Finding Contentment in My Restlessness

Restlessness is woven into the fiber of my being.

Also, I’m fairly certain restlessness is not a spiritual gift.

I know from the Bible that God gives gifts to all of his children, and that all of his gifts are good. That’s scripture truth. I also know that all of us are also plagued with certain personality quirks and tendencies that are carryovers from genetics, human history, and Eve’s original mistake in the garden.

In my own unique personality, there are too many of these latter ‘gifts’ to count, including an absolute inability to wait (for anything) and searing impatience with heat and traffic. The Atlanta suburbs in July make me a joy to live with.

Restlessness, though, comprises a large part of my psyche. It is the lens through which I view my calling, my husband’s job, my children’s schooling, and even the geography of our surroundings.

This situational agitation comes in spurts: I go through months showing great contentment with our life, loving our community and our church and thanking God with great piety for his gifts.

And then, an explosion of discontent:

Why do we share space with five million other people?

Why do we drive ten miles to get to our church when there are ten churches within two miles from our house?

Why have they torn down another hillside of rolling trees to build another Marshalls?

A Whole Foods at that intersection is going to add ten minutes to my commute.

Why do I commute? Why do you commute?

I wonder, is the stirring in my soul the push from God I’ve been waiting for? The whisper, the urging, that is telling me to pull up stakes and make the bold move towards simplicity? I yearn to swim upstream against the pull of our culture that begs for more- more money, more hours, more career advancement. I wonder why my husband and God are not on board with this plan. My flight from the city is barred with practicalities- my in-laws and their dependence on us, my teenager’s absolute refusal to move mid-high-school, and my husband’s plea to stay put until this, that, or the other.

They are all good reasons. I ask God, and he tells me to wait, and so I tamp down my restlessness for another six months, hoping the next time it flares up, God will say yes.

Yet through each of these cycles the question nags: is this disquiet in me, almost always simmering beneath the surface to the extent that I would pack away fifteen years of friendships and history for a change in scenery, equal to sin?

As I pray for the surrender while simultaneously hoping God will make a change, I don’t have a good answer to this question. The desire for adventure and revolution is so strong that I have a hard time counting it as a mistake, and yet I’ve walked through adulthood feeling like a person who has worn the wrong outfit to a party.

My faith tells me that God is not rocked by my periods of moodiness. He made me, he loves me, and he is patient when I am not. Even more, he can see down the long road and around the blind curves, with unlimited wisdom and sight distance. It only remains for me to find the balance between trusting him with what I have, while always hoping for something a little different.

Am I content with my life? Never. There is always better. I want mountains and space and neighbors and travel. I want my kids to grow up pleasantly different from their peers. I want to live a life that looks different and is different because of the hope I carry each day.

However, I have learned in the great, long waiting game to be content with God. Even when I look around and heave a great sigh and wish a great wish, I can rest in a God who writes a great story, one that is going on all around me. The secret is boiling away the temporary and clinging to the adventure in the eternal- the difficult neighbor on my street, the children in the local school that need feeding, or my own children that are navigating adolescence.

It doesn’t always look like the grand adventure I seek, but most days I can have faith that it is because it was written by a wildly adventurous Author.

Maggie Bowling
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4 thoughts on “Finding Contentment in My Restlessness

  1. Smiling, because I have the same not-spiritual-gift, and continually have to remind myself that there is a greater narrative arc than the tiny crescent of time that I’m allowing to feed my impatience. Thanks for calling my attention to the “wildly adventurous Author” who is always at work behind the scenes.

  2. That’s it isn’t it Maggie? Finding out contentment in God. It’s why the world makes us resettles because nothing else truly satisfies. I needed to hear your words. Thank you

  3. I have this gift/curse, too! I so identify with this. I’ve been learning these contentment lessons for a decade now and still have a long way to go. About to embark on another grand international adventure, I know my heart will be restless there, too. It always is. You ask such good questions about nature, sin, or gift. I have found it to be both. It is so hard to discern when the desire to run is me or God. Thank God He gave me a husband who grounds me and I have learned to seek wise counsel and trust the Spirit’s peace-giving. Wonderful words today, thank you! (By the way, I see you live on the Northside. I am in south metro Atlanta:)

  4. Beautiful this speaks to me..teenagers also seem to dictate the course of our current we sacrifice as mothers and wives turning always back to the foundation of all..Thy Will Be Done. I wonder when I find that simple life on land out of the rat race will I be content. I write to remind myself that peace within only does come with complete surrender. Just loved this today when sitting with a flu I wonder about contentment when my car just blew a head..

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