I can't really recommend Lisa Graham McMinn's book, The Contented Soul: The Art of Savoring Life, because at so many points it reads like it was written by an academic, and by a sociologist at that. McMinn covers material that has been well covered elsewhere, and in less academic prose -- like in Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy. With names like "The Practice of Fortitude," "Embracing Limits," and "Crafting Community", I was expecting more than I received. In the end, I cannot put my finger on much that I could take away, and much that could not have been more simply said.
That being said, the last chapter, "Remembering," did resonate with me, perhaps because it's a topic of continuing interest to me. First, says McMinn, is remembering who we are, a task that is collective in nature. She says that "[w]e remember who we are as we remember our history and the people from whom we've come." We're remembering that we are not alone. Family stories take on importance as a means to preserve our collective identity.
Second, we remember what matters: the "Grand Story" of creation, fall, and redemption. "Life is not about my happiness but about the joy of recognizing that we all emerge from one source -- and that source is God who loves us, redeems us and calls us to share in the task of bringing peace, justice and healing to creation."
Third, we remember our mistakes, our own trail of sin. And because we have poor memories when it comes to our own wrongdoing, we appeal to God, whose view of reality, whose memory, is perfect. This keeps us humble, dependent on the prime Rememberer.
Finally, we remember God's faithfulness which, indeed, requires close attention to the Book of Life, to God's providential working out of His plan in our lives. "Contented souls remember. Remembering turns our mind to what matters, and it requires effort, because the needs of the day demand attention and energy that drain our capacity to remember."
McMinn is right. Remembering is important to a life of contentment, and yet we suffer from a systemic forgetfulness, both individually and collectively. Our collective and individual history is crucial. We need God's help to get it right, to see if clearly, as does He. Only then can we be content.
Today I'm heading home to visit my mother. I'll pass the familiar places where I played as a child. I'll remember who I am, who I was taught to be, and I'll remember some of the foolish things I did. Mostly though, in remembering, I'll be grateful. I'll be content. Why? Because I am not alone.