Definition of “Contentment” on the model of I Corinthians 13.
The students are asked to do a close reading of the Bible passage, taking notes on its macrostructure and microstructure, then creating a definition of another term using that structure. I found the analysis itself taught me a lot about Paul's original--how "tongues, prophecy, knowledge" are echoed later in the note that these things will fade away, and even in the description of a child's speech and thought compared with those of a mature person. I used the three elements myself to show a contrast to contentment in its counterfeits--hard work, apathy or cynicism, and asceticism.
My Best Version
Though I have true grit, determination, and a good work ethic, if I do not have contentment, in the end I am left only with sweat and a clenched fist.
And though I have a realistic view of the world, expecting little, but have no contentment, I have only bitter emptiness.
And though I humble and abase myself, requiring little, refusing to care, without contentment I cannot grow or enjoy the little I have.
Contentment puts up with a lot and still shares, does not envy others’ good, does not pride itself on being satisfied with a little;
Doesn’t push its way into good fortune or grumble or suspect its neighbors;
Does not feel glee in another’s house fire but in his neighbors’ prizes and raises and prize roses.
Contentment satisfies. Realism, asceticism, even hard work leave emptiness.
For these are slender, futile, pale.
But when the rich fullness comes, these ghosts will flee.
When I started my adulthood, I worked hard, cultivated realism, disciplined myself to do with less. But in the Spirit I see there is so much to enjoy!
For now we feel privation, a tinge of envy, the frustration of a fallen world, but then we will know feasting, fullness, all in all.
And even now in our hearts grow faith, hope, love—and contentment is to rejoice in all of these.
© Cindy Marsch
I highly recommend this kind of exercise! I came up with some other terms that could be profitably defined on this model: mercy, courage, kindness, honor, care, loyalty, faithfulness, patriotism, selflessness (see Lewis on "unselfishness"), justice, cleanliness, purity, honesty, gentleness, self control, piety, trustworthiness, neatness, punctuality, fitness, health, moderation, passion, creativity, consistency, calm, energy, quietness, spunk, liveliness, wit, humor, cleverness, and intelligence. I thought of them in this order, and I'm sure I could go on!
If you're interested in a course of such exercises, stay tuned to my web site!