Contentment: Should I stay or should I go?

Should I stay or should I go?

Knowing whether to stay put or continue onward is an important skill in the backcountry. Sometimes we even need to know when to bail out completely. I was supposed to spend this weekend flyfishing with friends on California’s Kings River, but I’ve been feeling sick all week. I hoped it would pass by today, but when we got into Ryan’s car to start the 8-hour drive, my head was spinning and I felt nauseous. Do I suck it up and push through, or would it be wiser to stay behind this time and try again when I’m well? This trip was going to include a steep 1200-foot descent to the confluence of the middle and south forks of the river and temperatures near 100’F. About 15 minutes into the drive I finally decided I needed to stay behind and wait out this illness. So we turned around, feeling defeated, our plans spoiled by a virus.

Sometimes the decision to stay or go could have life or death consequences. My friend Rob is the director of a “study abroad” program in the Sierras for a rival Christian college. He has the dream job for an outdoorsman – living in the mountains, guiding backcountry trips for students, and teaching wilderness leadership courses. But he has to be on top of his game at all times, making decisions on behalf of the group that could determine their safety. On one trip to the high sierra, while hiking around 11,000 feet, a rogue¬†thunderstorm blew in too quickly to prepare. Rob had to decide in a split second whether to search for cover, risking exposure to hard rain and numerous lightning strikes, or get everyone down on their sleeping pads under a tarp to ride out the storm.

Often in life, we have to decide whether to stay or go. And in many cases, it’s our contentment that is bringing the challenge. Maybe the job isn’t perfect or you know you would be paid better elsewhere. Maybe it’s the neighborhood, or the schools your kids attend. Maybe it’s your kids’ friends. Here in southern California, the high home prices have driven many to cheaper land in places like Idaho, Texas, and Pennsylvania.

In my own life, it’s an over-romanticized memory of life in other places. When I lived in New York as a young man, trips to San Diego to visit my brother who was in the Navy filled my head with dreams of sun, surf, beach, and girls. After nearly a decade in southern California, I missed the weather and green landscape of cooler climates, and moved to Idaho for graduate school. In Idaho, usually around January, I found myself daydreaming about sunshine and the ocean. Back in San Diego again, now I miss the rivers and mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Talk about discontentment!

Rob ended up staying exactly where he was, getting almost 50 people onto their sleeping pads and under a tarp for some protection from the wind, rain, and lightning. Sometimes, staying right where you are is the best answer.

My friend Scott said to me the other day, “you’re a blessed man, Dave.” I know its true. Now I have to learn to live it.


Questions for thought

Have you ever moved in search of change or new adventure? Did the move satisfy you?

How satisfied are you with where you live now? Do you find yourself daydreaming about greener pastures somewhere else?

What’s good about where you live now? How would your life be different if you focused on those things, if you were intentionally thankful for the blessings of where the Lord has you now?



Father God, your word tells us that you have plans for us – plans for good works to be done and plans for blessing. Help me to recognize that where you have me now is part of those plans. May I embrace this current life situation and serve you wholly now, not waiting until my circumstances change. I want to honor you with a thankful heart for the blessings of here. Amen.


About Dave Cummings

Dave Cummings is a husband, father of three, college professor, biologist, and urban outdoorsman. Most importantly, he is a Christ follower.
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2 Responses to Contentment: Should I stay or should I go?

  1. spikebotts says:

    I have been thinking a lot about contentment and why we get the urge to go. How do we make that decision to go? What helps prepare us to make that decision? I was in Idaho this last week for what was supposed to be a 2 week work trip (with a little fishing and camping squeezed in on the weekend). Part way into the first week I found out the second side of our dog’s heart was failing and she wasn’t going to have long to live. I didn’t want to cut the trip short because of how productive it would be and because of the cost. On the other hand, I knew it was something I needed to be home for. As I tried to decide what to do, I called those I know I can trust for sound, unbiased advice (Dave). After these consultations I realized that I needed to leave soon, regardless of the work that might not get done. It was the right decision. This experience reminded me of the value in surrounding ourselves with people we can trust and rely on. Investing time and energy into long-term relationships with people we can trust. The people we surround ourselves with will help us in gaining clarity and insight into tough decisions. Who you hang out with does matter!

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