Expect a Latte (lot eh'?)
Haiti is one of my favorite places on earth. On my last mission trip there, I remember landing on the runway and declaring "I love this ugly country." It's quite odd that a place others would recognize immediately as ugly, sad, impoverished, stinky... is a place so dear and precious to my heart. This time of year, I always feel the deep longing to be there as I revisit the country and it's people in my mind.
After a visit to the third-world country of Haiti, it's an odd adjustment to American life that usually begins in the airport on the edge of Miami. My eyes slowly adjust from heart wrenching visions of a country in need, to one soaking in all things desired. After seeing the literal depths of need in one of the most poverty-striken countries in the world, something happens. I recognize our depths of gratification with dissatisfaction in one of the most prosperity-stricken countries in the world. It is a rocky transition that leaves me annoyed with myself. I'm part of a nation that is gratified, however remains constantly searching for more.
Why, if our people have minimal need and abundant ability, are we so dissatisfied? Proof of this reality is in the pudding:
*According to the Centers for Disease Control, anti-depressants are taken by 1 in 10 Americans age 12 and over. "From 1988-1994 through 2005-2008 the rate of antidepressant use in the U.S increased almost 400%". (cdc.gov: NCHS Data Brief)
Ouch.! Apparently, gratified doesn't equal sAtIsFiEd. It may be that our self-drive expectations may be impacting our state of mind. Is it possible that our desires of gratification are a little higher than healthy and when those are not met, we are left soaking in disappointment?
Expectation > Ability = Dissatisfied
I'll be the first to declare I think we have some high expectations. The addiction to having our desires met, leads to a constant state of living dissatisfied and in pursuit of what next can gratify. Leading to disappointed, discontented...and at its worst, depressed.
It could be that we expect a latte (lot 'eh). A simple revelation, revealed through a cup of joe upon the return of my last trip to Haiti. I was sipping on a custom-made latte as I piffled through a local retail store. It was the type of espresso drink that has a title and stipulations longer than any headline of the local newspaper. But I noticed that all my requests to make this cup my blissful beginning of the day, had not been granted.
My perfect drink, was not so perfect. My custom prepared espresso concoction was missing some components that I "expected" in order to make this sipping perfection. Missing this. Not enough of that. My stipulations of desire were met with a load of disappointment. I was unsatisfied because I was ungratified.
Let me put the point simply. Haitians don't expect lattes. The people of Haiti wake every day expecting the same thing.
There is no expectation of anything they will not receive that could render them in sulking disappointment. But here is the beautiful result. They live in a state of grateful thinking. Their expectations leave wide open room to recognize a gift, a blessing, a graced goodness for what it is. Then, thankful hearts begin to be overflowed with gratitude.
Hand a resident of Haiti a latte, and they surely wouldn't make special demands to their liking. They'd be quite grateful of the gift. Their satisfaction doesn't come from the gratifying of desires.
See the neon sign? If we require the gratification of desires in order to feel satisfied, we have still yet to place hands on the source of satisfaction. In other words, many people there could respond with the words of Paul. " I have learned in whatever state I am in, to be content". (Phillipians 4:11). The apostle Paul of shipwreck, imprisonment and multiple beatings, knew the fine art of contentment.
Do we? Or do we live in the opposite state of discontent because our expectations are so high? Do we expect a latte (lot 'eh) that leaves us unsatisfied?
Could it be that the discontent epidemic for Americans is somewhat self-induced? That we've become a tad bit demanding in our expectations? Even on the cliff of self centered.
I've never seen more hopeless glares from human souls as I did in a single glance in Haiti. The look of "nothing expected" was common. But, I highly doubt any of them would raise hand high if asked who was depressed.
When we begin to have expectations of what should be, we live in a state of measure to that misconception. Expecting everything in our path to measure to the standard we have placed on it. Then, when occurrences or circumstances don't meet those criteria, we find ourselves let down and never contented. We succeed to a constant state of discontent and self centered pursuit when we have persistent expectations driven by our self-centered needs of being gratified. We live from one gratified receipt to another... and never reach genuine contentment. Gratification is a substitute for the deficiency of being truly satisfied. It is a type of stand in or filler, on behalf of true contentment. Are we settling for the fulfillment of our driven wants and missing out on fulfillment of a greater kind?
Notice there is no gratitude in the earlier equation of the American thinker. No gratitude because we expect through entitlement, what we may receive. The sad result is obsolete gratefulness for anything gifted. If its expected, it's surely not a gift. A different mindset than those who live in constant recognition of the graceful hand of the providing God.
In all our prosperity, we have neglected to get something right, that most of Haiti has crafted perfectly. They have learned as Paul did, to be content. We can pursue satisfaction with the never ending and lesser substitute of having our desires to be gratified. Or we can find pure and perfect satisfaction in El Shaddai. The one of whom is said ..." you open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing." (Psalms 145:16)
Where will we find satisfaction? Only in the hand of El Shaddai, God, a.k.a the all-sufficient Satisfier (Genesis 17:1). When we leave our portion and expectations in His hands, He provides as He knows best. And when He does, we can gratefully praise Him for His gifts.
Could we have more desires than God's ability to offer? Nope. But it is likely we have more desires than He is willing to spoil us with. It is accurate and shuttering to envision that we smack the hand of the Almighty and reject His goodness, in place of our own expectant desires. We re-live the days of the Israelites when we are found murmuring at our gifts. As they murmured at not having food, then again complained when God rained manna from heaven... because it was not what they expected. Are we as adults, pitching fits because, we don't receive what it is we selfishly aspire for?
Pure, perfect and true satisfaction is found In the hand of the El Shaddai. If you know The Satisfier personally, you have continual access to a "fountain of living water" that purely and perfectly satisfies. When we make El Shaddai our source of satisfaction, we will easily declare with Paul and those who are gratefully satisfied...
"In whatever condition I am in, I am content".
Resource for statistics: cdc.gov