“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:11-12
Let’s be honest. There are parts of the Bible that are frustrating. Like where Paul talks about how he’s “learned to be content.” I mark up every book I own and the Bible is no exception. I took the liberty to jot down my own thoughts in the margin next to Paul’s words. I wrote, “How do I do that?” Profound I know!
How do you learn to be content? It sounds a lot harder than riding a bike. In fact, if your life looked anything like mine did at the time I wrote my own commentary on the passage, you’d down right think to learn to be content is well, impossible.
I scribbled that question in the margin of my NIV sometime during 2007. That year was a blur so don’t ask me to remember exactly when it was during 2007. What I do remember of that year is wiping toilets and cleaning up putrid smelling vomit at the Tragic Kingdom, which you may know as the Magic Kingdom. I was a seminary graduate with a newly achieved Masters of World Missions and Evangelism degree and I worked as a self-proclaimed “Mistress of Custodial Arts.” It was better than restroom cleaner, janitor, custodian and all things to do with trash and vomit. In less than a year I went from Master to Mistress.
Needless to say, I was a bitter beast during that time and I was anything but content.
Wouldn’t you know Jesus went to work with me every day as I cleaned toilets, sprayed enough air freshener to put a hole the size of Texas in the o-zone layer and go down on bended knee to clean up the aftermath of someone who ate too much junk food before hitting the rides. I didn’t recognize him at first, not because he looked any different than he does any other day but because I wasn’t looking for him. I was so consumed with Me, I didn’t see Him.
Until a precious, tiny woman with a broken heart invaded mine. Less than 5’ tall, Sam was also a “Mistress of Custodial Arts.” Her husband was abusive, her kids bad behavior a simple and understandable reflection of their chaotic home life; she felt like her world was crumbling right before her eyes. In a custodial closet filled with toilet paper and air fresheners, Sam poured her heart out to me. Her desperation for hope rang loudly through her every word. She was tired, lost and hopeless.
Something fantastic happened. I stopped dwelling on my own toilet scrubbing state and I saw Jesus. Not physically, wearing the stereotypical long white robe with a baby blue sash and long flowing hair. No, I didn’t see him, but I knew he was there and I knew, in that moment, that Jesus had some things to say to sweet Sam. I knew he had put me in that depressing restroom stock closet to share with Sam what Jesus thought of her. So I sighed, put my hand on Sam’s tiny shoulder and began to talk to Jesus. She cried, I cried, and together we asked him for wisdom and hope and peace to swell over her and her family.
Later that day I decided to try listening to Jesus, who I was now sure was with me as sure I was I cleaned toilets for a living. Up to this point, I’d been doing a lot of talking at him, asking him questions like, “Why did you take me 3,000 miles from home to go to seminary and learn about evangelism only to bring me back home and the only job you provide is cleaning toilets at an amusement park?”
Jesus, being the man of mystery that he is, didn’t exactly speak as quickly as I wanted him to during that season, but slowly, I noticed a much needed change taking place in my heart and in my attitude. I was humbled that even in a season when I was bitter and frustrated with God because I blamed him for not fulfilling my expectations for my life, he still extended such love and grace towards me in that he’d perfectly orchestrated Sam and me to be in the custodial closet at just the moment we both needed to meet with Jesus. I slowly, very slowly, began to realize that what I do for work, regardless of my title, regardless of where I live or any other circumstance around me, has absolutely nothing to do with his fierce love and purpose for me. He can and will use all of it for his good work and purpose.
Sam wasn’t the only person I had a Jesus conversation with after that day. In fact, there were many more that heard and sought out Jesus. It saddens me to think I may have missed opportunities to share his love with others because I was fixated on my own problems.
Paul’s statement doesn’t seem all that difficult to understand now. I too learned to be content when I set my pursuit in life on Jesus; not on myself and certainly not on my circumstances.
Regardless of where I work and where I live, what my Creator requires of me is simple. He asks me to love him before all else in this life and to consider and love those around me. Contentment ensues here on out and it’s beautiful. I am a Master of Evangelism. All those who follow Jesus are. By our love others will know his great love. I didn’t expect to be an evangelist in a restroom, but in that moment, it didn’t matter where we were. All that mattered was Jesus was there and he intimately and radically showered Sam and me with his unfailing love.
So whether you’re a Mistress or a Master I encourage you today to look not unto your own works, hopes and dreams for yourself, but into the One who created you with hopes and dreams. For in Him and Him alone you will find contentment. Wipe toilets or build skyscrapers. Whatever you do, do in love for Him and love others.
Do you also find Paul’s statement to be frustrating? Are you feeling discontent? Spend some time in stillness and quiet and listen for Jesus. He will meet with you where you are when you’re ready.