Tuesday, January 04, 2011


That is the question.

As I posted last night, I've really been missing Africa and, specifically, Swaziland a lot the last few days. When I returned from Africa in October, I actually was okay with it as opposed to last time when I felt like my heart was ripped out. The difference this time was that Jim and I returned from Swaziland believing that we'd be back there short-term in a year or two and back to live when he retires at the end of 2013.

But then this huge dose of discontent hit me last week.

Was it all the extremities of the American holiday season with its excess of materialism and busyness?

Was it remembering the special Christmases spent in Africa and seeing videos and photos of the Swazi carepoint kids and how joyfully they were content and thankful with the simple Christmas feast and gifts given to them by their sponsors and others here in the States?

Was it thinking about the contrast between a lot of little children who wouldn't have enough to eat, adequate clothes to wear, and two parents to love and protect them on Christmas Day as compared to my own children who are abundantly blessed with presents, good food, and family members that love and care for them?

Was it being made aware, once again, of the passion of Jesus that compelled Him to leave all He had in glory to come and live a humble life marked by suffering because He loved me so much and because the Father wanted to make a way for His children to live with Him forever in a loving, right relationship?

I think it was all of the above but mostly the last one.

Jesus left it all for me and you. We were suffering and hopeless and helpless in our sin and separation. He gave up Heavenly riches and limited Himself to come and not just LIVE for me here on earth but to DIE for me as well. His life and death were the ultimate sacrifice of pure, unselfish love.

So I ask the question again. Contentment or discontentment? They both can come from God.

We can lead lives of selfish contentment. Lives that are all about us and ours and what we want and need. We can become content out of blindness and ignorance. We can get so inwardly focused that as long as things are going good for us and those we care about, we are fine. We don't want to think about those who are hurting and needing. We don't want to be reminded of the Master's call to go into all the world and make disciples. We dont want to think about the command to love the least of these and that true religion is to care for the orphan and the widow.

We don't want to rock our nice, comfortable boat.

We crave contentment.

And that kind of contentment is wrong.

I found this prayer last night in my book of Common Prayer:

Lord, keep us from speaking of love while hoarding the gifts you have given us. Make us full of discontent as long as there are brothers and sisters living and dying in hunger. Amen.

So therein lies my quandary.

Paul speaks of being so satisfied in Christ that he has learned to be content in all situations. I know that I must trust God to take me back to Swaziland in His perfect timing. I know that I can't spend the next three years being of no good to my family and those HERE who need me because I'm so pulled to those in need over in Swaziland.

But how do I balance that? How do I balance being content here, and ministering here, and yet preparing for ministry there and also seeking to live in such a way here that I can give more to fill the needs there?

I guess that it is a balance that only the Holy Spirit living in me can provide. Only He can give me the ability to joyfully love and live in the here and now yet also not forget the needs of Swaziland that I can help fill now by living more sacrificially and prayerfully.

The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way. Psalm 25:9

Lord, make me humble. Guide me to walk in justice. Lead me as I seek to bring help to those in need. Teach me how to live both in Godly content and Godly discontent. Teach me Your way, Lord. It is the only way I want. It is the only way that works.


Olson Family said...

Oh! This is lovely Elysa! I so relate. It is this constant tension between two worlds where both desperately need our full time ministry but in such vastly different ways. Yes?

THANK YOU for your comment on Marc Schifano's blog. It means more to me than you can know. I did think of a friend's blog that you might enjoy... http://beinebunch.blogspot.com/2010/12/chritmas-2010.html

Our family visited Malawi, Africa this last April and it caused us to fall in love with the people, the land, the culture... And so we are longing to go back. Again, thank you for your encouragement!


Elysa said...

Thank you so much for visiting Graceland and posting. And that is awesome that you've already taken your family to Malawi. Taking our teenagers with us definitely changed their lives and our relationship with them. Since then, they've both gone on to other overseas ministry on their own. In fact, both of them are headed to Thailand in a few months.

I'll definitely check out the blog that you told me about and if there is anything I can do to help you with your Swazi plans, please let me know. Children's HopeChest takes frequent vision trips and is very open to children going with their parents. Adventures in Missions is also another organization that affirms the role of families and children in ministry.

Hope to hear more about your future African adventures,
Elysa Mac