Both Abased and Abounding . . . Flexibility and Contentment in 2023

Like over a million other people around the United States, at the beginning of this week we found ourselves casualties of Southwest Airlines’ massive meltdown. Thankfully, unlike so many of those people, we were home when our outgoing flight was cancelled, and we weren’t stuck in an airport trying to figure out how we were going to make our way back to Texas.

At the same time, we had been planning this trip (to Disneyland) for quite a while. When you plan and prepare for something, especially something fun that you and more importantly, your kiddos, have been looking forward to, only to have it cancelled at the last minute, disappointment abounds. For a minute or ten or twenty (or more), I sat in that disappointment. I was mad at Southwest Airlines. I was frustrated with trying to explain to my youngest, who has some special needs and struggles with abrupt changes, why we were having to reschedule. Plus, if you’ve been around for any amount of time, you know I’m an enneagram one. Without belaboring the whole enneagram thing, because I know some of you couldn’t care less, us enneagram ones do not deal well with these kinds of things. We are the perfectionists of the world, and we firmly believe that if you do things right in the first place then a lot of crises could be avoided. However, to play on a pretty well-known saying, failure to plan on your part . . . “your” in this case being Southwest Airlines. . . unfortunately, constituted an emergency and major pivot on my part. Add to that the fact that a big reason I love to travel is because I struggle so much to relax at home, I was just in a funk about the whole situation for about 24 hours.

The reality was and is, this was an annoyance . . . a frustration . . . and honestly, a pretty big mess up on the part of a major company that we’ve used and trusted many times over. But it was not a true crisis for our family. Far from it, and I needed to quickly do a reality check. We were and are safe. We were not stuck sleeping on an airport floor somewhere. And we were able to adjust and change our plans just fine. As I kept telling my youngest . . . but it was probably completely directed back at me . . . we needed to be flexible.

Which brings me to the why behind this epic saga of a story. Flexibility, as I’ve said before, is not my strong suit. When I make a plan, I don’t like to have it disrupted. This morning, as I was reading my bible and pondering the close of this year and the start of the new one, I realized that going into the New Year, my goal, word of the year, resolution . . . whatever you want to call it . . . can be summed up in one word, flexible. For 2022, my word was grace . . . to give it and extend it. I haven’t always been successful in that, grace is hard for me, so I’m keeping front and center for 2023, but I’ve realized that in order to give and receive grace, I must be more flexible.

For months now, I’ve been thinking about biblical contentment and holy discontentment. Paul was pretty direct when writing on contentment in regard to the physical world around us and material things . . .

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13

We all know those people, more likely, we’ve all been those people, that are never really satisfied. We want more and more and more . . . maybe it’s materially speaking . . . maybe it’s from earthly relationships or experiences . . . but we’re like a bucket with a hole that can’t be filled. What we have is never enough. We neither know how to be abased (literally “going hungry”) or how to abound . . . to appreciate the abundance (and we live so abundantly here in America) we have . . . and what occurred to me is Paul had to incredibly flexible in order to live this way. He had to extend enormous amounts of grace in order to maintain his earthly contentment.

At the same time, there’s a place for holy discontentment . . . in our walk with our Savior and in our calling, and make no mistake, we all have a unique calling that is between Him and us. Throughout his epistles, Paul addresses this. Same book, just one chapter prior . . .

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14

There is a call to holy discontentment that helps us to avoid stagnation in our walk with Christ. We should continually seek to deepen our relationship with Him. Perpetually, growing and moving forward. So, as we wrap up yet another year, I find myself seeking to be gracious and flexible, biblically content and yet, filled with a holy discontentment. To make a big deal out the things that matter and realize that the rest is all temporary and fleeting.

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