A Lesson in Contentment

Fancy new house in Northwest Austin

Fancy new house in Northwest Austin (Photo credit: rutlo)

The following is a second-hand ripe banana story written by my mom. I think I was 8 or 9 years old at the time. This is a great example of how God sees everything in our hearts and patiently leads them back to Him whenever they are led astray.


We were on the road, once again, heading for yet another Saturday bike race. This time, my husband’s race took us to an affluent town in the Bay Area. We spent the whole day there. Two of our three children were with us, and as my husband unloaded his gear, registered, warmed up and waited for his race to start, we girls went exploring the nearby residential neighborhoods.
I quickly concluded this was a very charming, but expensive place to live. Having previously lived in the Bay Area off and on in my life, I recalled the benefits of living in a more populated area: Great shopping, plentiful restaurants, easier access to just about anything you’d want or need. Having lived in a more rural area for a while, I also thought about how I’d learned to love a slower pace and all that meant for us in raising a family.
However, as we passed house after house, I was becoming more and more enamored with these beautiful homes. I was fascinated by the different styles of architecture–especially as we gazed at older homes with so much attention to detail, with beautifully manicured lawns and luscious landscaping. Some of the newer homes (many of which were actually mansions), also captured my attention and were equally gorgeous, drawing me in. I wondered, as I stood in awe at the size and grandeur of these homes, what it would be like to live in such places.
Although completely foreign to my world, it seemed pleasant to imagine us in that lifestyle–living the “easy life.” I remembered how my mom had grown up in a very wealthy household, in Japan, complete with servants and just about every luxury she could want. The wealth ended with my grandmother, however, and in all truthfulness, I knew from what my mom shared about her childhood, it did not translate to happiness for her.
Still, for the moment, as house after house, block after block, I was in dream-land, I silently “oohed” and “ahhed” as I grew more and more covetous and discontented.
We lived in a nice, modest starter home. My husband and I worked at making it as warm, cozy, and comfortable as we could. And although we knew we would probably outgrow it at some point (especially as 3 girls and only 1 bathroom would become more and more of a challenge when our daughters approached their teen years), it was adequate for our needs at the time.
After our little “sightseeing” excursion, we then headed back to the staging area to see my husband one more time before heading to the start line. We watched his race, as well as subsequent races for other age categories. As we drove back home later that day, I continued to feel a bit disquieted. Don’t get me wrong, I loved our home dearly. But suddenly, it felt like it wasn’t enough. Not enough space, not enough personality, just not “enough.” We got home mid-evening after a full day. When we walked up to our front door, there was a note taped to it, saying: “Come see us about the fire” signed by our neighbor.
We unlocked the door and proceeded to tear through the house, looking for evidence of a fire. We found none. None, that is, until we went out to our back-yard. It was pitch dark, and, as we didn’t have flood lights, it was hard to see. But, as we walked toward the back half of the yard with a flashlight, we began to see the damage. We could not tell the full extent until morning.
When we got up the next day, we could see a good quarter of our yard or so had severe damage. The swing set, the fence, the huge towering redwood tree and more were charred. After talking to our neighbor, we learned that our other next door neighbor, who was a renter, had gone out-of-state to visit family. She left her children under the care of a friend, who apparently hadn’t noticed that, at one point, the kids were in the back tool shed, playing with matches.
They started a fire that quickly got out of control. Since their shed was right next to the fence we shared, and a redwood tree butted up next to the fence, the fence served as kindling to the tree. Once the tree caught fire, it was soon raining burning embers on our roof. By then, neighbors were aware and came to hose the house down, while awaiting the arrival of the firefighters they had called.
I was in shock. We weren’t even there, but I could imagine the scene. We could have lost everything. I was so immediately convicted of how wrong I was the previous day. It was all very humbling and almost surreal. God knew what was in my heart. He knew how quick I was to forget my many blessings, as I stood gawking and longing for things that were not meant for me. He knew while I was coveting other people’s houses, our own home was in danger of being a total loss.
Yet, He was so gracious. He showed me, once again, His forgiving and loving nature. He showed me His incredible patience with my fickle heart. He showed me how temporary the things of this world are and easily they can disappear. I felt so blessed He spared our home.  I was thankful no one was hurt. I was grateful to have such good neighbors who came to our aid so selflessly, to fight for our home when we could not. I no longer desired after the things that, just hours before, seemed so appealing and necessary to my feeling joy and contentment. I learned so many lessons in such a short time. I don’t always enjoy being shown just how feeble and failing my heart can be toward God, but I am so thankful He loves me enough to teach me these lessons and remind me that He continues to be my Redeemer and Protector every step of the way.
“For whom the Lord loves He reproves.”     –Proverbs 3:12

One thought on “A Lesson in Contentment

  1. I love this story of contentment! Your mom shared it with us recently. (I wish God would teach my wife this lesson.)
    It was really nice to meet and chat with you today, Hillary. I will continue to pray for you and God’s mission for you, and I hope to see you again sometime.
    Lord bless,
    Br Phil


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