“Pilaf, do you want to go for a walk?” I posed the question to our dog recently right after I had pushed the button on my iphone to check the time. To my surprise I got two responses to my question. Pilaf got up and came toward me wagging her tail and at the same time Siri’s voice issued forth from the iphone with the answer: “I try to be satisfied with what I have.”
It was a rare, reflective moment for Siri. I’m not used to her commenting on such weighty matters as her philosophy of life. She is not a big one for working with existential questions. But here she was letting me know about a key part of her way of being. “I try to be satisfied with what I have.” In other words, “It’s up to you, Dave. You can take me on that walk or leave me here on the nightstand. If you take me, I can measure the number of steps you take on the walk, count the calories that you have burned, tell you how much travel time is involved in the various routes you might take to get back to your house and let you know that someone is trying to reach you by phone or text or email. But whatever you decide is fine, because I try to be satisfied with what I have.”
One could hear Siri’s response in a couple of ways. There is a bit of pathos and resignation in her answer and yet also a hint of contentment. In fact, when I heard her say it, my inner Bible concordance kicked in and several verses came to mind:
“I have learned to be content with whatever I have.” – St. Paul
“So do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” – Jesus
I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmedand quieted my soul like a weaned child with its mother.” – David, (Ps 131)
“I try to be satisfied with what I have.” Is it slavery or light-heartedness? Of course in Siri’s case it is neither. It’s merely the result of some programmer’s decision. I imagine that she is programmed to respond to the question “Do you want…?” with an answer about being content. She doesn’t really have the capacity to want anything.
But we do; and trying to be satisfied with what we have, trying to live in the moment, trying to let the day’s own trouble be enough for the day, is no easy feat for us. Each day presents us with a huge list of wants. Some of them are simply about survival and the dailyness of our existence. Yet many of those wants spring from things that are too heavy for us to carry or too far away from us to grasp. Wanting to alleviate the suffering of a loved one being treated for cancer, or end the rancor in Washington DC, or solve the national crisis of opioid addiction, or mend the broken relationship that you helped to destroy, usually just delivers us into a state of heavy-heartedness and despair. The last thing we are in this state is satisfied, and trying to work harder at being satisfied just heightens our angst. The burdens of past regrets and future anxieties are just too heavy to bear.
In the midst of this kind of heavy-hearted dissatisfaction and emptiness, I know of only one source of comfort. When things are too heavy for me to hold, I need to know that I am being held. I need to know that I belong to a story that is bigger than the one I am currently writing. I need to know that I belong to God. It’s then that I can move into the present and learn about satisfaction and letting the day’s own trouble be enough for the day. Another word for this is hope, and the season of Advent is primarily about training us to live into hope.
This Advent we will be exploring the words of an Old Testament prophet who was about the work of inviting his people to live into hope.
The words of Isaiah 40 are addressed to folks who were bouncing back and forth between past regrets and future anxieties and they, like us, needed to know that they were being held. Isaiah’s message of comfort in this chapter is one that never grows old because we never stop needing to hear it. We never stop needing to be reminded that we are being held by the One who made us for no other purpose than relationship with himself.
Dave Rohrer, 12/3/2017