July 5, 2010

Godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6

Many naturalization ceremonies take place around the 4th of July—perhaps you saw something in your local paper about one near you. In a previous post, I mentioned the very moving ceremony I witnessed while at Homestead National Monument last fall.

Earlier this year, a National Park Ranger was named an Outstanding American by Choice during one such ceremony. This tribute to Kawther Elmi, born in Ethiopia and raised in Somalia, celebrated her accomplishments as a naturalized citizen. She was granted political asylum in 1989, earned two bachelors degrees and a masters in the U.S., and in 2000, joined the National Park Service. Ms. Elmi is currently a park ranger at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and in an online video, she talks about how significant it is for her to work there.

At the ceremony, Ms. Elmi told the new inductees, “I wish for all of you to find meaningful work that not only affords you life’s comforts but also feeds your mind and spirit.”

This is obviously a woman who has seen a great deal of turmoil yet also deep personal fulfillment in her life. She seems very humble, grateful and appreciative for all she has—her secure citizenship, her education and now this award. And her greatest desire for her fellow citizens is that they too would find that same satisfaction.

Contentment. Such a delightful concept—yet so hard to achieve! We humans wear ourselves out chasing after what we think will make us feel secure and happy—wealth, wisdom, power—but the irony is that lasting peace is never found in those things, because they’re fleeting, uncertain and subject to change at any moment (“riding high in April, shot down in May” is how the song “That’s Life” puts it). Real contentment comes from satisfaction with whatever God has given us wherever He’s placed us, and pursuing love, faith, perseverance, gentleness generosity and service to others (1 Timothy 6:6-20). It’s a learning process, the apostle Paul says, worked on through prayer, disciplining the mind, and leaning on the Holy Spirit  (Philippians 4:6-19). The process is ongoing—and lifelong.

Sigh. I sure wish contentment came easier. I’m discontent just thinking about it!

But I look forward to the day when the Outstanding Christian by Choice honors are handed out, that “crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award…not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).

Because that’s when we’ll find final, absolute contentment.

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