Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Godly Ambition - Oxymoron ?

We tend to think of ambition as a desire for personal advancement and, indeed, that is one meaning.  However, another equally accurate definition is a desire to achieve a particular end.   

The former generally does not find favor in God's eyes as it usually involves a good deal of ego, stepping on someone else's toes to get ahead, and willingness to ignore some valid obligations in order to obtain the object of our ambition:  wealth, power, or fame.

However, the second kind of ambition is not only acceptable to God but is, in fact, encouraged by Him.  The Apostle Paul writes, 
           Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own
           business and to work with your hands, just as we told you,
           so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and
          so that you will not be dependent on anybody. 
         (I Thes. 4:11-12)

Today's society says "if you've got it, flaunt it" -  "look at me, look at me".  In this environement an admonition to make it our ambition (our aim, our desire, our goal) to "lead a quiet life"; well, it just goes against the grain, doesn't it?

As life goes on, however, we learn that the bigger house, the next promotion, the larger savings account does not guarantee any real satisfaction beyond the moment of attainment.

In contrast, what can "leading a quiet life" gain us?  There must be something in it for us, or God would not have encouraged us to seek it out.

Here are a few thoughts about the benefits of leading a quiet life.

Simplicity:  A quiet life involves fewer things to worry about.  Fewer things to clean and care for.  Fewer items to insure, store and .... oh, let us not forget ... fewer items to pay for.

Serenity:  A quiet life leaves more time for things that have lasting value. More simplicity and serenity in our lives gives us the gift of more time to become the kind of partner, parent, and friend we all long to become.

Service:  Leading a quiet life does not push us out on a limb of over-involvement, over-commitment, and over-anxiety; and it allows us to serve others in more peaceful ways.  We do not have to be the one to "chair the committee"; perhaps we volunteer to cook someone a meal, run an errand, or offer some other tangible help.

Granted, I am presently looking for value in leading a quiet life, because I am somewhat restricted in my daily activities. Nevertheless, I am honestly trying to see God's hand in the process and learn through it.

For example, this spring I had a large-scale landscaping project planned for the home we bought last fall.  Plans had been drawn and approved, cost estimates negotiated, and a start date was set.  The project was due to begin on a Monday morning, but on the prior Friday I received unwelcome news and I had to cancel the whole thing.  I was/am really disappointed.

The other day, here at K's home, I noticed a large planter on his back patio.  It had one forlorn little evergreen plant in it and a few weeds.  It looked as sad as I felt.

So off I go to the garden store, and now the planter has lobelia, marigolds, dianthus, and petunias surrounding the little evergreen, which is beginning to perk up. So am I, now that we have a cheery little corner on the patio.

Helen Keller famously said, "I am only one person and I can't do everything.  But I can do something.  I will not let the fact that I can't do everything prevent me from doing what I can."

Steinbeck, in contrast, wrote that "We all lead lives of quiet desperation."
                                                 # # # # #
I don't know about you, but rather than sitting around in quiet desperation, I would rather be doing what I can.  There is value in leading a quiet life, in creating a spot of beauty where possible, in serving where needed, in keeping it as simple as the road and the load allows.

So that is my ambition today - to lead a quiet life, but not one of desperation.  I choose simplicity and service and it just could be that serenity will find me watering the planter on the patio.  Hope your day is full of quiet sunshine.  Until next time ... Marsha


  1. This is such an image... a full drawn out landscaped yard with beautiful flowering beds everywhere... and a resurrected single pot on the patio. HUGE lesson here and I for one, hope that single flowering pot brings immense joy and pleasure to you and K. One pot is doable... and the bigger plan may come a little later. I'll bet when it does, you will be a true appreciator! :)

    1. Honestly, Sonja, I have gone out at LEAST three times a day to admire that pot of flowers since I filled it the other day. It just makes me smile. :)

      I'm still hoping for the "big project" but timing is everything.
      Blessings to you - Marsha

  2. Thank you for the wonderful post and the valuable lesson you share, Marsha! A quiet life of simplicity, service and serenity sounds very inviting. Blessings to you for many beautiful days to you enjoy your serenity and peace!

    1. Connie - Welcome back! I wonder why it is that the "most valuable" lessons are usually the hardest ones.

      Hope your day is going well. Thank you for your kind feedback.

  3. Beautifully expressed; and an admirable ambition!

  4. Replies
    1. Blessings to you Shelly. LOVED your post today :)