Why do we always want what we don't have? Why can’t we be happy with who we are?
It is a challenge to really learn the art of “contentment”. As Paul says …"Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6)
When in Cambodia the greatest joy I have is to hang out with some of the most wonderful Khmer people I feel privileged to call friends. In fact this trip we went on a little three day holiday with a Khmer family. We went to the beach each day, ate and laughed and hung out in Kep. It was always interesting in such a hot country to find that every time we went to the beach us Aussies would sit out in the sun as long as we could to get as brown as we could, because the bronzed Aussie dream is clearly still alive in our family. While the Cambodians covered themselves completely with clothes and stayed in the shade all day. When one of little ones was not allowed to play on the sand with us one day, I asked why. The mother said, “I don't want her to get any browner”, to which I replied, “but her skin is beautiful, she is such a beautiful colour”. She pointed to me and said, “No, it is your skin that is beautiful. I wish I had a white baby.” Meanwhile, my daughter continually dreams of having a “brown/black baby”. I feel like I’m saying the wrong thing even to say the word “black” baby nowadays, as it’s so politically incorrect, and yet I often look at their brown/black skin and think it is stunning. My children come to me at the end of each day and say “Do I look brown, Mum?” or “Look how brown I am” and I am jealous because my blonde haired, white skin is the way I was born and will never be called “brown”.
If I am going somewhere special I will even get a spray tan so I feel better about myself. But in Cambodia, in their rooms I am constantly finding “white” foundation, as the Khmer wear this to make them look more like us. At times they look downright pale, and I can’t work out for the life of me how they find that attractive because I wish I was as dark skinned as them.
It just goes to show “the grass is always greener’ or in this case “browner”. The reality is we are all the same, aren't we? Always wishing we had what others had in order to feel better about ourselves. Now I know I will offend many who love to say over and over again “just be yourself”, “you do you, and I’ll do me”. And while I totally agree, I am confessing that if we are honest, we are all guilty at times of looking at others and wishing we were more like them. Now for you it might not be the colour of your skin … but what is it? Your size? Your income? Your job? Your skills and gifts? Your Abilities? Your House? Other bodily features? Whatever it is, I can guarantee that while we might say and do all the politically correct things in public, in quiet places where no-one sees we all have thoughts of discontent and wishing we were someone or something else!
Sadly, our thoughts are often the most dangerous places, where so much damage is done. The self-talk, self-doubt, self-loathing, the self-denigration. The places we make agreements with our thoughts, that become truth and then become our new reality. Often they are then confirmed in our culture, and it takes being in another culture to see that what we think is truth, is relative.
One of the most powerful things about walking with God, surrendering your life to Him, is that it is in the quiet places, the places that no one else sees, my inner most thoughts, that can be easily hidden from those closest to me, God is there. I cannot escape Him. I can try to hide, try to pretend, try to say the right things, but He sees it all, knows it all and He can’t be fooled. It is in those places that He restates His truth to me, recalibrates my thinking, allows me to experience His undeserved grace and love and helps me see that “I captivate Him”. When I want to venture into the comparison game, the wish list of what I want to be like, or what I wish I had, He reminds me that I am His beloved, created child. He longs for everyone one of us to grow into a deep inner contentment, that only ever sees ourselves through His lens. Surely, then the “grass will always be green enough.”
I haven’t got even close in the first half of my life, but now at 51, I pray that I do the second half better, always with my eyes on Him and how He sees the world and all that is in it.