By Alex Anderson – Senior Associate Pastor at Bayside Community Church –
Not long ago I was having a meal with a friend of mine who happens to be a very well educated and respected mental health therapist in another city. Since he is a Christ-follower I asked him, as we were finishing up our lunch, “How may I pray for you?” And while we were exiting the restaurant he said to me, “Contentment. You can be praying for me to have contentment.”
I honestly was shocked to hear him say this. Mostly because he is not only my friend, but also, one of my mentors. His comment did not take away from the immense respect and love I have for him, but I was surprised because I consider him to be one of the most peaceful and fulfilled people I know. He has a successful practice, is well educated and well-loved and respected by the thousands of lives he has touched over the years. I did not expect to hear him say these words. Yet, as he said the word, “Contentment” it touched me very deep in my heart.
In contrast, I was talking on the phone recently with another mentor of mine on his 81st birthday. I was wishing him Happy Birthday and was apologizing for not being with him to celebrate as he lives in another state. I asked how his birthday had gone and he said that he was a very rich man. I asked what that meant to him. And here’s what he said.
A Rich Man
“Well, I’m in fairly good health.” (Even thought he has COPD and uses a nebulizer everyday to keep his lungs clear). He went on to say that for his birthday his wife had made an amazing meal, which he enjoyed immensely. All but one of his five children and many of his ten grandchildren had come by to see him to bring gifts and to wish him ‘Happy Birthday’. He kept repeating the phrase, “Yes sir, I’m a rich man.” And finally he said, “And you know what else happened today?” I of course said, “What was that?” He said, “Two of my son’s brought me two little pigs today. Yes sir, I’m a rich man.” Having been a country gentleman and a farmer, feeder pigs were mighty fine gifts to receive on your birthday or anytime for that matter.
This particular mentor of mine had been in the farming and construction industry most of his life and he almost died about nine years ago from a medical condition. He is not only grateful for the fact that he is still among the living but that he is experiencing life to the fullest (for him).
For his contentment is not just in how many days he lives, but how much life he lives in his day. I know this to be true of him not just because he is one of my mentors but because he is also my Dad.
I would like to say I have lived my life full of contentment or to use my dad’s phrase, “Yes Sir, I’m a rich man,” but I haven’t. Actually a lot of my life has been “hurry up and wait.” Always pressing to the next level of whatever, just to find myself waiting for the next whatever.
Many times I find myself kind of in the middle of where my two mentors are: one praying for contentment and the other “I’m a rich man.” I have this tension to do more and be more yet to stand still and enjoy the present. I love and greatly appreciate both of these men and to some degree understand where each is coming from.
But you and I have our own lives to decide. And maybe that is a good place to be, between contentment and not; a place of wanting more and of smelling the roses. I mean who wants to really retire, right? What if we just decided to design or redesign our lives in such a way that we are “content” to live our “perfect day”, forever?
You’ve probable seen the movie, Groundhog Day, with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell where Bill Murray’s character, a very cynical and self-absorbed guy, gets stuck in a recurring day. He wakes each morning to the same song on the radio and experiences the same series of events until he learns to love others unselfishly. Only then does he wake up to a “fresh day.” One he has not experienced before.
Like the movie, I believe you and I can get stuck living our Groundhog Days when we live self-absorbed lives. When the “love” we share with others actually has a hidden hook in it: something for us. Like the times I have come home to my family, grumpy and distant because I felt like ‘I work hard to provide for this family and I don’t feel appreciated.’
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13 NLT
By the way there’s nothing wrong with wanting to ‘feel the love’ by those we love, but who am I really working hard for: them or my ego? So where is our heart? Really? For us, or for those God has privileged us to have in our lives. Those God gave us the awesome responsibility to love, lead and cherish. The awesome opportunity to serve humanity with our own core genius through our careers, community service and local church. Both of my mentors have created great legacies that will continue to make this world a better place long after they are in Heaven.
So for me, it’s only when the lines get crossed and the “why” gets fuzzy that I am not feeling like a “Rich man.” How about you?
To your spiritual health,
Author, Dangerous Prayers
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