A recent YouTube video hit a nerve when it portrayed the reality of how much of our daily lives we experience behind our phone screens. While the advancement of technology grants us the opportunity to record every moment, in reality we are no longer living in those moments. Although we can be in contact with anyone anywhere at any time, we are less in touch with one another personally than ever before. I have more information about more people from my life experiences now than I ever did before Facebook existed. There are benefits from this, no doubt. But when I spend more time interfacing with the world on my laptop than I do with my family around the dinner table, something is amiss. Instead of living in the moment, we have learned to delay the enjoyment of the moment for the replaced satisfaction of observing it later.
Now I know that makes me sound like a Scrooge. My apologies to you. My point is bigger than a gripe about smart phones. I have a fear greater than that of too much technology. I sense we are losing our ability to be content. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Philippian believers, writes of the contentment he has learned to live in Christ. He describes this contentment as if it were a secret recipe. A secret recipe is not found on Pinterest or in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. A secret recipe has a history attached to it. A secret recipe is shared person to person, with a story of how that recipe came to be. Contentment is like a secret recipe. We come to possess it as we learn of it from others and as we personally bring all of its ingredients into our lives. We don’t learn contentment from reading a book or from listening to someone else talk about it. We have to live in the daily moments of our lives to acquire it.
What does this living-in-the-moment contentment look like? Paul’s instruction begins with this key element: being “just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little” (4:12, MSG). If in the moments of today I have only oatmeal and peanut butter sandwiches for our meals, I am content. If in the moments of the next day we enjoy a feast of foods around our table, I am equally as content, no more or no less. The recipe continues: No matter what I own or do not own today (a home, car, clothing, gadgets), I have joy. No matter where I am today (work, home, hospital, neighborhood, church), I am at peace. No matter what I have to do today (work hard, discipline children, love an unlovely person, deal with disease), I have strength. And the combination of these ingredients in our lives blends together perfectly in Christ to make us the contented believers he wants us to be.
But what does that require of us? The decision to live in the moment. To stop wishing for something else tomorrow. To stop waiting for that pay raise or big break or perfect family. To choose to face my life head on, eyes wide open, with the determination that today “ I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am” (4:13). Only then will we taste the delicious fruit of contentment in our lives that God intends.
So while on the surface we may need to put down our smart phones and actually hug our loved ones today, in a much deeper sense we all need to breathe in the fresh air of a new day and embrace the life God gives today, whatever path it may be. And this secret recipe for contentment might just become a new favorite!