The Remedy for Contentment: Spiritual Imagination

As believers of Jesus, we need not to learn the skill of Spiritual Imagination.  The remedy, instead, is to unlearn the habit of accepting that the limits of our physical, tangible, pragmatic skin is all we have at our disposal.”  Lori Michelle


Have you ever played that game, “That’s good; That’s Bad?”

It goes like this.  The first player puts forth a scenario such as “I just got a puppy.” Then the other players respond, “That’s good.” Then the next player says, “My puppy ruined my carpet.” And everyone answers, “That’s bad.” And so on around and around it goes proving that a circumstance can be good or bad depending on how you look at it.

That’s how I feel about what happened back in January. 

I got the best performance review I have ever gotten at my current place of employment.  My boss is really happy with my performance this year, and I feel, after 3 years of working at my school, that I have finally found my niche and proven my particular contribution worthwhile.

It hasn’t been easy, either.  I was close to being fired or walking off the job just one year ago!  I have gone from being stressed and frustrated and overwhelmed to feeling satisfied and justified and (mostly) content.

For most, I just described a “That’s good!” moment.  Admittedly, it does feel good to be seen and appreciated.

But for the last 5 or 6 weeks, I haven’t been very motivated to write or read or continue to work toward my personal goals outside of work.  And that’s bad.

Working as teacher has always been something of a conflict for me.  I hate to admit this because my conflicting feelings have always been a source of guilt, too.

On the one hand, I like teaching and I am good at it, too.  I care deeply for my students, not just how well they do on their academics, but what kind of person they are becoming and how I am contributing to their success in the long run. I believe strongly that if I can build up their confidence in their own abilities, then they will be able to create the future they desire for themselves.   I see teaching as planting seeds that others will water and then eventually the student will reap the harvest.

I have been teaching in some capacity, whether private, public, tutoring, or home schooling for 24 years now, and God has really blessed my efforts all along the way.  I know in my soul that I am doing good work that is worthwhile, and that makes me humble and grateful.

Then, on the other hand, I am not passionate about teaching.  I do not love it…in fact it’s a lot of hard work.  It is not and has never been my life’s dream.  I never pictured my life as being one of a career educator.

I chose teaching as my profession because it seemed pragmatic at the time.  My lifelong dream has been to be a writer, really, but majoring in English or journalism just didn’t seem practical.  I had young children when I decided to finish my degree, and because I loved them so much and wanted to be with them as much as humanly possible, I decided that teaching in the same school as my kids would be the ticket.  Teaching was my default position, not my ambition.

Teaching is something I have always done for others, not for myself.  Teaching, for me, is a sacrifice of love, not an outpouring of God’s pleasure.

That’s why I feel guilty.  I feel like if I’m good at something, and it’s worthwhile and makes a contribution to the world, then I should want to do it.  It SHOULD be my passion.

Maybe that’s why when I got the good review, I felt like I no longer needed to prove that I was a worthy teacher, and that I should just be content.  I should stop the silly notion of becoming a writer.  I should stop dreaming of someday writing that book that propels me into the writing and speaking career I have always wanted.

I like how Abraham Maslow said it:

“Perhaps adjustment and stabilization, while good because it cuts your pain, is also bad because development toward a higher ideal ceases.”

But then I found this definition of contentment on Wikipedia (of all places).

“Contentment is the acknowledgement and satisfaction of reaching capacity.”

And I realize, that darn it all, teaching isn’t the course through which I will reach my capacity.  Teaching isn’t filling my full potential.

But to be honest, the idea of learning how and doing what needs to be done to become an author who can support herself on her writing is overwhelming!  I read the books. I follow the blogs.  I take classes.  I join clubs and contests and seek out mentors.  And I also try to write sometimes, too!

Along with working full time and family and church, carving out time to develop my career as a writer is difficult and time consuming and unrewarding in almost every tangible way.  In this noisy, noisy world, how will my insignificant little voice be heard?

I waver between being content and grateful for my job and for teaching AND having this great hope that if I just keep working at it, if I just keep writing, if I just keep putting my work out there…someday, somehow I will realize that dream and fill myself to capacity.

And I remember what Jesus can do with vessels of water…or with fishes and loaves…or with dead bodies.  How he doesn’t see them as they are, but as they will be.  I’m calling it Spiritual Imagination. 

What can I do, with Jesus, if I just had His imagination for myself and stopped settling for the tangible, practical, logical solution?  What if I stopped settling for what I am now, and walk forward into what I can become?

Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

As believers of Jesus, we need not to learn the skill of Spiritual Imagination.  The remedy, instead, is to unlearn the habit of accepting that the limits of our physical, tangible, pragmatic skin is all we have at our disposal.

If you’ll excuse me, I’ve some unlearning to do.

abraham maslow quote


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