Where The Lines Have Fallen

Photo credit: Rustiqueart via flickr

He walked up the stairs to bed whining and complaining about not getting his way instead having to go to bed.

I’m his mother and I know when he is tired before he does. I know best, isn’t that how the saying goes?  But he wasn’t having it, so I lost it.  I yelled. I yelled at him for being ungrateful for the dinner I made of his choosing. For being ungrateful after a full day of summertime activities and friends over to the house. I was incensed at his ungrateful heart.

Crawling into my own bed, fired up by my anger, exhausted by little boys, muggy heat and a full day of questions and referring sibling squabbles, I realized the boy I yelled at moments before was a reflection of myself. 

I spent the day frustrated because things are not what I think they should be. All the not enoughs, the too much and the not quite yets and the will it always be this way questioning that ran through my mind all week long.  An unsatisfied heart had taken over and I was no longer thinking clearly.  Darkness and ugliness made their way in and I looked around in anger and resentment at what isn’t and what should be.  Then I opened my Bible to Psalm 16 and found this:

“The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”

Pleasant places. The lines have fallen for me in places I did not choose and I am aware, they were chosen for me.  Perhaps if we got to place the lines in our lives that hem us in exactly where we think they ought to be, things would work out in the short run the way we hope, but in the long run we would miss out on this great big majestic plan that goes beyond us and certainly beyond what we can see.

In the darkness of these moments of discontent, it’s hard to believe like this. It’s hard to believe the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places and hard to believe this {for me} is where I will see the presence of God.

He goes on to say this:

“I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.  Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.”

Lord, help my unbelief.  Most of the time I struggle with contentment, it is because I’ve placed something other than Jesus before me.

I’ve set my house before me… how it looks, the things I want to spend money on to fix it up and make it beautiful. Or I’ve set my children before me and the rising and falling of their happiness and maturity levels cause me to lose sight of what matters. Sometimes, and this is the worst culprit, I put my plans before me.  How I think I should be spending my time. Suddenly these things, good or bad become the priority I  fix my eyes on, making Jesus fade dimly into the background of my mind.  Any and all of the above are the perfect recipe for unmet expectations, likely to spin me into a downward spiral of discontent.

What the psalmist writes is echoed in Matthew, to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Easier said than done.

I wrote to a friend last week who started a new job. Not just any new job but a big new job.  She is starting over fresh on the heels of a long and messy divorce. She is patiently allowing herself to go through the process of being reinvented and finding the new normal in the second half of life.  When I asked how it was all going, she told me all was well and ended her text with “practicing gratitude.” 

Oh yes. There it was.

Gratitude doesn’t come naturally for most of us. It must be practiced. It must be searched for in these days when the ugly creeps into our hearts and threatens to suffocate the thankfulness out of us.  It ought to be listed in  journals, captured through the lens of a camera, shouted out in prayer, and flowing from our hearts up to our raised hands as we worship.  It needs to be searched for in the laundry sorting and the washing of dishes, in the picking up of toys, the balancing of checking accounts and the making of lists so we can seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.  Gratitude found in unmet expectations allows us to see Jesus moving among us, without needing our why’s to be answered and regardless of what outcome we think should be.

Sometimes practicing gratitude feels like a little war of the heart as we battle the voices of discontent and the images of how things should be which have crept into our mind’s eye.

The boy I yelled at got an apology the next morning, not for the discipline but for the heart from which the discipline came. It was followed by a request to pray with his mom so both of us could practice gratitude and ultimately kindness to one another in response to the kindness of God.

Do you struggle with contentment? What stirs it up? How do you battle it?

8 thoughts on “Where The Lines Have Fallen

  1. Julia Schmidt says:

    “Sometimes practicing gratitude feels like a little war of the heart…” A little war? A LITTLE war? Well, yes, but sometimes it feels like a battle of epic proportions wherein I die to myself, grasping the sword of my “rights” with my last ounce of strength and finally gasping out, with my last breath, “Okay, God, Your way is better.”

    Thank you so much for posting this. It’s a constant struggle, especially in our culture, to take my eyes of the “should have beens” and “I deserves” and put them on the cross. Because as much as I act to the contrary, I am firmly convinced that His plan, which generally involves the things about which I am discontent, whether they arrived in my life through my own stupidity or by divine appointment, is always, ALWAYS better.

    Excuse me while I go spend a little time on my knees now… 🙂

  2. Heather Doleshel says:

    I needed this today!!!! Could have copied and pasted this “walk up the stairs” from a certain someone in my house and I’m pretty sure I reacted the exact same way. Love you friend, thanks for encouraging us!

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