The song I played on repeat—and ruined for myself growing up—was “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas.
Not unlike consuming PBJs every day for lunch until college, I got sick of it. I didn’t feel like returning to that song or PBJs for years.
I went from loving it to hating it. What’s scary is that the distance between those two extremes isn’t as far as you might think.
The year 2020 kicked off with all the normal hype and excitement, but COVID-19 changed all of that, and many of us feel stuck in a world of quarantines and social distancing. We want a change.
C.S. Lewis wrote about wanting change in “The Screwtape Letters,” a fictional series of letters written from senior demon Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, describing how he can trick and entice a newer Christian to forget about God.
One of Lewis’s letters—after the novelty fades and the familiar sets in—is about how Satan tempts us with the idea of “the same old thing.”
The same old songs. The same old lunch. The same old year. The same old chores. The same old job. The same old social distancing. The same old Bible. The same old house. The same old spouse. The same old schedule. The same old haircut. The same old bank account.
Lewis writes that wanting a change isn’t sinful and change is a necessary gift from God at times, but Satan’s goal is to get us to covet and acquire a change that will depreciate over time.
Screwtape tells his nephew to take our “‘natural pleasantness of change and twist it into a demand for absolute novelty … this demand diminishes pleasure while increasing desire. The pleasure of novelty is by its very nature more subject than any other to the law of diminishing returns.’”
By this, Lewis means we demand change, get what we thought we needed, realize it’s not what we wanted as the newness wears off and the cycle continues.
Rather than craving change, let us crave lasting contentment.
How often do we get those two desires confused?
What I mean is maybe the answer isn’t that we need a new relationship, a new haircut or a new job, but to be content in that relationship, haircut or job.
Lewis writes that we must remember “His mercies are new every morning.”
Screwtape tells his nephew, “‘But since the Enemy (God) does not wish them to make change, any more than eating, an end in itself, He has balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence … He gives them the seasons, each season different yet every year the same, so that spring is always felt as a novelty yet always as the recurrence of an immemorial theme … If we neglect our duty, men will be not only contented but transported by the mixed novelty and familiarity of snowdrops this January, sunrise this morning, plum pudding this Christmas.’”
It’s not that the “this” we’re experiencing is new, but how we’re experiencing the “this” is a combination of novelty and familiarity.
This contentment is often expressed through being fully present wherever we find ourselves, with whomever we find ourselves and in whatever we’re doing.
I’m not saying, as some do, that we can “find contentment” as if it’s lost under the couch and something outside of ourselves.
I’m saying we must be content deep within our hearts by praying desperately for God to give it to us.
I’ve not spent a day on the other side of 2020, but I can tell you getting to a New Year won’t bring contentment.
Tony Nochim is a staff writer for The Southeast Outlook.