"Practitioner of Contentment" ~ OR, "How Sheila Got Her Groove Back"

I guess if there were to be any initials after my name, it would be "PC" ~ Practitioner of Contentment.

There really is no other phrase that has so consistently, over decades, defined my essence. I am typically happy, and cannot abide the cynical person. When life hands me dirt, I'll make a mud mask and come out with a better complexion than ever. When life hands me lemons, I'll stick 'em in my bra. Ahem. (Nah...)

So you can imagine when, quite suddenly, in the past three years or so, I discovered in my own thinking all the dreaded cynicism I have always disliked in others. Upon a brief but very prayerful investigation, I had a massive revelation: I was a compensatory optimist.

Was.

Good for me, for all the mud masks and lemon enhancement. It was far better for me than giving into the pessimism that was forever sitting there, lurking and sulking in the corner of my soul, bound and gagged while I worked so very hard to compensate for its existence. But no one...no one...can compensate forever. At some point, things have to get painfully honest.

I first thought it was hormones. No...hormones only have the power to unmask a woman's inner demons. They bring just enough physical vulnerability to render you unable to hide what's really there. When, oh when, will we understand as His beautiful women, that this isn't a bad thing? We finally get to deal with our stuff - if we are wise.

I thought it was transition...an emptying nest, and all that. No. Transition happens.

I thought it was the stress of raising teenage boys. That was a red herring, for sure.

I had been working all these years to be optimistic, to compensate for that innate pessimist, sitting all tied up and fuming in her chair in the corner of my consciousness. Simple as that. And a pessimist's image of herself and her world is completely connected to her image of her God. My concept of God, with all my book learning, was off. All it took was an overwhelming dose of real life, and the influence of a few cynics, to reveal the weakness in my own understanding.  That sulky pessimist wriggled out of her ropes, tore off the gag I'd so carefully kept on her mouth, and she got up out of her chair and wreaked havoc in my head.

I tried to ignore her. She wouldn't go away. I wrestled her to the floor, and put her in a headlock, but she never tapped out. I sent her back to her chair, and quoted Scripture at her, but still she was there...larger than life.

She represented a belief structure. She is what I thought about God. "See, God has this low-level frustration towards you", she would say. And I'd send her back to her chair, and put the gag back on her. She'd always get loose, now and then. When others would testify in church of the work of God in their life, she'd sniff, "Wonder how long that'll last??" I'd stuff a lemon down her throat to shut her up. When I'd get caught up in wonder at anything, when my faith would begin to take flight, she was quick to pull the wings off the butterfly, and remind me of all things Real.

Worms. Never. Change.

She assured me that when I sinned, I was opening up myself to all sorts of Bad Things - nevermind the finished work of Christ. She swore that when I behaved, and only when I behaved, I was in His favor. She implied that it all depended on me, and how well I could compensate for my flaws. She withdrew from anyone and anything that challenged her control.

She smiled primly, all tied up in her chair, when I chose all the Right Things. She flexed her firm muscles in high self esteem when I jogged, did all my crunches, and ate organic food. She whispered to me that my body is a temple, after all. She particularly enjoyed it when I studied the doctrines of grace from her perspective. Man, did she know her Bible. Problem was, every time she showed me a passage, every time she quoted a verse, she was wearing this silly veil on her head. Consequently, in seeing I didn't perceive, and for all my hearing I didn't understand.

This arrangement worked for a very long time. Until I became too weary to compensate for her existence, and too tired to always be fighting with her, repeatedly returning her to the chair in the corner of my mind. It was either kill her or let her reign, with all her cynicism and unbelief.

I am happy to say that the word of God is alive and powerful, and sharper than any sword. It is able to divide and discern, and it discerned me. It discerned me openly. All things were suddenly naked and open in the eyes of Him with Whom I had to do.

And it was....allright. God....loves me. He turned His back on Christ at the cross so that I could look straight into His glory all the days of my life. Jesus bore my sins, He carried my sickness, and the punishment to obtain my peace was all...all...upon Jesus.

That chair, in the corner of my consciousness? Empty. That innate pessimist? Gone.

I'm yet a Practitioner of Contentment. I'm still making mud masks and playing with lemons. The only difference is that I'm not compensating for anything anymore. I am what and who I am, and "by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me is not in vain."

Stella got her groove back one way, Sheila got her groove back by grace through faith.
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