Monday, March 21, 2011


I ran my first 10 K race the other day. It was at night, and that was both a strange feeling - to not be able to fully see one's surroundings - and thrilling. I was surrounded by hundreds (actually over 2000) other contestants, and we ran through the valley on the river pathways, though trees and gullys and along the abandoned roadways. All you could hear for miles was the slapping of running shoes on the asphalt, and the labored breathing of competitors. It almost felt primal, like running among a pack of wild animals - all seeking the same prize! Some of us ran for pleasure, and the sheer enjoyment of being among so many others on a beautiful winter night. Others ran to conquer - whether that meant earning a position in the top ranks, or to conquer their own personal giants.

I ran hard. I ran well. The last leg of the race involves a steep uphill climb, out of the river valley, and by then many people were walking. I refused to give in to the burning of my muscles and the feeling that my energy was depleted. Finally, at the top of the hill, I could catch my breath, but I knew the finish line was close. I managed to find the strength deep inside me; strength that had more to do with my mind and emotions than my physical self and I sprinted to the finish line! I passed quite a few people in those last moments, and I was satisfied knowing that I had given it my all.

On the other side, among the swarms of other spent competitors and their supportive families and friends, I suddenly felt extremely weak and faint. My muscles were twitching, my head felt light and I was dizzy. Had there been anything other than the street to collapse onto, I probably would have ended up sprawled out, totally depleted of energy.

Oh the feelings... I was in a place of utter contentment. For all my hard work, I had little to show for other than my souvenir sweater and an orange racing bib with the number "3355" on it. The contentment came from deep within, bubbling up from inside. It was a state of peaceful euphoria - the kind that money can't buy, and others can't give to you.

The dictionary defines contentment as: peace of mind; mental or emotional satisfaction.

In the Bible we read: "Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:" (Phil. 4:11) In my lifetime of up and downs, joys and trials, I have learned that there is a secret to being at ease with life. People have commented time and time again on how calm I am, and how I can be seemingly relaxed in spite of turmoil and upheaval. I would attribute much of this to contentment.

When we lived in Thailand, we inadvertently "adopted" and cared for a young female cat. After a couple months of Dan feeding this little kitty leftovers from our dinner, and fish from the wet market, she was beginning to look quite rotund! I accused Dan of spoiling this cat and "What will happen we when go back to Canada - then she'll starve!" but he took pity on her regardless. Soon after we noticed her improved weight, we realized she was indeed pregnant. She was a shy and wild kitty, who only occasionally allowed us to pet her - so we tried to come up with a way to provide shelter to her for when her kittens would be born. We ended up leaving a few cardboard boxes out on our porch, hoping that she would accept one of them as shelter.

One day we discovered that she had birthed some kittens in the night. Sadly, one of the kittens was stillborn and we removed it from the box, but there were 3 other tiny little kitties, snuggled next to their tiny young mother. Have you ever seen a mama cat nursing her kittens? She will be stretched right out, with her eyes closed into perfect little slits and you can hear the subtle roar of a contented purr. Here was our poor little 'third-world-nation' slum kitty, nestled in a cardboard box, surrounded by ravenous bugs and cockroaches and ants - in a state of utter contentment. Calm, peaceful, quiet and not a care in the forefront of her mind as she nursed her new litter.

(We gave the kitty and her babies shelter in our home for the next couple of months until she could begin to teach her kittens how to survive outdoors.)

I have had times in my life where nothing makes sense. I have looked at my situation, and had no clue how things would ever improve and yet, deep inside I feel peace and contentment. This spans beyond reason, and steps into the position of faith and trust in a loving God. Then there have been the high points of life where it seems that the sun is shining down on me and the world's "all as it should be". Those are wonderful times to feel contentment, and it's also a natural out spring for praise and thanksgiving.

No matter what, we are instructed by God's word to learn contentment. I don't think this means that you are obligated to ignore when things are going wrong and deny that you are in pain. This life is certainly full of it's share of pain and struggles. What I think it means, however, is that we are rooted in something greater and deeper than this emotionally draining world.

Consider this proverb:

You can't find firm footing in a swamp, but life rooted in God stands firm.
(Proverbs 12:3)

If you honestly think that your emotional well-being should be directly connected to your success in this life, I think you will be gravely disappointed. Life seems to give us stability and a foundation about as firm as a swamp.

When you look at an enormous, old tree, you might see a glimpse of the storms it has faced in it's lifetime. The trunk may be gnarled and there maybe be "scars" where branches were broken by the wind. But it grows and reaches towards the sun; tall, majestic and enduring. What you don't see are the deep, widespread roots. A mighty tree must dig deep and have far spread roots if it is to withstand wind and drought. In our own lives, I believe it is the foundational truths that we cling to, that maintain us through every season of life. You can't just wait for the high times to give you a boost. There needs to be something deeper and greater from which you pull your strength.

My contentment is in a God who loves me unconditionally. I know that it is not about me measuring up, and doing the right things. I know that my performance is not going to be graded before he "measures out" his love for me. What it comes down to, is my acceptance of His love. The contentment I feel is usually related to feeling fully satisfied with myself - which can be attained temporarily by my achievements - or, can be a lasting, complete contentment based on my revelation of God and His acceptance of me. We all want life to make sense, and I think when you have the right perspective, it truly does make sense.

Many years ago, a friend of mine wrote a slogan on my Bible notebook as a reminder to me. It said: No God, no peace. Know God, know peace.

Do you know Him? If you do, then are you getting to know Him better? I assure you, when you find Him, you will know peace and you will experience great contentment.