by Elizabeth Edgren
We have all heard it said that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. We say we know it isn’t really true, but many of us–Christians in the military maybe more so than others–seem to keep craning our necks to find the greener grass ahead. We have been tricked by what I call the Greengrass twins.
I’m sure you’ve seen them around, even if you haven’t had personal conversation with them. The first is Next-Promotion Greengrass, and the second is Next-Assignment Greengrass. You know, “life will be so much better when I’m promoted; only ____ more months!” and “I can hardly wait to move away from this place; life will be good when we’re out of here!” We put up with today’s hardships, just biding our time, because we’re hanging on for the next promotion or assignment.
My husband and I have often had to do with these Greengrass twins. When Mark was a 2LT stationed at Ft. Bliss, TX, we often spoke of the wonderful days to come when he would be a Captain, be in command, and we would live in some green place. We’d be out of debt, we’d have interesting places to go and things to do, and “Life would be good.”
Then, he was a Captain and had company command in Germany; it was green and interesting, and we were no longer in debt. But life was not quite good yet, because we both worked so much we had very little time to travel as our neighbors and friends did. So, we told ourselves, the next assignment, after command, when he would have some “easy staff job,” we would have some time to call our own, and then “Life would be good.”
The staff jobs came, and it’s news to no one that they weren’t easy and we didn’t have time to call our own. We lived in some very green places, but somehow, the grass still seemed greener somewhere else, or for higher-ranking officers.
Then came our last assignment, from which we are still on the rebound. We were able to go as a family to Kuwait for two years. That assignment comes with the extra financial benefit of being a hazardous duty location, and our home was more comfortable and luxurious than we’ve ever had, or will have for that matter. Mark’s job was challenging, interesting and important. I could continue teaching my kids at home and still have leisure for some time to call my own, thanks to affordable part-time household help. I, at least, was able to travel to “exotic” places! Everything was at last in place for “Life to be good!” We said often during those two years, “things really could be worse!”
So why wasn’t I finally satisfied? I had gotten to the other side of the fence, only to find those Greengrass twins were liars. But just where the key to contentment lay, I still wasn’t quite sure.
Settling back into the U.S. after those two years, in considerably more constrained circumstances, the weariness in my heart deepened.
Thanks be to God! The Lord’s voice finally came in loud and clear. After a 15-year illustration, I began to see the point. In a PWOC group studying “Calm My Anxious Heart” by Linda Dillow, I saw that I had been trying to cast my anchor ahead, into shifting sands, waiting for the circumstances in my life–promotions and assignments–to line up just so, to satisfy me, to fulfill me, to make my life good. When every one of them fell short in some way, I had been left feeling betrayed, adrift, and exhausted.
The only ground that can hold our hopes is our Lord Jesus Christ; He Himself is the rock in which our anchor holds. Truly the song says, “all other ground is sinking sand.”
The apostle Paul learned the truth by experience, and the Holy Spirit led him to share it with us in Philippians chapter 4. “. . .for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. . .I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:11-13). Contentment is not natural to the flesh, but it can be learned.
We must first know our Lord, that He is able, wise, good, and loving. We must truly believe that nothing in our lives comes our way without His love or the strength to handle it. Keeping in mind the great love of God and the riches we already have in Jesus Christ, we cast our anchor down deep, immune from the ups and downs of the present situation, to the eternal Rock. Resting our hope and trust in Him, in any and every circumstance, we find contentment. The fulfillment of our hopes is yet to come, but we needn’t lose the blessedness of today while we wait.
We need to recognize the Greengrass twins when they come our way, and give them no hearing. Lack of contentment comes from entertaining the lies that tell us today isn’t good enough; the pay isn’t enough, the rank isn’t enough, the place is barren. Whether it be low pay or a desolate assignment, deployment or a hard boss, if He has allowed it, there is goodness in it, and there can be contentment.
Being content now involves being thankful, and constant in prayer in every circumstance (Phil. 4:6). It involves training my mind not to complain, but to ponder what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). “And,” Paul assures us, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). Where that kind of peace is, Life is indeed good.
I’m finished wasting my years looking for green grass somewhere else. I have only to look at the ground under my feet! “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. . .” (Ps. 23:1, NKJV)
Elizabeth Edgren is the wife of LTC Mark Edgren, USA, assigned currently with the Battle Command Training Program at Ft. Leavenworth, KS. Their three children are Timothy, Rebecca and Samuel. The Edgrens have been involved in several neighborhood Bible studies.