“NOT THAT I SPEAK FROM WANT, FOR I HAVE LEARNED TO BE CONTENT IN WHATEVER CIRCUMSTANCES I AM. I KNOW HOW TO GET ALONG WITH HUMBLE MEANS, AND I ALSO KNOW HOW TO LIVE IN PROSPERITY . I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH HIM WHO STRENGTHENS ME.”
— Philippians 4:11-13
I’m learning to be content.
I wish it were easier or that I’ve matured more in that area, but I’ll settle for progress.
Part of the problem in the world is our need to compete with what others have. People seem obsessed with the latest designer clothes. As a youth, I remember wearing corduroy pants with the little Levi tag hanging off a back pocket. I also preferred to shop at the Gap for some reason.
Contentment can show up in many areas of life beyond clothing – like a job, food, income, home, career success, looks, etc. Before I became a Christian, I’m sure God tried to teach me many aspects of contentment and how it can lead me to Him. Within contentment, there is a sense of peace and gratitude that can easily link someone to the Lord.
God clearly used one event in 1987 to help me understand contentment, but it wasn’t until nearly 20 years later that I began to grasp and appreciate the lesson.
After I earned my journalism degree at Kent State University in 1986, I started my first job that December at the Sandusky Register. I made a whopping $13,000 a year. With Uncle Sam, rent, utilities, food, a car payment and gas, there wasn’t a whole lot to go around.
At the same time, I had fallen in love with my future bride, Terri. She also landed her first full-time newspaper job in late 1987 (not long after we decided to get married).
We began to map out our wedding day during a warm sunny day in August while relaxing in a park on Kelly’s Island – a Lake Erie tourist destination in Ohio.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have a ring for my honey. Late that fall, I made plans to propose to her (formally confirming what we already planned). The engagement ring cost a fortune – $212 for 0.20 carat. Yep, that’s a 0.20 carat diamond ring. Sometimes I think a magnifying glass would help.
The actual proposal is memorable, but the ring size has always bothered me.
On New Year’s Eve, I picked Terri up from her apartment in Fremont, Ohio (a town in northwest Ohio). We drove through the evening. I wanted to get to the ocean by midnight, but I had to settle for a bay in Norfolk, Va. before heading to a friend’s home in Richmond, Va.
Just before midnight, we bought some wine coolers at a 7-Eleven and I convinced Terri to join me behind the store by the water. I knelt down on the sand and I presented her with the ring. I knelt again and held the ring so we could get a picture that reflected the earlier moment.
The ring seemed more spectacular that evening, which meant a great deal to us. Ever since, however, I’ve seen the rocks that other women wear and remain somewhat embarrassed by what Terri has on her finger.
Over the last few years, I’ve continued to tell Terri that she deserves a much larger diamond (one we can afford now). Yet, she always tells me not to make such a large purchase. After all, she really likes the diamond. If it catches the light just right, it does exhibit that colorful twinkle effect.
I’ve begun to see how hurt Terri would be if I replaced or added to the tiny diamond that is priceless in her eyes. Regardless of its size, the diamond represents a part of our past and a bond. It also reflects the financial sacrifice I made to let her know how much I wanted her to be my wife. I spent what I could and she appreciates the effort I made.
I imagine the ring will be the same on our 25th and 50th wedding anniversaries.
Financially, we’re much better off even though we’re actually managing two mortgages at the moment. Our money will go to travel, our boys’ college expenses and retirement.
I wish I could show you Terri’s ring. You don’t need a microscope to see its worth. Its true value and beauty are apparent in the love and personal memories I share with Terri.
The jewel also reminds me to trust God while being content with who I am, where I’ve come from and where I’m going.