I have a confession to make. It’s a deep, dark secret that few of you know. But in my ongoing quest for authenticity, I am going to reveal it today.
I have Formica countertops in my kitchen. Yes, I said it…FORMICA! Even worse, the backsplash is of the same dull, cream-colored Formica. Circa 1970’s. Circa bland and boring.
Please don’t judge me.
In the days when countless homes in America have granite or marble countertops and lovely tile backsplashes, I am almost 50 years behind the times. I don’t even have Corian. I have the original Formica.
Does it bother me? Yes, at times. Those twinges of dissatisfaction strike after I’ve been to visit a friend with a freshly remodeled kitchen or a newly built home. It’s so easy to long for…no, change that…COVET a more modern kitchen.
“Comparison is the thief of joy,” observed Teddy Roosevelt. And truer words were never spoken.
But have you ever noticed that we always compare ourselves with those who have more, not with those who have less?
Contentment does not come naturally to any of us. We’re wired to be discontent. Advertisers promote it. The “Keep Up with the Joneses” instinct fuels it. It wasn’t even automatic for the Apostle Paul. He said: “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” (Philippians 4:11)
My big lesson about contentment didn’t come from being in a different state. It came from being in a different country, on a different continent.
In the fall of 2012, I went on a short-term trip with a group from our church to serve at an orphanage in Uganda. And it was there that I was incredibly convicted about my occasional pouts about my pedestrian countertops.
Here’s a picture of a kitchen inside a Ugandan hut:
And here is an example of a lovely kitchen typical in the children’s homes in the orphanage where we served. A housemother prepares meals for 8 children or teenagers in that kitchen. And she does it joyfully.
How ‘bout laundry? Yup, I’ve whined about that too. Well, here’s how laundry is done in most of Uganda. Does that make you want to complain about your “dated” washing machine? Just try wringing sheets out by hand.
Have I ceased complaining about the things I don’t have? Unfortunately, not completely.
But when I feel myself sliding down that slippery slope, I remember Uganda: the kitchens, the humble circumstances…and I especially remember the joyful spirits of the people. And all of a sudden, I find myself looking gratefully at my Formica countertops and my 25 year old washing machine.