Lemonade, Spurgeon, & Taming the “I Wants”
by Jessie Minassian
Last week I watched in awe as my two daughters, ages five and seven, managed their first lemonade stand. For two hours they prepared—mixing gallons of neon-yellow, powdered Country Time, baking homemade muffins (from scratch!), and laboring to decorate their elaborate signage (i.e., “Lemonade 25¢” and “Muffins 50¢” with detailed pictures, and lots of smiley faces, naturally). Then they carted an igloo to our street corner and peddled their goods for another three hours in the summer heat. Bless the kind neighbors and friends who bought 19 muffins and 27 cups of second-rate lemonade from my budding entrepreneurs. An astronomical twenty-six dollars and sixty cents filled their mason jar before they closed up shop! As I questioned whether I was in the right profession, the girls divvied up their nickels, dimes and quarters. Giggles and pirouettes flowed freely as they realized they had exactly enough.
See, my youngest daughter, Logan? She had been saving up for the crème de la crème of childhood toys for some time, and that lemonade stand earned her just enough to purchase her coveted American Girl doll. I don’t think I could possibly overemphasize the pint-sized ecstasy that bubbled from the backseat as we drove to the store to pick up her long-anticipated “Isabelle,” complete with pink hair extensions. (If you knew Logan, you would realize this doll was practically made for her.) As we left the store and headed home, my sweet daughter was filled with utter delight. Certainly she would never want another toy again. Ever. Her heart was completely content!
Until three days ago.
Three days ago my oldest daughter, Ryan, had enough money to finally buy a toy that she had been saving up for: a mini American Girl doll. Never mind that this new doll was one-fifth the size and moola as the Isabelle doll, poor Logan was completely undone with jealousy. Her long-awaited doll with the pink hair extensions and gold glitter shoes lost its luster faster than a vending machine ring.
I was tempted to lecture. I was tempted to reprimand. I was tempted to point out the ludicrousness of her discontentment, given the fact that her doll was by far the superior toy. (Okay, who am I kidding? I admit I did a teensy bit of all three.) But it was crazy, no? How could anyone be discontent so soon after getting the one thing you had spent months pining over?
Don’t you love how God points out our own sin through our children?
My reprimands turned to repentance as I realized that I had let the ugly weed of discontentment begin to grow in my own heart. Again. In what I thought was a “weed-free zone.” It had only been two months since the release of my latest book, Crushed: Why Guys Don’t Have to Make or Break You, and my eyes were already scanning the horizon for my heart’s next desire.
There’s always something more to want.
Am I right? Maybe we’re too old to pine for dolls, but are you Jonesin’ over a job? A house? Finding the man of your dreams? How about an eight-pound bundle of drooling cuteness? Or rock-hard abs, for crying out loud! (Not that I’d know anything about any of those.) As you and I know, the possibilities for unchecked desire are quite literally endless—especially in the realm of relationships. The desire to have a “special someone,” to be married, to have children, or to change the spouse or children we already have can be almost paralyzing at times, can’t it?
The good news is that it is indeed possible to find contentment, and re-find it, and work at finding it yet again. (Yes, contentment seems to be as flighty as a spooked sparrow.) But to master contentment, we have to be willing to get dirty.
Contentment: A “Flower of Heaven”
The reason Logan wanted her sister’s doll five seconds after getting her own—and the reason why so many of us go through life always wanting something (anything)—goes back to the garden. Well, two gardens, actually: the Garden of Eden and a garden Charles Spurgeon once talked about. He said:
Contentment in all states is not a natural propensity of man. Ill weeds grow apace; covetousness, discontent, and murmuring are as natural to man as thorns are to the soil. You have no need to sow thistles and brambles; they come up naturally enough because they are indigenous to earth, upon which rests the curse. . . .
If we want flowers, there must be the garden and all the gardener’s care. Now, contentment is one of the flowers of heaven, and if we would have it, it must be cultivated. It will not grow in us by nature; it is the new nature alone that can produce it, and even then we must be specially careful and watchful that we maintain and cultivate the grace which God has sown in it.i
In other words, contentment is hard because it’s not natural! Because of our sin, the only plants that grow naturally in our hearts are weeds, and discontentment is high on the list of the most vigorously growing. If we want anything else to grow, we’re going to have to enlist the help of our Divine Gardener, and then hunker down in the dirt ourselves.
If we’ll ask Him, God is more than willing to stroll through our hearts with His big ol’ garden shears, pruning branches and digging up weeds. A snip here, a whack there—sometimes we wonder if we’ll survive! But remember, “If we want flowers, there must be the garden, and all the gardener’s care.” Thankfully, our God is an expert gardener. He knows exactly what to cut back—exactly what discipline we need—in order to let the flowers of contentment flourish. But because He is a good and wise Father, He won’t do it all on His own. He expects His kids to take an active part in keeping their gardens weed free. So what’s our part?
Working at Contentment
My mother-in-law is bananas for roses. She has more than twenty-two varieties in her front yard, and when spring comes to her California home, it smells like someone smashed a bottle of Chanel perfume on the driveway. You can smell her yard halfway down the block! And the colors? Bright yellow, tropical coral, powdery lavender, blood red . . . I could go on. When Charles Spurgeon describes contentment as “one of the flowers of heaven,” I see Marilyn’s roses, with all their beauty and fragrance. But they don’t grow naturally. Not even close. She tends those puppies nine months out of the year, cutting them back for the winter, fertilizing, watering, even smashing the snails and beetles that threaten her masterpieces. When spring comes, she gets to enjoy fresh-cut bouquets around the house as well as the admiring praise of the neighbors. But her work doesn’t stop then. She’s out there all summer long, pruning, watering, and smashing more snails. She says that’s the only way the roses will keep blooming late into the year. They need her continual care.
Isn’t that the way of contentment? It’s hard because it isn’t natural. But it’s also hard because it takes continual work and discipline! That’s the part we don’t like, right? I for one would much rather eat a magic “contentment candy bar” than have to get dirt under my fingernails as I pull up gobs of weeds in my heart. But if I want the “flowers of heaven” to bloom there, I have to wrestle daily with the heart issues that fuel my “I wants.”
So how about you? Are you willing to let God have complete control of your garden? Willing to take action when He gently (or not-so-gently!) points out the weeds of discontent? Are you willing to discipline yourself to spend time in your garden, pruning, watering, fertilizing, and smashing the snails you find there?
Whether you’re single or married, twenty or ninety, homeless or owner of a mansion, if you struggle to be content with what you have and who you are, then it’s time to put on those gardening gloves. Let’s find the joy that comes in being satisfied with what we already have. And let’s be models of relational contentment for our daughters, nieces, neighbors and grandchildren, so we can lead them in cultivating their own “flowers of heaven.”
Jessie Minassian is a speaker, author of a handful of books, and the “resident big sis” at LifeLoveandGod.com, a website for teen girls. She lives near Denver, Colorado, with her husband and two lemonade-peddlers.
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