A few years ago, Rev. Frances Davis was the commencement speaker at the University of Utah. Rev. Davis was the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Salt Lake City, a well-respected civil rights advocate in Utah who spent his life trying to make the world a better place. He ended his address with these words, “Finally, then, and I apologize to those of you for whom you are scholars in English, and you know better than I how to say this, but here’s the way my mother and father said it: “Be what you is and not what you ain’t. Because if you ain’t what you is, then you is what you ain’t.”
I listened to a message last night from a young preacher who told the very honest story of often sitting on his back porch and watching the huge airplanes fly overhead. He was a successful pastor, had a beautiful wife and two great kids. He was making an impact on his congregation and his community. “But,” he courageously admitted, “I watch those planes and say to myself, ‘I would rather be anyone on that plane than who I am right now.’”
I think there has always been a sense of wanderlust buried deep inside the human psyche, a kind of perennial disenchantment with our current circumstances and a desire for someone, someplace, or something different. It is evident on the pre-school playground when two children, each with toys in their hands, start fighting over the toy the other kid has. It is destructively apparent in the choice of the 40 something businessman who walks away from his family and the bride of his youth to be with someone who will “make him happy.” And it is there is the distress of the elderly dementia patient who is a constant threat to climb out of his bed and “escape” from the safety of the assisted living facility in which he resides. Perhaps it was born in the Fall of Adam and Eve when lured by the serpent to be something they were not, they made the decision to turn away from what God had given them and, ever since, we have had a yearning in us to get back to the Garden. Even when we are doing good, we long to do good in a bigger, better, maybe even different way.
There is this thing that often wells up within us as we daydream, looking out the window, and wishes that we were there rather than here. I wish I was who I ain’t, cause I ain’t who I is, to paraphrase Rev. Davis.
At the beginning of the year, like many of you, I ask God for a work to meditate on and center myself around. This year the word was C-O-N-T-E-N-T. Man, I was excited about that word. I like to write. I like to talk, (my wife would say I REALLY like to talk), I like to share thoughts and ideas. So, this is the year of CONtent. I have committed to blog weekly, produce a podcast every other week, and share a thought each day. God and me are right on track. We are thinking just alike, on the same page, in sync. This is the year for me to produce content. And I want a lot of people to read it. And I want to build a following. And maybe a book will come out of that. And then the speaking circuit. And the NY Times bestseller list. And an interview on Good Morning America. And….
Imagine my chagrin when God said, “The word wasn’t CONtent. The Word was conTENT.” “Man, are you sure God? That’s not the word I want to hear at all. In fact, that’s not the word we NEED right now. The world is a mess. Our politics are in shambles. Our churches are fractured. People are crazy. God, we need to be producing some stuff to change all of that!” And God said, “Just be content.” He might of said, “Be what you is and not what you ain’t.” Paul said, “I have learned to be content in whatever state I am in.” (Georgia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island….:)) Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and don’t focus on the other stuff.”
Now, I don’t think my two words are mutually exclusive. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. I can still write, and talk (thank You, Jesus) and try to do things to make the world a better place. In fact, I am supposed to do that. But while I’m doing it, I leave it all in His hands and let the results be what He wants them to be. I can work towards the promotion and be satisfied with the job that I have. I can decide to lose a few pounds and still like who I am. I can strive to change and be content all at the same time when I make sure that my eyes are not fixed on the outcome of my efforts but on the One who called me to serve Him.
And interestingly enough, when I do that, the angst and discontent of my situation slips away and I find a real peace in being exactly who I am supposed to be. Oh, I still look out the window every once in a while, I still thumb through a travel magazine now and then, but I am learning to not desire to be what I ain’t (or where I ain’t), but to thank God for who I is. And that is good! Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”