“God has equipped you and designed you to live out your unique calling and gifting as a leader. Your heart yearns for influence because it is a part of how he created you.”
- Jenni Catron in her book “Clout”
I’ve had this quote on the lockscreen of my phone since May. I put it there because I’ve struggled with how I’ve desired to influence and lead people in the past. I have felt like this desire was totally egotistical and full-of-myself. To think I had more wisdom than others to share with them, to lead them, to shape them - that felt rooted in my fleshly desires. I’ve worried that it was my great ability to manipulate people (something I have worked hard to keep strapped down and away) coming out of me for more.
And then I read this quote and it blew my mind. Could God himself have put the desire to influence others in my heart for his good? Really? That’s not me trying to control, manipulate, or influence for my own good? After searching my heart and filtering through my memories to try to understand why I have carried such negative feelings towards my desire to influence, I determined that Jenni was right. And since then I’ve kept her quote on my lockscreen to combat the lies from the enemy that try to demonize the desires that God put into me.
Another topic I’ve been grappling with for a couple of years now is gratitude and contentment. God has really taught Marc and I a ton about both throughout our process of paying off student loans together. Discontentment and a “woe is us” attitude plagued us pretty bad the first couple of years we were married. We pinched every penny and hated doing it along the way. Our newlywed fights were always about money and Marc still (unfondly) refers to one of our fights around new cardigans as “The Old Navy incident.”
God graciously taught us several things through that journey: 1) He’s provider and he’s bigger than spreadsheets, budgets, and gameplans; 2) Our attitude needed to shift to gratitude for what we had and were continuing to get; 3) Beyond gratitude, he was asking us to be totally content with what he gave us along the way. That last one was the hardest.
It was really easy to throw up a prayer of thanks and immediately follow it up with a prayer for the next thing we would like to be thankful for. I’d call this stage in our journey “grateful discontentment.” I mean, we had a better attitude, but we were still longing for more and quite discontent.
So this is my question and where these two lessons combine for me right now: how do we balance the desires God has given us with contentment for what we have now in our hearts? How do we drive forward towards next and more while being completely satisfied in who God is now?
This balance is something that only we can measure for ourselves. There won’t be too many people on the outside that will be able to check our hearts on this, maybe just our closest confidants and those God has put in our lives to call out our crap. But I think it’s going to be a daily struggle until we reach heaven, so how do we balance it?
One question I have started asking myself is “What if God has given me all the influence he wants me to have now? Is that enough for me?”
I’m not saying that God often puts limits on the giftings he puts in us as we try to follow after him. But as I wrestle with my tendency towards “grateful discontentment” I find myself trying to shape my prayers to be more wholly grateful for what I have now. Fully satisfied and content with what he’s placed in my life at this moment. And then, as I seek what’s next, I try to do it with even more surrender, palms up, fingers wide open willing to hold what I have and accept what comes next or what is taken away next with the same ounces of grateful contentment that I am experiencing now.
Some things that have been helpful to me so far as I wrestle past “grateful discontentment”:
1) Remembering the sufficiency of God.
“I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” - Philippians 4:11-13 (MSG)
Paul is seriously goals here. The two verses leading up to America’s favorite Bible verse have challenged me for many years in my search for contentment. I love The Message version “hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am…” Yes. I’ve prayed this a lot of times before I get to asking for what’s next. This verse has also lived on my lockscreen for the better part of a year.
2) Remembering who I am, and who I am not.
In the same verse above The Message version translates Paul saying “I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” Who am I? Who does God say I am? Well I camp out on about a billion verses where God declares that I am his well-loved child. A reflection of himself. Made in his image, but not God himself. I am loved by God. Forgiven, accepted, empowered, created intentionally, wired specifically, good, broken, partial in myself, full inside of God. I know that because of who I am, I will have all I need (maybe not all I want) at all times in order to do what God is calling me to do. (2 Corinthians 9:8)
What am I not? I’m not God himself. I’m not a substitute for the Savior. I am not a God manipulator - my prayers do not change his desires. I am not wiser than God, my heart is not better than his. My desires can get clouded and funky. Also I’m surely not above time and will never understand how all things will come together for the good of God at the right time. All of this is out of my reach. I am also not qualified in myself (2 Corinthians 3:5) nor will I have all of this mess figured out before I die. And I have to be ok with all of this limitation. This is where I get inspired by Paul again:
“Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” - 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
“This is why I take pleasure in my weakness.” This is why I take pleasure in my limitations. This is why I take pleasure in my insufficiency. This is why I take pleasure in _________. There’s real contentment, grateful contentment. Satisfied in who God is, who he has made me to be, and what he hasn't made me to be. Wrapping all of that up together and sitting gratefully in each of those realities in every moment. Much easier said than done.
Let me pray for us…
God, you are so good. Show us how to align our heart with yours moment by moment. Allow us to see with your eyes. Light up our heart for what you have for us today. Move our steps towards where you are leading us next. Allow us to embrace your timing. Help us to see who and what are in front of us in this moment and to steward this well today. Help us sit with our palms up, carefully cradling what you give us, releasing what’s no longer ours to hold, and open to accepting what you bring about next. Help us to see ourselves with the same grace in which you see us, and allow that acceptance of ourselves to spill over into the moments and people before us. Allow our satisfaction in you to spill over into everything around us. We are gratefully content in you, Father. Amen!