How do you be content when need multiplies?



As I pull out my summer clothes from last season and pack away the winter woollies, I am overwhelmed with how much stuff I have. Do I really need twelve pairs of shoes, four jackets and fifteen scarfs that didn’t get a wear this winter?

“Where does all this stuff all come from?!”

Does it multiply? I consider throwing out the unworn jackets then consider; it would be a waste. Perhaps I will need them next season….

In January of 2009, we visited our sponsor child Som in Chang Rai, Thailand. The Compassion worker picked us up holding a large sign ‘Joe & Curry.’ I was ‘Curry.’ I guess the ‘L’ sound isn’t that common in Asia. We drove 4 hours out of Chang Rai into a small mountain village in the middle of nowhere.

We brought gifts for the family, some small items that we hoped would be a blessing. Nothing prepared us for the inadequacy that we felt after we arrived. We were advised not to buy anything too excessive, to stick to a few simple items; some toys and basic necessities.

As we walked past the family’s old home (a roof on four pillars to cover a space the size of one bedroom), and into their ‘new home.’ Som’s father had built it over the last two years with trees he had cut down himself. It was three tiny rooms made up of a kitchen/general room and two bedrooms. One of the bedrooms remained empty. No furniture, nothing. I guess after the family had shared a single space with no walls as their home for so long three rooms seemed excessive.

There was a set of drawers (a gift bought through Compassion last Christmas), one mattress for the family to share and no pillows. Each family member owned a single pair of tattered shoes. There was a pot or two, a few bowls, bare necessities.

Is it need or are we missing the point?

Our offering of toys and crafty things seemed to miss the point. We should have bought shoes, or pillows, kitchenware. My heart sunk as we offered our gifts that seemed so wasteful now.

The experience changed us. I could see how people get disillusioned after a trip like that choosing to live a much simpler life. Returning home, we became shocked at the amount of stuff we owned. Did we really ‘need’ it all?

The experience caused our values to shift. It changed our view of what is needful and what is excessive, wasteful and unnecessary.

We found contentment in less.

At times we still forget and succumb to the lie of ‘need’ that we receive from media and society. But I’m reminded of the truth often, like today as I sought through a drawer full of shoes that I haven’t worn in over a year.

But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)

This post is not about lack, or surplus, or need. These thoughts stem from a place of focus, intention and priority. When we acknowledge that our need for Jesus is greater than any other need we find contentment. Perhaps this is one of the great mysteries of life.

Need is in the eye of the beholder. Many needs are merely an illusion. Would we be happier if we focussed more on being content and giving rather than being focussed on achieving and getting? I’m not sure, but I’m committing to creating more space practically and spiritually for the things I truly need.

Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.
-Abraham Lincoln

On that note, I am off to empty my drawer of the 15 scarfs that didn’t see the light of day last season.

In love,

Carly Riordan Signature




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