Restlessness, wanderlust, ambition, dreams. This is what I tell myself I have. You point to the sky, I’m going to find myself a way to fly. But the reality of it is a lot less certain. I have dreams, but they’re pretty foggy and unclear. I want to be something–don’t we all–but I don’t quite know what.
Lately, though, I’ve been seeing the other side of this coin. When you’re a dreamer without a dream, it’s not a goal, it’s only discontent. Dissatisfaction with where you are without really knowing where you want to be, or at the very least without a way to get there.
I am the sea on a moonless night, calling, falling, slipping tides;
I am the raindrop falling down, always longing for the deeper ground;
I am the leaky, dripping pipes, the endless aching drops of light.
“Restless” (Switchfoot, 2011)
Paul writes in Philippians 4, “Whatever circumstance I am in, I have learned the secret of being content.” For years, I’ve been furious with him for not telling me what it is. Are you kidding me, Paul? You can’t just leave me hanging here! “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” He’s just bragging at this point, seriously.
It’s only recently that I realized that even though he calls it his “secret,” he gives us the answer right there:
“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11-13).
I don’t know why, but for some reason I’ve always read that last sentence as a separate idea from all the others. Maybe because that’s the one that’s always on signs and posters and pillows. But once my eyes were opened to it, I realized he didn’t just give it to us here; he’s been telling us through the whole book.
“It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:20-21).
“I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).
“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).
So based on the revelation of this famous “secret,” combined with my feelings of discontent, it has begged the question: where am I finding my satisfaction?
Evidently, not the same place Paul is. His struggles are no dissatisfaction, because his victories are not his source of satisfaction.
Maybe my discontent really just reveals where it is that I am looking to find my fulfillment. Paul says he knows how to be brought low, and how to abound. May the same someday be said of me.