Wednesday, August 24, 2016
The Secret of Being Content in All Situations
Moments before I photocopied the syllabus for one of the college classes I'm teaching this semester, I noticed one mistake. Instead of writing due September 9, I had written die September 9.
The i and u. So close together on the keyboard; so far apart in meaning.
I'm glad I caught that typo. Clearly, I don't know everything, but I daresay it's not good to issue a death wish this early in the semester. My students and I barely know each other in early September, after all. (Perhaps later, toward finals week, would be more apt. You've got to nail the timing on these types of matters.)
At any rate, the semester has begun, and my summer life already is transforming into my fall life. Next week when my children return to school, the transformation will be complete. We'll be a Family With a Schedule, rather than a family whose mother invents errands to fill up the endless wastelands of time that make up the bulk of days during the second half of August.
Yes, the pendulum is shifting: from summer to fall, from open days to structured time slots. As I consider this, I wonder why I can't balance my life more effectively. Why, for example, can't some of the school-year routine hedge in the openness of summer? Why can't I borrow from the deep wells of summer freedom and reserve that refreshment for the desperate crunch times of the semester when I most direly need it?
It's famine or feast. Too much time or not enough. Too much structure or not enough. It vaguely depresses me.
And then I remember a verse in Philippians where Paul writes that he has learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. In my comfortable middle-class American life I've never experienced this juxtaposition of plenty and lack with food; we're fortunate to always have enough. However, I do experience it with time.
Time is the main commodity that I possess in excessive abundance (say, a full summer's day at home when there's seemingly nothing to do with three cranky kids), or the commodity that I lack (say, a fall weekday when I've collected 48 essays, am prepping for my next technical presentation lecture, and have to help my kids with their homework while getting dinner on the table.)
I've found both extremes to be challenging. I'm not always content in any and every situation when I'm facing abundance or lack, yet Paul says he's learned the secret, which is revealed in the next verse:
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
The ability to handle it all -- the ups and downs, the overwhelming abundances, the desperate needs -- can't be mustered up solely by ourselves. Whether it's a day in August when I'm swarmed by my kids who are simultaneously intense and languid in their late-summer temperaments, or it's a feet-hit-the-floor-running, head-hit-the-pillow-still-thinking day in fall, the secret is the same:
It is Christ who gives me strength. I'd be wise to acknowledge this.
Robin, don't rely on your own strength. The Lord has what we need to handle both the plenty and the lack in our lives.