On a dusty road in Zimbabwe, God bestowed the gift of contentment on my heart.
It’s been an arduous road, this one that has led us to live in Marondera. One of those journeys where you know that God is showing you a mess of knotted sin that belongs to you. At times, I’ve wanted to wallow in a pool of self-pity, but I’m glad that I chose to confront the knot that God had revealed.
The Gift of Contentment On A Dusty Road
We are firmly in autumn, here in Zimbabwe. The wild grass has turned yellow and the dirt roads are bone dry, billowing clouds of dust. This season brings on an even drier winter season, associated with sparse landscapes and animals waiting for the green shoots of spring. But while this time of year feels a bit scant, I’ve experienced God’s abundance.
We enrolled Judah in his first pre-school, assuming that it was situated in town, just a kilometer or so from wherever we were going to find a house to rent. We were very wrong. Upon investigation, we found that his school is on a farm outside of Marondera. We have to drive out on the main road, turn left onto a very patchy tar road (the kind that you drive next to because the tar is so patchy), bump over a railway line, then turn right down a dirt road until you reach the turn-off to the farm. You then go down a very bumpy road and finally reach the school car park where the majority of vehicles are big 4X4s, owned by young farmers in the area but used by their wives who spend the day carting kids around.
It’s easy to associate the destination of a journey with the point at which you realize or receive God’s blessing. But so often we are wrong when it comes to correctly predicting God’s plan.
The concept of contentment has been something I’ve chewed over for a few years. I think everyone wants to feel content. It’s not a state that people consider and say to themselves, “Nope, I’ll skip this one because it’s just not ‘me’”. I believe that even the grumpiest of souls want to feel contentment.
God also instructs us to be content with what we have. And I’ve often felt like I can only know if I’ve mastered contentment if I’m stripped of everything and can still smile and be happy with what God has provided for me. But, um, I don’t actually want to be stripped of everything.
God’s generosity demonstrated through His gift of contentment
But this is something awesome about God. Us humans come up with an idea of how best we’d learn a lesson or the path we need to pursue to understand God better. My character is one that wants to tackle something head-on. I think things like, “Okay, God. I know you want me to be content, and I know that I don’t want everything stripped from me. But you know what? Do what you must”.
And instead of God replying with “Alrighty, brace yourself, Abi”, He gently and generously shows me the beauty and essence of contentment, which abundantly blesses me with a more nuanced understanding of God’s grace.
And so there I was, driving my toddler to his farm school and roughly 10 meters from turning onto the dirt road section of the trip. I became acutely aware of the dry beauty of my surroundings. There was that soft early morning white sunshine brushing over the wild grass. A haziness from the dust road softened the view even further as we hit the first bumps of the dirt road and the aesthetic beauty of the expansive farmlands made me tear up a little. But I felt something that was deeper than the aesthetic feast that had first captured my attention.
And for a moment, I couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was. Until all I could think about was the word “contentment”. THIS is what contentment felt like. And all of a sudden, I wasn’t focussing on the beauty that surrounded me but the deep pleasure and peace that had been growing within me since we moved across Zimbabwe. When I think back on how it felt, I felt like my heart was full. But not that kind of fulness that people describe as overflowing and bubbly. It was more of a solid fulness, surety that God had been building the contentment layer by layer, and it wasn’t about the fizzle out.
Good, good gifts
I hadn’t outright asked God for a gift of contentment, but I’m going with the fact that He knew I had been chewing over the idea of contentment for a while as we battled through packing up our lives in Masvingo. And this is something I want to pause on for a moment. This is an example of God’s generosity. I didn’t ask God to experience true contentment, but he gifted it to me. And what’s more, he didn’t strip me of everything. This is not the case for every occasion, I know. But friends, God is generous, and He loves us, and He gives good, good gifts. So, this is me spending a second rejoicing something that can be so easily forgotten when times get tough.
God used my drive to Judah’s pre-school to reveal what He had been doing in my heart since moving to Marondera. Since this realisation, I’ve been focussed on the feeling of contentment itself that I experienced on that school trip. I’ve mostly associated my contentment with the how grateful I am that our son is at a farm school where he is surrounded by fields, donkeys, sheep, and he is allowed to take off his shoes when the grass is dry.
More than the gift of contentment
But because this experience has stayed with me for over 5 days, I’ve known there’s more to unpack. And as I’ve sat with it, pondering what else God wanted to show me, He has used conversation to reveal that I am thoroughly content with God’s provision since selling up and leaving Masvingo.
If you read “XXX”, I mentioned my hang-ups around leaving behind a house that we owned, I had chosen the colours for and we were slowly renovating and decorating to our taste. But you know what? Through a conversation with my husband, I found myself gushing over how much I am enjoying our rented home here, in Marondera. I love the flow of the home, that it’s exceptionally warm as our evenings and morning have become cooler, and although we have a few boxes in storage, we are coping in our smaller space. Wait. Not coping. I feel content. I feel like God has given us exactly what we need in this season.
Yes, we would like an extra bedroom, and yes, a few more cupboards would be appreciated. But God has provided precisely what we need right now. And with this, I feel like He knows me so very, very well. He hasn’t thrown my family a one-size-fits-all. No. He knows my family so thoroughly and intricately, that He has tailored what He has provided to suit us. And in this tailor-made home, I feel content. And I say again, not the bubbly, fizzy happiness that feels finite. A solid, rooted sense of God’s providence, which has grown my trust in Him.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON GOD’S GIFT OF CONTENTMENT
So, this is what I have to say about my experience of contentment. It’s something I hope to never forget and I hope that for someone out there, something is what I’ve written encourages you to explore contentment.