I saw a homeless man sitting on the side of the road the other day. Next to him was perhaps everything he owned, covered by a tarp, in a supermarket trolley. My heart sank, and I began wondering what could have possibly happened in this man's life that landed him in this position?
Far be it from my pointless curiosity, something very profound got my attention. I was no longer fixated on his condition but instead that he sat there, in his state, reading a book. You'd think he'd be there lamenting over his many woes. I know I would. I'm talking, big ole pity party on lock! But no, he was there soaking in information.
I don't know what book he was reading or why. But from observation alone, I concluded that his circumstance didn't define him as it might others. I realized he wasn't waiting for the conditions to be perfect for him to do something worthwhile or productive. To me, he appeared to start with what was in his reach.
Naturally, I looked inward, recalling how I'm one of those people who could be anal about the details. I need all the right tools in the perfect alignment, or I'll use the slightest inconvenience as my excuse to avoid doing what I know I'm supposed to. Little distractions can often derail me from the assignment, and then, you guessed it, cue the violins for my sad story.
Personally, I like things to be aesthetically pleasing as my default position is set to be overly concerned about how I'd be perceived, more than if the task is complete.
But this man didn't seem phased by any of that. On that cloudy day, when the rain could come down at any moment—with no roof to cover his head, there he sat, reading.
This whole situation brought a familiar scripture to mind. Where Paul makes the declaration: "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." (Philippians 4:11 NIV)
"First of all, Paul, what? No need? Dude, you were in prison as you penned this letter!" I think it's safe to conclude his position of contentment at that moment had more to do with him accepting the weight of his assignment than with him merely understanding it.
Oftentimes, we rely on the premise of contentment because we have been asking, "Why does this keep happening to me?" rather than, "What do I need to learn from this?"
I had to go back and read the entire chapter because maybe I had taken it out of context all this time. Now don't debate me because I don't claim to be a theologian, and I've not been to seminary school, but suddenly I had a personal conviction. Why? Because I'd said this scripture so much. Not from a place of hope but as my valid excuse to stay in the sunken place. #getout
As for me, not the rest of you, me—I recited this as if it was written in red as the words of Jesus. As if God was saying, "Raquel be content with every mediocre thing. Be grateful for what you have." As if He's not given me the power to defy logic. I mean, those people who decided to build the tower to heaven surely thought anything and everything was in their reach. Had God Himself not stopped them, they would have succeeded too. (see Genesis 11:1-9)
While I felt empathy for this homeless man, this one act I witnessed said to me the minute he decides he wants something different; he has the power to change his situation.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was content having what I considered 'nothing happening for me,' because well, this must be how God willed it. He must be just waiting for the right moment to razzle-dazzle me with His Godness. #comethruJesus
This whole writing thing was all that I could think about. And that's honestly all I did, think on it. Pictured it, fantasized about it, and wishfully spoke about it. The whole idea was living rent-free in my mind.
Then life squeezed me, I mean nearly to the point of total exacerbation. And what did I do? I turned to the pages. For one year, I created content, wrote articles and books and began putting systems in place to automate my life. So why couldn't anything happen before then? I was content with unproductiveness—thus, God had zero material to work with. Now, some 20-months later, my blog and podcast have reached 21 countries across 3 continents—I've had six features on various blogs and magazines, 2 guest appearances on other podcasts and five guest appearances on Facebook Live. Additionally, I have a four-book series in the works and a creative streak that won't quit.
Here's the thing, I didn't have any money for any of the things I needed to start this journey. All I had was my computer and access to the internet. All of that happened as a result of me utilizing and exhausting every free trial, discount code offered, or most basic version of any program I needed. That and people who believed in me sowed into my life. And you know what? It got the job done. It wasn't because any of it was perfect by my sometimes impossible standard of perfection, but because what I desired and what it took to get it done finally was in sync.
I doubt Paul was somewhere sitting on his laurels waiting for the perfect conditions to do what was required. Otherwise, he'd not have been responsible for writing 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament. No, Mister was risking life and limb to adhere to the great commission. I can only surmise that his contentment meant he was fine going without for a more significant cause. Today I believe we call that delayed gratification.
Contentment, disguised as complacency rather, will have us believe it's gonna fall out of the sky. We'd look up and think, "It's a bird, it's a plane, no, it's just super Grover," and I promise you, he's not bringing any solutions to your problems. You see, I was battling an issue for months, and decided to no longer pray about it, no longer pay attention to it, no longer feed it, nor fuel it. Only I discovered in talking to a friend days ago; I had bought a book that gave me every strategy under the heavens to eliminate the problem. There it was, sitting in plain view on my bookshelf for more than a year.
I said that to say, our solutions are often right under our noses. But we allow distraction to cause us not to seek the answers in the most obvious places. Truth is knowledge isn't hidden; it wants to be discovered, but we want it spoon-fed to us like some toddler.
In addition to not seeking solutions, many folks are unprepared for what they are praying for. Every month for a year, I emailed a company about a feature on their platform. And every month for a year, they would say they are not accepting new submissions. Yet every time I log on to their platform, I see new features. Listen, I was ready to march boldly into the land of entitlement and piss-off-ity. Then, ever so softly, I heard this question, "If they said, please make your submission today, are you ready?" And the answer was, "No!" Yikes! #missyoueenserious 'Cause all that means is I was well-positioned for a missed opportunity that would land me plump in the middle of misery.
Comfortable misery is what I call the sweet spot of complacency. It's the place life has tricked you into thinking you belong. It's getting stuck in the place of complaining without assuming the responsibility of taking action to change it. What if the prodigal son had decided, "Well, I might-as-well stay right here with the pigs!"? He would not have experienced the warm embrace of home and know what it meant to be restored.
How does one move from comfortable misery? Well, just start. Paul again reminds us: "Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)
Take S.T.A.R.T as an acronym:
🏃🏽♀️ 𝗦𝗧𝗔𝗥𝗧 - Set time aside to review targets.
🏃🏽♀️ 𝗦𝗧𝗔𝗥𝗧 - Sort through all required transactions.
🏃🏽♀️ 𝗦𝗧𝗔𝗥𝗧 - Select timesaving actions for results tracking.
🏃🏽♀️ 𝗦𝗧𝗔𝗥𝗧 - Shift towards active response thinking.
🏃🏽♀️ 𝗦𝗧𝗔𝗥𝗧 - Starting today allows for resting tomorrow.
Was the man sitting on the side of the road miserable, comfortable or both? I don't know, but my takeaway was simply this: "Don't mistake current circumstances for future possibilities!" The sweet spot between failure and success is called "work."