I dream of living in medieval times—in a timbered house, wearing huge, heavy skirts. I glide across the floor and fling open the double window. The garden outside, in full bloom with roses and boxwoods, beckons me to stroll amongst them. I tell my maid I wish to dine at one and sweep out of the house to dampen my brocade hems in the dews of the morning.
I dream of living in the late 1700’s. It’s the dawning of America, near Boston. From the captain’s walk on my roof, I can watch the tall ships coming in and leaving. I’m compelled to go every afternoon as the sun begins to turn the sea and sky to gold. Today is blustery and chilly, but I watch the tall sails and think how lovely it would be to be aboard, bound for European shores. I look down at my gray English taffeta and think back to my great grandparents who left their shores and came here for freedom.
I dream of life in the 1950’s. These were my parents’ times—when women wore heels, gloves, and hats to church, and our dads went in suits to work. I flit around the kitchen on checked linoleum floors wearing my starched, white, and ruffled “company apron.” It’s my father’s birthday, and I’m cutting and weaving a lattice crust for his favorite cherry pie. The coffee is already in the percolator. I’ll plug it in after dinner. As the pie bakes and the house begins to smell like warm cherries, I pull a Jello salad out of the refrigerator and unmold it onto a fancy plate. I garnish it with lacy green parsley and twists of lime. The roast comes out of the oven next, savory and bubbling.
I dream . . . but realities in those days were so different.
In medieval times, their windows were tiny. Everyone poured everything out into the streets, and the stench was terrible! The streets were narrow, and everyone knew everyone else’s business perhaps better than their own. To smell the roses, one had to leave the village and wander far away. Only the wealthy had house help. Everyone else worked for the few rich people.
Those that went away in ships often never returned. The captain’s walk was renamed a “widow’s walk.” Realities of Boston life were as uncertain as the high seas. There was tension in the air, and no one knew how this new, free country would fare.
I was born back in the 1950’s. My memories are sketchy at best. TV programs showed women with their hair always done, lipstick on, and wearing high heels at home. They’d greet their husbands with a kiss and let him decompress from work with the daily newspaper, while they put the finishing touches on a luscious supper. Was this a realistic picture? (I don’t think my mother wore heels around the house.)
I’ve often romanticized the “good old days” in my heart, all the while knowing what history says about them. Knights in shining armor were five feet five, not six feet tall and dark and handsome! Life was hard and stinky and uncertain. Disease was rampant, wiping out many people in flu and typhoid epidemics. Medical help was simple or not even available.
We still dream about being beautifully coifed and wearing gorgeous sweeping gowns. In our minds, we ask the gardener to bring in some flowers for the table. We think it would be fun to sit and draw or play the piano or embroider things all day and to be waited on hand and foot. Oh yes, we dream!
And many times, our dreams take away our contentment. We want to be sitting on the beach, when we live inland. We want to be in a grand hotel, when our budget wouldn’t afford even a piece of pie in the hotel’s restaurant. We want to buy a piece of fine art or a gorgeous dress. We’d love to be elegant and poised—and look like the president’s wife. We might even desire a different husband or a different child.
We dream of unrealistic wouldn’t-it-be-nices when we ought to be cultivating contentment.
- John the Baptist told the soldiers, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages (Luke 3:14b).
- Paul, the apostle said, Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content (Philippians 4:11).
- Paul wrote to Timothy, And having food and raiment let us be therewith content (1 Timothy 6:8).
- The author of Hebrews said, Let your conversation (way of life) be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee (Hebrews 13:5). Look how this goes together: we’re to be content because God is always with us! He’s enough! He supplies every need.
- God promises to bless tithers. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it (Malachi 3:10).
- God gives us good gifts. Jesus said, If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Matthew 7:11) If you compare this passage with its parallel in Luke, you see what one of those good gifts is: If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11:13) It’s the Holy Spirit!
By the way, I think imagination and dreams are fine, if we don’t dwell in our made-up worlds, and we remember that the “good old days” weren't perfect.
Living in the here and now, may we be content with what we have. May we find our contentment in the Holy Spirit—a very good gift, the best gift.
But godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6).