As published on Christian Today Australia 26/3/20
I often find myself writing about our pet goat. It’s not that I’m particularly fond of him—the Lord knows how many times I’ve had to chase that goat away from my roses and the neighbour’s garden when he escapes! He can be very infuriating, and threats of goat curry often enter my conversations at these times (though I never would).
Our goat has, however, exhibited an intriguing habit since being a kid. Although a large part of our property is fenced off for the sheep and goat to roam and graze, our goat spends a great part of his days with his head stuck through the wire fence trying to eat the grass on the other side. We have an even track on the other side of our fence that he has managed to keep low at much effort and discomfort to himself.
Feeling sorry for him, my husband will often take the goat to the other side of the fence and tether him so he can eat as much of the grass on the other side as he likes. Yet, when given the opportunity to have his fill, we’re always amazed that when this happens, the goat will sit and not eat anything! It must be that it’s now too easy.
The escape artist
Our goat also likes to wander. My husband has spent much time positioning and mending our fences to restrict the goat from going where he shouldn’t. We have been enjoying a time of great satisfaction with no real escapes having happened for a few months. Success!
Or so we thought, until a few days ago we woke to the sound of our bleating goat coming from the neighbour’s yard. On further investigation we discovered that the goat had had a sleep over on their property and was now ready and wanting to come home. Go figure!
So, to summarise—the goat likes to eat the grass that is hard to get to, until it is no longer hard to get to and, when he escapes, he eventually realises that what he originally had was better, and now wants to return home. On return to his pasture, he proceeds to stick his head through the fence again and resume old habits. Hmmmm…
Proverbs has a lot to say about this kind of behaviour (read chapter 26), and Jesus depicts the difference between sheep and goats in Matthew chapter 25 verses 31-46. I could pretty much leave the article right here and you, the reader, would understand and have enough to think about. But let’s delve a little deeper…
Finding contentment in an unsettled world
We often hear the phrase “the grass is greener on the other side”, and yet, just as our goat discovered—it’s not—and once on the other side, well…it’s just boring. It seems our society, just like the goat, lives largely in a state of discontent. While satisfaction and contentment are constantly being sought through many different means such as finance, relationships, job promotions, travel, retail therapy, drugs, alcohol etc. it is ultimately a short-lived, unsatisfying journey. We are seeing increasing rates of mental and health problems as a result of people not finding contentment.
A change of perspective may be in order. If your house is too small, perhaps it’s because the house you have is bursting with blessings. If your relationships are suffering, perhaps there’s a lot of potential improvement waiting to be found by investing in those who are suffering. If your job is not satisfying, perhaps there are opportunities to look for to expand and improve, or maybe pray for wisdom and open doors in finding a job more suited.
In the meantime, is there someone at your work who needs your friendship, counsel or kindness? Is there someone in your home that needs your focus and understanding, forgiveness and love? Is there undiscovered beauty in the circumstances you find yourself at present?
Where permanent contentment is found
Whilst in prison, Paul writes of the contentment he had found. This contentment was not dependent on circumstances, nor was it suddenly given to him at birth. It was a contentment he had discovered throughout years of living, in finding the true source of where his peace lies. It was not found in the place he dwelt, for prison is not luxurious by any means; it was not found in youth or beauty, for he was aged and lacking basic needs; it was not found in work, or things, or people. It was found in God.
‘… for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.’ (Philippians 4:11-13)
We can learn a lot from nature. God was not accidental in how He made his creation. Perhaps we can learn more from the sheep who stays within the pasture that is already flowing with green grass and blessings. May the Lord give us eyes to see what we have already been given, and may He bless it and give us wisdom in how to best use it for His glory.
‘But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.’ (1 Timothy 6:6-12)
©Rebecca Moore 2020