This side of paradise

People ruin everything.

We ruin relationships. We ruin food. We ruin the earth. I think one of the reasons I am so drawn to nature is that there I find less of mankind’s fingerprints and more of God’s. In the city I am surrounded by reminders of man’s imperfect creations. But in nature I am surrounded by God’s beautiful, creative, graceful handiwork.

Cutthroat trout and mentoring on the Lochsa River, Idaho.

I flyfish for native cutthroat trout on Idaho’s Lochsa River partly because I see so much less of man and so much more of God here.

On Tuesdays this semester I “work from home.” I don’t have anything formally scheduled, so instead of making the 25-mile one-way commute to campus, I stay in my neighborhood and try to focus on everything that seems to slip through the cracks during the rest of the week. Of course, I often use Tuesdays to get in a little R & R as well.

Yesterday my friend James and I went for a meandering, somewhat aimless walk along trails in a local park. But this park is not like your typical urban oasis. Instead, it comprises over 7,000 acres of rugged, mountainous open space in the southern California chaparral with 60 miles of multi-use trails to explore. We wandered over four-and-a-half of those 60 miles, culminating with a gorgeous view from a height of close to 1,000 feet above the valley floor below. The February sun was shining and we couldn’t help but feel a little guilty, knowing how many of our fellow Americans were snowbound at that very moment.

We search for perfection in Yosemite and the Pacific Ocean. We hope to find it in our spouse and in our kids. We change jobs every 4.6 years, substituting one set of frustrations and disappointments with different ones. We replace our cars every couple of years and remodel our homes every decade. We even watch TV shows about keeping our houses in fashion as if they were clothes.

But the truth is that we cannot expect to find perfection on this fallen earth. And our insistence that we can only leads to the disappointment of unmet expectations. We would do well to learn the Biblical discipline of contentment.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 1 Timothy 6:6-7

I have been writing and preaching about the virtues of contentment for nearly two decades, but it seems to elude me still. When I think of all the sin and struggle in my life that could be alleviated by simply being content in the Lord and His provision, I long for it all the more. But I know that even contentment will never be perfect this side of paradise.

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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