When Monologues came out, I said in an interview that my identity cannot be in this project, and that if there is to be any sustainable joy, it must come from Christ alone. I think, though, if I am to be honest, I started building too much of my house atop a sandcastle called "Levi The Poet." I realized it yesterday when a friend at church asked me about separating myself from the name, and without really thinking about it I responded, "I think it is an act of repentance." I've been thinking about why I said that since.
Let me tell you, the more your life starts to revolve around you, and what you do, and who you are, the less interesting you become, the more afraid you feel, the more joy you lose. If nothing else, I've considered this shift as safeguarding myself from slow-dancing with introspective narcissism and destroying all of us with the boredom of orbiting around me.
There will always be someone who does something better. Something different. Something you want to do. A band I love named La Dispute put it well on their recent record, "I guess everyday gets harder to stay happy where you are. There are all these ways to look through the fence into your neighbor's yard. Why even risk it? It's safer to stay distant when it's so hard now to just be content, because there's always something else."
Envy is a thief that will take you for every last bit of the joy that hangs in your home.
I've been praying for contentment recently. It's a prayer I've always been afraid of. One I've never known how to handle. One that, if I'm honest, I always thought would be wrong to ask for. Contentment? Like comfort? Like a squishy temper-pedic bubble that guards or absorbs all the debris from this war that is raging in heavenly places?
But I felt led to ask for contentment and to understand what I'm asking for. This is where I am landing:
Jesus is contentment, and unless I have him, I will not be.
And the truth is that I have not been. Not for a long time. Not truly. Not deeply. This last year has been one of the most frightening times in my life. I have felt as though if Christ truly gives sight to the blind, then I must be developing cataracts.
But I swear the light shines whether or not we have eyes to see it.
So I have prayed for contentment, clarity, eyes to see and behold the glory of God.
He is good.
Sometimes, I feel like I know nothing at all, and it makes me wonder if I have somehow become faithless. But at other times, I wonder if I am finally walking by faith for the first time, rather than faith in the things I thought I knew. There is nothing else in this life that has continually drawn me back to it like the words of Jesus, or the longing for his presence.
I find myself in Simon Peter's shoes. In John 6:68, after Jesus says all kinds of things that are so hard to understand, he asks his disciples if they will leave with the rest of those that have counted the cost, and found him too expensive. Simon responds, "Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know that you are the Holy One of God."
Lord, to whom would I go?
After all of my envious pursuits swallow me whole? After all of my longings for fame or money or notoriety have found me lifeless? After all of the things that leave me restless, and wanting, and anxious, and tired, and empty?
No, my deepest desire is still to be content in your presence.
What about you? Where are you in this life, in your mind, in your heart, in your soul? It's okay to be desperate. In fact, it's terrifying not to be. I'm pretty convinced that unless I am desperate for contentment in Christ alone, I will never go to war on behalf of the prayers that I have been praying while avoiding this one anyway:
Jesus, be my contentment, so that when the sea rages, I trust you enough to walk on it.