People-Watching

Don’t lie, you love to do this too.

Sitting in a coffee shop on a Saturday morning writing this blog post, I’m taking in everything that’s going on around me.  Couples are enjoying each other’s company.  Young families are grabbing some breakfast before their youth sports game of choice (baseball and soccer seem to be the favorites today). There’s a business meeting happening at the table beside me. Tables of 8-10 friends are meeting for whatever reason.  And then there are the guys like me plunking away on computers typing who knows what.

At 53, I’m not the oldest person here.  Still, I’ve lived long enough to be in the position of each and every person here, at least once. I’ve held several business meetings, met friends, joined in group Bible studies. I could swear I saw a younger version of myself when a young dad in a baseball cap walked by carrying his 2-year-old daughter in his arms.

This post is not just a walk down memory lane, as fun as that is.  It’s about contentment. My contentment issues have rarely been associated with material things. No, I’ve always struggled with, as Paul so aptly puts it, the “pride of life.” In other words, I’ve most often been discontent about who I am. Position, prestige, how others viewed me.

I won’t bore you with a roller-coaster account of my contentment issues.  But what people-watching in this coffee shop has shown me today is that I’ve lived a really full life, even at the young age of 53. I certainly hope to live a much longer life, but in the end, I’ve experienced just about everything that a 53-year-old man should experience.  And, thank God, I’ve not yet experienced many of the bad things that others my age have already gone through.

As with almost everything in life, contentment is a choice. So many times, I chose not to see the good that God had given me. Instead, I longed to be somebody God didn’t make me to be, or to be someone I wasn’t ready to be. Those have been the unhappiest times of my life. And, I’m sure I’ll always struggle with that.

But today, after people-watching in a coffee shop, it’s a little easier to choose contentment.

 

Overcoming What Overcomes Us

Just a few thoughts while I’m waiting to go help take care of the toddlers at church this morning.  It’s our week, but my wife was called in to work at the last minute, so it’s just me.  Great training to be a grandparent…but I hope they have some reinforcements should the natives become too restless!

We live in a society that’s prone to addiction.  Not necessarily to illegal things, just to allowing things to take roles in our lives that are larger than what is good for us.  The Apostle Peter, that brash, strong-willed leader of the disciples who followed Jesus, had a stern warning regarding this: “For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” (2 Peter 2:19b ESV)

Most people who are addicted deny that they have been “overcome” by an addiction. Anybody who looks at my waistline and my checkbook can see what I am addicted to.  And yet I lived for years — decades, in fact — where I believed it wasn’t that bad.  I certainly didn’t feel like I was enslaved to food (and to Diet Coke).  And yet, I was.

But as I read Peter’s warning this week in preparation for our Life Group study, I was moved by Peter’s use of the word “enslaved” (consistent across translations). That is such an emotionally loaded word, as I’m sure it was back then.  Peter’s use of that word, to me, indicates just how dire an addiction situation really is.  No one wants to be a slave to anything.  We’re willing to be a servant for something we believe in, but a slave?  So many bad connotations.

So what’s the takeaway from Peter’s thoughts?  To take a realistic look at the problem areas in our lives.  We all know what they are, and everyone has them.  And we don’t even have to ask if we are a “slave” to anything. It’s as simple as this:  Am I overcome by anything?  What would cause major disruptions in my life if I had to give it up? Do I believe enough in that thing to be a servant to it? If the answer to that last question is “no,” am I willing to make the next choice to start moving away from it?

The best news?  We don’t have to make that choice alone, or in our own power.  I’ve seen lots of articles lately asking whether following Jesus Christ is too restrictive.  They are all asking the wrong question.  The real question is this:  Where is true freedom found?  The kind of freedom that leads to health, happiness, a spirit at peace, and strong families, things that everybody wants?  It’s found in the One who came so that we could have life, and have it abundantly. Not just later. Right now.

Make that next good choice. And feel the chains begin to lift.