Some of you longtime followers might recall the Contentment Reading Challenge (2011, 2013). Although I created it and hosted it for two years, I never actually did very well at it, since the rules generally applied to re-reading books (and I always had so many new books to read). Funny, since I made up the rules...
But I value that state, that goal, of being content (Philippians 4:11-13). Not hating my blessings. Not depriving myself. Simply trusting and resting in the faith that God Himself is all I truly need, and fostering a spirit of gratitude for what He has given me for today.
And that last word clangs so boldly, doesn't it? Today. My tendency to stockpile books comes from an obsession with tomorrow. Every once in a while I'll actually purchase a book I intend to start right away, but so often I save up reading material for that elusive someday. And yes, sometimes those deals are pretty fabulous, I won't deny it! But like with many obsessions, the trouble isn't in the thing itself - it's in the attitude and the overdoing.
I know I'm in trouble when the simply joy is being edged out by guilt.
I'll give you a recent example:
I was checking discount opportunities for my next shopping trip (which should be more grocery shopping than anything else) when I found myself looking at the "entertainment" section and spotting a deal for 20% off a particular book. It's not like I had thought about that book much or even really wanted to read it or see the movie based on it. But the Goodreads reviews were decent, and I mean...20%! (I know.)
So I selected the deal and took my printout discount sheet with me. I spent way too long in the book/entertainment part of the store, browsing and agonizing. This one or that one? Yes or no? I finally threw it into my cart and continued on my way.
But when I got back to my apartment, I began to feel restless. I knew I didn't need that book. I knew I didn't even really want it in the same way I wanted other books. Yet the cover was so cool, and the story would probably turn out to be thought-provoking...and there was nothing wrong with wanting to read a good book. And there isn't.
Still, I couldn't shake the nagging feeling. I then agonized over whether to return it. Would I look stupid for returning an item for no good reason? Should I even make the trip to go back?
The short answer: I took it back after work the next day.
The longer answer. I was tempted not to make the effort, but I still took it back. And I still bought a Kindle book in the days that followed, once again debating between options, checking out reviews, telling myself this would be my last indulgence for a time.
To be honest, I'm just sick and tired of obsessing!
Have you come to that same place?
Dictionary.com defines "mission" in one sense as "any important task or duty that is assigned, allotted, or self-imposed." Contentment is important, and I want to task myself with seeking it, living it. This is Mission: Contentment!
Matthew 6:20-34 speaks of storing up treasure in heaven, of serving only one master, of seeking God first and trusting Him to provide for your needs. Even though the verses discuss food and clothing, I think the heart of the passage applies to all sorts of things we worry/obsess about, and what our attitudes should be toward all "things" that don't last.
Through God's grace, I want to take steps toward being more content. Here are some of my current thoughts on what this might look like:
- Reading the books I own. When I'm looking to start something new, may I look to my TBR piles first. You know, I tend to justify buying new books by saying, "I'm supporting an author." True - and as an indie author myself, I certainly appreciate people like me, LOL. But what if I started supporting authors more by actually reading their books...? (This goes along with the epiphany Rissi mentioned in her comment.) What a novel thought!
- Stopping the stalking - of Amazon (plus entertainment sections in stores, etc.). Does that mean I can never visit them again? Of course not. I just personally need to find a better balance of my time and stop giving myself excuses. No more "it's been a long day/week/summer/fill in the blank." I need to find a different way to "reward" myself... (That probably goes for my overindulging in sweets, too, actually.)
- Keeping busy. I have so many awesome and meaningful things I can be doing: writing, communicating with friends and family, blogging, walking, watching the movies I own, reading the books I own, etc. When I'm tempted to obsess, I ought to redirect. Embrace today and all that I can do in these hours I've been given that I'm too often tempted to waste.
I'm not saying this will be the fix-all for my problem. As Ashlee so beautifully put in her comment, "God is always the answer." Only through His grace can we learn to embrace the right attitudes. And only through His grace can we hold onto hope through the times that we fail. Let's lean on Him, trust in His strength, and follow His lead, seeking to value what He values.