I don’t mean to preach but…..
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13
I went for a quick run this morning. It was my first in months. I remember that a friend of mine who used to run track would say that Philippians 4:13 was his mantra when he ran. It was a reminder to keep pushing and maybe even to rely on strength that was outside of himself.
Philippians 4:13 is great as a mantra. It’s good for a bumper sticker. I know that it has been a pick me up for people in hard times and I would not dare take that away from anyone. But oftentimes, this passage is quoted as being about super heroic deeds. Like Jesus is going to give us the strength to lift cars.
Context is important. Most likely, this was written while Paul was imprisoned, nearing his execution. Put that context aside and just read the verses that immediately precede 4:13, starting at verse 10
10 I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. 11Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. 12I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.
and then he says “I can do all things through him who strengthens me”. Paul isn’t being strengthened to do some herculean feat. He is being strengthened to find contentment despite his circumstances. Well… maybe that is a feat.
I’ve had a shitty year. I’ve lost a lot. In almost all measurable ways, my life has contracted. But this morning, after my run, I felt content. Content with a body that can carry me (slowly) for two miles. Content to have a place to live, food to eat, and a job to go to. I don’t have what I once had, but I have friends who have taken me in, people who love me even when I am obnoxious, my health, my wits, and a Mitsubishi Lancer that gets me where I need to go. Today I also have a little bit of money to go grocery shopping, so bonus.
This is the view from my bedroom. The picture doesn’t really do justice to the autumnal beauty outside. I’ve never been a big on fall, but I am appreciating the changing of the seasons this year. The air is brisk. The scenery is beautiful. The pace has changed. Everything is changing. Fall is the a part of a dying and rebirth cycle that happens again and again. The leaves are exiting the stage and taking their final bow.
Paul’s words remind us that all of what we have is only for a season. We age. We Move. Relationships shift and change. Things decay. They die. New things are born. And they grow. The pictures of my daughter from December look similar to yet so very different from the little lady I held yesterday. Her baby cheeks are thinning into a toddler face. I had her babyface only for a season. Now I love her toddler smile. It’s silly to mourn the loss of a one year old, even an amazing one year old, when the two year old in front of me is delightful.
We shouldn’t be content with injustice. We shouldn’t be content with war. We shouldn’t be content with abuse. We shouldn’t be content with violence. We should reserve our discontent for those things. We shouldn’t be content with fellow humans not having the basics of life.
But for the blog writing and blog reading population, the basics of life can be (almost) assumed. We grow discontent by comparing our lives with those of others or by some imagined reality that we’re “supposed” to be living. Advertisers make a fortune off of our discontent. Contentment in our daily lives, then, is a revolutionary act. We resist the forces of “not enough” and “you’ll be happy when” by saying “what I have for this day is enough to get me through” or even “who I am this day is enough”.
It is a beautiful fall day. And for now, right now, I am content. I doubt this feeling will last through the day. May God give me the strength to continue to believe that what I have is enough and that who I am is enough.