This is a guest post from my amazing younger sister, Aria Spears. Along with being a military wife, she’s a dedicated follower of Jesus, brilliant people-connector, and creative community builder. Her wisdom far exceeds her years and I’m always glad when she shares her thoughts on the blog! – Emileigh
I’ve been hearing a lot about uncertainty these days, as the pandemic has altered, deferred, and dissolved timelines, events, and the ability to plan for so many of us. Weddings grew smaller, deployments grew longer, and many of us have found ourselves being grounded in a place we didn’t expect to be for so long.
My husband is in the Army Reserves currently, and he recently submitted his packet for active duty chaplaincy. Preparation for chaplaincy is a long road, with years of seminary and ministry experience required, and after many years, it all comes down to the decision of whether he is selected for active duty or not. It all comes down to a yes or no. Yes, and we begin to pack up our life, our jobs, our house and begin the mental shift to military life for an indefinite number of years. No, and we stay where we’re at and try to figure out what to do next. I really hope it’s a yes.
We were supposed to find out this week about that final checkmark, but along with so many others across the country, that answer has now been delayed a few months, at least. Now, we continue waiting, just hoping that we are being smart in planning and acting as if it will be a yes.
Author and speaker, Dr. Alicia Britt Chole, provides wisdom on the subject of contentment for times like this: “What is your address for contentment?…The contented person’s desires are bound up in what you already have. In order to be truly contented, we need three things. We need to be thoughtful enough to know where we’re going, we have to be alert enough to know when we get there, and we need to be humble enough to acknowledge when we’ve been pursuing an unworthy destination.”
In times of uncertainty, this destination for contentment is likely to surface, especially if that destination seems to be barricaded. Life has stopped in many ways for a lot of us, plans have dissolved or been delayed, and many things have been cut away until only what is essential remains.
But so many things can seem essential in our effort to reach contentment:
If I could just land that job.
If I could just have a child.
If I could just be thinner, curvier, etc.
If I could just know what the next step is.
If I could just know what my calling is.
If I could just get married.
If I could just get a break from this marriage.
If I could just move away from here.
If I could….
The uncertainty of our next steps with the military, compounded by the global uncertainty, have certainly brought into view my own address for contentment. I want to know what will happen next, so: I can prepare, I won’t be disappointed, so I can figure out a plan for my career, so I can find the next big thing, etc.
I know I’m not alone in just wanting to know what comes next.
It is interesting, though, to consider how many times I’ve been through this same cycle. How many unknowns have I faced in my life? How many times did I wonder what would happen, and then in time, I lived it?
Where will I go to college?
Where will I spend the summer?
Where will I get a job?
What’s going to happen at this event?
Will that person be okay?
Will I ever feel like myself again?
Should I marry this guy? What will it be like?
Will I get that promotion?
Each of those questions were at one time my address for contentment. If I could just know _________, I’ll be okay. And every time, the question was eventually answered—and then replaced by another.
Britt Chole goes on to say, “Circumstances are not the source of contentment, and achievement is not the door to contentment. Plenty can’t buy it, and lack can’t steal it. Contentment is an inner strength.”
Contentment is a strength cultivated in the most mundane moments. Anyone can be contented when the next big thing shows up, but our strength is truly exercised in the times when the question remains unanswered, the dream goes on unfulfilled, we face another day of disappointment, and somehow, we show up to what today brings anyway.
We show up to do the routine, mundane things that keep the family going. We show up to practice a skill that no one sees. We show up for a relationship one more day. We show up to work that seems unappreciated. We show up for a day longer to something we thought would be over by now. We stay committed to a place we were prepared to leave.
Author Henri J.M. Nouwen describes it this way: “The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.”
What is hidden in this season of uncertainty? What is God doing right here in front of you?
Uncertainty can train us to see things differently. If we are indeed willing to stay where we are right now and live this situation out to the full, what might we see that we would miss otherwise? What is being forged in you in this season? And how can you see these things if your eyes are set on a destination for contentment which is somewhere else?
In his teachings about what Christ’s death and resurrection mean for us, author and speaker Graham Cooke discusses how his life was transformed when he learned to ask God the question: “Who do you want to be for me in this season?” Perhaps it is your Protector. Or maybe your Provider. Counselor. Prince of Peace. Everlasting Father. Mighty God. Close friend.
This question can take our focus off of how we would like our circumstances to change and place it onto the one who is unchanging in every circumstance. It can help us pursue the One who will be our peace, no matter what comes tomorrow (Phil. 4:6). This question can lead us to focus on the one who is our Provider of everything we need for life and godliness (1 Peter 1:3). This question can help us focus on the Prince of Peace and the Wonderful Counselor who gives us wisdom when we ask (Isaiah. 9:6, James 1).
Uncertainty can bring a lot to the surface, but it is in these times that God wants to reveal himself to us in the areas that we find it hardest to trust him. It is in these times that we can die to our need to be our own protectors and better live in his comfort. We can die to our need to be our own providers to experience his generosity. We can die to our need to control tomorrow and learn to expect his goodness and creativity in our lives. We can die to our obsession with the answers to our questions, and live in the rest that comes in contentment for today.
I’m new to military life, but not new to uncertainty. You may be highly experienced in both. My husband and I are awaiting that final checkmark that will answer our life’s current biggest question, but once that answer is given, we know it will lead to many more.
So the question remains: Am I willing to live my life as it is right now?
May this be the year we’re able to answer “yes”.
Aria cares a lot about building strong communities. Usually, she can be found researching best practice and calling global colleagues in her job as Women’s Empowerment Specialist at international relief development organization Convoy of Hope. She also really loves spending time with her US Army Chaplain Candidate husband, Derrick, outside in nature or with their church family.
Find her on Instagram here.