Eden, a mythical land? Unattainable utopia? Perfection? Paradise? A place we long for? A place we try to re-create? Or are we trying to create Heaven on Earth?

Regardless, our efforts to create such a space often leave us frustrated. It is not possible here. “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:14). This is Earth after all, the place between Eden and Heaven, devoid of perfection.

Most of my days as a Landscape Architect were sprinkled with a dissatisfaction that I couldn’t put my finger on. A disappointment at the end of each project. A letdown. Months or years of effort concluded, and left me wanting.

Without God, we want. And when we want, we often don’t even realize that what we want is actually God Himself. But when “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” or “I shall not be in want.” (Psalm 23:1)

I think in those years, I was working for the wrong ones. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23). I was working for me, my employer, my clients, not my true Employer.

Now as a Play-at-Home mom (yes, I play doctor, nurse, coach, referee, OSHA, FEMA, teacher, guidance counselor, housekeeper, chef, etc. etc. etc.), I must rely on my true Employer to train me to fulfill all these roles I’m unqualified for. I must acknowledge the Lord as my shepherd, the One who gently guides me through this life, the One who trains me to listen for His voice, the One who protects me and provides for me.

Yet, I find myself wanting when I look around at the clutter that threatens to consume me. I want order. I want peace. I want quiet. If “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phillipians 4:13), why can’t I stay on top of this mess?! Why do I lose my temper at my precious children and dear husband?

Is it because I’ve impatiently yanked the rod and staff right out of the Shepherd’s hand? Am I trying to force my home and family to be the green pastures and quiet waters I crave? No more! Right now, I give them back with a repentant heart.

I have misunderstood Phillipians 4:13, if I think that I should do all things, accomplish all things, do everything. Christ strengthens me to do all the things He’s called me to do, not all things I can put on a list. What’s the context of that verse anyway? Let’s look at the verses before.

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phillipians 4:11-13)

So He gives me the ability to be content no matter what… truly a Herculean feat. He also “makes me lie down in green pastures (He knows I’m weary), he leads me beside quiet waters (He knows I’m overstimulated), he restores my soul (He knows I’m depleted). He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:2-3)

I have been in that green pasture of contentment briefly, one day when I let Him lead me to my easel. For me, art is one way that God restores my soul. I prioritized it that day, and found myself so filled and refreshed that it was nearly visible how the protective sheathing on my nerves had regenerated. My silly boys in the backseat on the way home from school gave me joy, instead of fatigue. I was able to laugh with them, instead of groan at them. Back home, the clutter on the counter did not bother me!

So those green, edenic pastures and quiet waters of contentment must be on the inside, “because the kingdom of God is within [me].” (Luke 17:21). An internal contentment “in any and every (external) situation”. Yet, I cannot access those pastures on my own, and I cannot create them around me. I must look to Him, and let Him lead me, for He is the only way, the secret to true contentment.

 


Comments

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10/10/2016 5:54am

Yes I think this is so good to be true - utopia that can't exist in real life.

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God gave me everything I want so don't waste a chance to be cool) Cheers!

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Thanks for posting.

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01/08/2017 5:58am

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