Miller and the Question of Contentment

Downsize from the Seattle TimesLately I’ve been spending a lot more time at home. I still make it to the gym and get to church a couple of times a week and enjoy talking to my students and neighbor, but for the most part, I’m spending time at home, brewing and drinking coffee, reading, writing, and walking in the neighborhood (when the rain’s not falling in the valley). Part of this is because I am grieving the end of a particular period in my life here in Hawaii. Part of it is because I’m trying to live a more disciplined life. And part of it is a real attempt at re-embracing contentment.

Donald Miller wrote about contentment a couple of weeks ago. His perspective was from “the downsized life.” Turns out he’s put most of his stuff in storage, bought a camping van, and is now living in DC for half a year living a simpler life and working. And while I appreciate the impulse in general, he wrote one phrase about his situation that almost yelled at me from my computer screen:

For me, downsizing was about no longer buying the stuff I thought would make me content. I realize now it really won’t. In fact, getting rid of the clutter and square feet made the “pursuit of happiness” that much easier. There was less false hope around.

And while that may not be the case for all of us in search of something, it is a strange version of the case for me. I already live a relatively simple life: my life is almost a closed circuit of simplicity. But my great area of discontent hasn’t been in possessions; it has been in relationships. Over the last year or so, an unexpected relational simplicity has been all but forced on me, and I have not been able to see that for what it was: a way of refocusing me hope.

I encourage you to check out Miller’s post on contentment here. I especially like his list for being content in life. Even if your list is different, it’s nice to think through.

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