Last fall I was helping plan a woman’s evening the first Monday in Advent. Without much thought, I suggested the topic of contentment and agreed to prepare and deliver a short devotion. As I began preparing, I stubbed my toe on the boulder of DISCONTENT.
I was not experiencing contentment. No huge trials or crises, just numerous issues all women face at one time or another. The roller coaster ride of perimenopause, the reality of aging parents, inevitable strained relationships, and I had just celebrated my fiftieth. (BTW never buy a woman a birthday card with 50 on it. Never!) Then there’s the reality that my teen sons are on testosterone roller coasters of their own, and my husband has had three job assignments in the last twelve months. Don’t get me wrong my sons are mature and responsible (for their age), and I’m grateful for my husband's job. But everyone had been on edge for several months.
All I could think was, “If I do a devotion on contentment I’ll be a pretender.”
The burden quickly started weighing on me, and the stubborn reality that I struggle with stage fright wasn’t helping. I almost called the event coordinator and asked her to find someone else to do the devotion.
But first, I prayed, and prayed, and then prayed some more.
I repeatedly asked, “Do you want me to talk about contentment even though I’m not content?”
I wish I could say it was a form of praying without ceasing. However, it was more reminiscent of a child who keeps asking the same question over and over hoping they will eventually hear the answer they want.
The Lord brought to mind chapter four of Exodus. I remembered Moses at the burning bush, and God was saying something like, “Go, lead my people out of Egypt.” Moses kept arguing. “I’m not good at speaking.” “I’m not credible because I killed that Egyptian.” “The Israelites won’t listen to me.” And on and on. Eventually, God agrees to let Moses’ brother, Aaron, speak for him.
How appropriate right?
I read the chapter to figure out what God was telling me. No, God did not offer me an “Aaron” to take my place. However, I was confident that God was telling me He would teach me about contentment, and He would also help me face my stage fright.
Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say. Exodus 4:12
So I began researching scripture, meditating on them, and I tried to write. But nothing clicked, nothing flowed, no “anointing”.
I found myself thinking about three elementary students I knew from my time working as a helper during lunch and recess. The thoughts interrupted me each time I tried to write the devotion. Finally, I asked God, "What do you want me to learn from these boys?" They were all experiencing varying levels of pain, yet they each learned to be content despite their pain.
So my devotion on contentment came together, but the night of the women’s Advent devotion was a disappointment. We only had eighteen women in attendance, seven of which were on the planning team. I felt like my delivery fell flat. I was sure my current circumstances clouded the message.
I reminded myself and everyone on the team that God does not measure success the same way we do. But, I struggled to believe that God counted the evening a success. I needed confirmation that someone was blessed by the devotion, so I prayed.
But, I didn’t have time to wait for a confirmation, I had another devotion to write. I was on the hook to share a devotion at the women’s Advent brunch the following Saturday. Despite how I felt, I moved on to the next task.
Two weeks later I was talking with a friend who attended the Advent evening. She mentioned how much she liked the contentment devotion, and she could even recall the boys stories.
Praise God for answered prayer!
I thought that was the conclusion to my experience with writing and delivering the contentment devotion. However, yesterday as I began writing this blog, I found myself with the opportunity to share the contentment devotion again last night at my local Toastmaster’s meeting.
Toastmasters is a secular organization that focuses on teaching members how to improve their public speaking skills. A speaker had canceled, and they needed someone to fill the vacant spot. After some prayer and no real anxiety to speak of, I called to say I would do my devotion. I practiced the speech several times, and I was careful that the message was appropriate for the audience.
The first meeting of the new year overflows with members and guests. I’m sure there were many more than eighteen in attendance. Although several of our chapter members are Christian, many in the audience were not.
When it was my turn, my heart raced, the top of my head tingled, and I had to remind myself to breathe.
The skill I was learning was to use movement and body language to improve the presentation.
Ignoring how I felt, I walked with purpose to the front of the room, and gestured smoothly and naturaly. I shared my stories of the three boys, and the lessons we can learn from them. The feedback revealed that no one had any idea how I felt inside. From a Toastmaster’s perspective, my speech was a success.
But more importantly, I talked about faith in Christ. I shared that despite the pain of this world, I believe that contentment is possible because my Lord and Savior is trustworthy.
As I write, I wonder if the Advent evening at church was just a dress rehearsal for last night. What do you think?