Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. … For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. [1 Timothy 6:6-7,10 (ESV)]
This itch to have things over again, as if life were a film that could be unrolled twice or even made to work backwards…was it possibly the root of all evil? No: of course the love of money was called that. But money itself—perhaps one valued it chiefly as a defense against chance, a security for being able to have things over again, a means of arresting the unrolling of the film. … Money, in fact, would provide the means of saying encore in a voice that could not be disobeyed. [From “Perelandra,” by C.S. Lewis]
A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking, Hmán, as if pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing. [From “Out of the Silent Planet,” by C.S. Lewis]
“Encore!” we shout so we can hear more at the symphony and “Encore!” I silently shout when God blesses me with “Aha!” moments or even miracles. Once is never enough. While gathering parsley and basil for last night’s dinner, I carefully examined the greens before cutting them. I’m not that particular about my herbs—I’m just looking for a caterpillar, chrysalis or butterfly. Two years ago, in the same herb container, I found a freshly hatched black swallowtail drying its wings, its empty chrysalis nearby. Do I search so I won’t disturb nature’s course? Not really—my search is about wanting to experience that “Aha!” moment again. It’s not enough for me to remember that day or even look at the photos I shot. Greedily, I want another magic moment; once was not enough.
C.S. Lewis’ words from Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra got me thinking about contentment and our foolish efforts to have more of what we’ve already been given. We become gluttons—not just of food—but of experiences. Unsatisfied, we always seem to want more of what we’ve just had and, as Lewis points out, we love money because we think it enables us to do so. We want life to be an “all you can eat” buffet. Instead of relishing that initial bite and being satisfied with our first plate, we’re already thinking about returning for seconds and thirds.
No matter how much money we have, there will be no encore in our lives. One pass through life’s buffet line will have to be enough. The Rolling Stones sang, “I can’t get no satisfaction!” We will continue to sing that song if, rather than savoring and then remembering the gifts of today, however big or little they may be, we search for or try to recreate the gifts of yesterday. And we surely won’t be satisfied if, while enjoying the gifts of today, we’re already thinking about having more of the same tomorrow.
You say, “If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.” You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled. [Charles Spurgeon]
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” [John 4:13-14 (ESV)]
For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. [Psalm 107:9 (ESV)]