that just like me," I thought. See, I had just come from errands, but also from a new thrift store that had opened nearby, where I bought four sweaters that I do not need. It doesn’t matter that I paid less than $10 total for all four (I know, right?), I don’t need them.

And as I compared myself to the cow (not for the first time) I realized that the problem is really even bigger than buying sweaters that I don’t need. It extends to every area of my life.

I am not content.

I am not content with what I have or who I am. I am not content with my current level of success or visibility. I am not content to serve in one particular area but seem to flit about and never land. I am not content with my number of friends or my social status, the car I drive, my hair, my purse, my shoes, my nose…I am not content.

The writer of Hebrews says:

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5 NIV)

Begging the Lord’s pardon, I would add that we should keep our lives free of the love of anything which interferes with being content in the Lord. He will never leave us nor forsake us, and so we should, and can, be content with His presence and His provision.

In fact, the whole scenario calls to mind another story where two people living in a beautiful garden with everything they could ever want or need, including the presence of the Lord Himself, decided they wanted just a little bit more. They took from the tree what was not given to them. Everything but that fruit had been given freely, but it was that fruit they wanted. They were not content with anything less than all they could see.

Now here is where I’m tempted to speak for the whole human race, but must be content (pun intended) to speak for myself alone. I am constantly reaching for more, bigger, better, faster, newer, cooler, and adjective on end, just something…else. Constantly straining for, reaching for, and taking what has not been given. I’m in debt to the bank and in debt to the devil because I’ve reached beyond the Lord’s provision. Look at who the "giver" is in the verse below:

"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. (Acts 17:24-25)

God made the world and everything in it. It is all His to give, or not. Did you notice what it said He gives “life and breath and everything else?" I think that might include four new sweaters…when I need them. That’s the rub and the struggle that Jesus speaks to in this verse:

So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33)

Why do I run after what I do not need, when I have a God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and everything else? It is only when I lose sight of the abundance of the kingdom and the joys set before me that I become discontent and begin to act like a cow with its rear end on display, head in the barbed wire fence, reaching for what is always just beyond my grasp when there is a field of abundance beneath me!

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. Philippians 4:12