Five removal men, one van, two days, approximately fifty boxes of books, three counties crossed, many a tearful goodbye and even more smiling welcomes with bottles of prosecco, champagne wine and all the in between, and we have finally unpacked our new home. City life has been officially swapped for seaside living.
A lot has changed in the last week, and at times it has felt we have. But the truth is, times of transition don’t change us, at least not at first, but rather, have a way of bringing things out of us, out of our heart that have been lying dormant.
Through the late nights, the lists of to dos and of course the boxes, there has been less energy to expend on keeping the heart quiet. My family have seen my heart and I have seen theirs.
I wonder whether we have learned the secret of doing this pretty well. Keeping the nature of our hearts underwraps and quiet. Choosing what others see of our hearts.
The truth is God does long for our hearts to be quiet but in the best way, in the way that most glorifies him and is best for us. He longs for us to have quiet hearts. This is the secret God wants us to learn. Not the secret of covering up our hearts….as if we could anyway! It only takes a house move, a lockdown, a change of school, relationship or even a change of plans for the day for the heart to spill out and reveal itself in our words and actions.
The secret of ‘quieting’ our hearts in an attempt to cover up the inward storm of emotions will only lead to the thunder crashing out and lightning striking at those around us.
The secret art of quieting our hearts that God would have us learn is the mystery of Christian contentment. It is learning to quiet and comfort our hearts through all the heart shaking transitional moments of our lives.
When the mouths of my children have spoken from the abundance of their hearts, I’m sorry to say that this last week I have tried to superficially smooth over the rough; to soothe their frustration with external distraction, rather than deal with the deep heart contentment. My temptation has been to see the struggles of children and placate them with ballerina cushions and cuddles.
Jeremiah Burroughs has put this beautifully in his book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, ‘Contentment is a sweet, inward heart thing. It is a work of the Spirit indoors……if the attainment of true contentment were as easy as keeping quiet outwardly, it would not need much learning. It is the business of the heart.’
Now of course, every girls’ bedroom is far from complete without fairy lights. There is joy in those shopping trips and shared delight in setting up their rooms. Cuddles and ballerina cushions are what I can offer, and prayers for the peace of God to fill their hearts.
But I should not rest there in my desire for their, or my own, contentment.
If we continually look to those external factors to keep our hearts superficially and temporarily quiet, the raging toddlers inside us will just spend our days demanding and looking for more distraction.
As I feel like such a preschooler in this school of learning contentment, as I long to quiet the fears and tantrums of frustrated little hearts in front of me, as I realise transition reveals the areas of discontent in my own heart, I’m so thankful that as God calls us as his children to this learning of contentment, he gives us the gift of his grace continually as he himself teaches us.
The grace that is the gift of God himself. The grace that allows us to demand more, to be disatisfied when things aren’t enough, but not in the way the world would teach us, not in the demanding grabbing for more external temporary superficial satisfaction, but the deep heart longing of a soul that will not be quietened with anything other than God himself.
God gives us his benefits and we should not forget them. He gives us peace and we are called to pray for it. But we should not rest satisfied with the gift of peace. Our satisfaction should not be placated with the benefits received from God, but only by Him himself.
As we’re praying for peace for our hearts during times of change and pain, we should be praying for the God of peace himself.
Forget not his benefits. Of course.
But ensure we forget not him.
In the school of Christian contentment, we can be bold to keep learning, to keep coming boldly to the throne of grace, saying it is not enough for me to have the peace you give me, Father, to have the peace of God, no, rather, I must have the God of peace.
He overflows blessings of mercy, forgiveness, peace, hope into our hearts. Even more amazingly, from his grace, we receive him, the God of mercy, the God of forgiveness, the God of peace, the God of Hope.
Grace is the gift God to us, the gift of Himself. Only He can satisfy our hearts, can bring contentment during the house moves, through the growing emotions, during the pains and frustrations of lockdown. God himself is the contentment of our hearts.
So pray for peace. Pray for the God of peace. Pray for mercy. Pray for the God of mercy.
In Burroughs words, ‘Enjoy the fountain as well as the stream, the cause as well as the effect.’