The Way We Walk
I went for a walk at lunch today. A frustrating morning… needed to clear my head, to think, to pray.
I often walk on a weedy red shale path alongside an irrigation canal that snakes behind our church on the outskirts of town. There’s not much of a view to speak of. Some farmland, an agricultural research facility, a big motor sports dealership, a meat processing plant off in the distance. Off in the other direction I can hear the hum of machinery and industry where a new hotel going up across the highway.
But in the spring and the summer, there is water in the canal. And I like to walk by water.
I have a picture on the wall in my study of a path that I used to walk on when we lived on Vancouver Island. It’s an idyllic scene—blue ocean water, driftwood lazily resting on the shore, moss-covered rocks, a sunset off in the cloud-streaked horizon. I thought of this path as I walked along the irrigation canal today. I thought of strolling beside the ocean as the tide came in and of the magnificent arbutus trees that lined the path nearby. I thought of sitting, reading a book, and watching the fishing boats and the ferries go by. I thought of the starfish and the sea otters we used to see.
I looked around. I saw a gopher.
And the water gently trickled down the irrigation canal.
I thought of these two walks along the water and how easily we compare, how easily we imagine that somewhere else is better than here, how easily we assume that if only we were somewhere newer, shinier, more postcard-ish, things would be better. If only we had a new house, a new job, a new lover, new kids, new habits, a new car, a new church, a new pair of shoes, a holiday. Things would be so much better without all of this oldness, this plainness, this ordinariness kicking around the place, getting in the way of our grand plans, our great expectations.
How elusive contentment is. It sounds like such a good idea. A great idea, even. We know that we need it, that we were made for it. We admire those who (we think) have achieved it. It lures and beckons like the promised land. We imagine our future selves saying things like, “and then I discovered the joy of true contentment.” We really should get around to that some day. But in the mean time, if we could only…
After walking, I spent some time reading:
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that (1 Timothy 6:6-8).
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).
Contentment is not the sort of thing that we can slavishly pant and chase after. It’s not waiting around the corner for us, if we could just do, have, fix, accomplish, discover _____. Contentment refuses to play a game where there are no winners. Contentment is fundamentally about trust; it’s about learning what and how to treasure.
Contentment is, come to think of it, more about a who than a what or a when or a how. It depends upon nothing more (or less) than the settled conviction that God is good, that God has placed us in a good place, that we are loved, and that this is enough.
Contentment is happy just to walk by the water, whether it’s the mighty Pacific Ocean or a quiet irrigation canal on the windswept prairies.
Wherever and whenever, this is the way we walk.