Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.
Good morning Prayer Team!
How often do we use the word “content” to describe ourselves? Probably not often. “Content” seems like another word for failing, if one holds to the adage, “if you are not getting ahead you are falling behind.” “Content” flies in the face of “improvement.”
Learning to be content is important on several fronts. First, I am a strong believer in “material” contentment. I have a “ceiling” as far as material gain. I’m happy with my car, my home, my standard of living. I don’t care for much higher of a standard. Other than wanting some money put away for retirement and our son’s college education, I don’t have for much more want on the material side. If I were to amass a large amount of wealth, I would love to be able to do charitable work with it.
Second, I’ve learned to be content with certain shortcomings. I have a couple of nagging medical issues that cannot be fixed. Rather than wishing them away, or being angry that I have them, I’ve learned to embrace them. They are part of me, but they don’t define and won’t limit who I am and what I can do.
Third, I’ve stopped measuring myself against my peers. It is normal to compare oneself against ones peers-i.e. I’m 43 years old and have an 8 year old son. Most people my age have children already in high school, I’m behind. Or I’ve been a priest for 17 years, I should have had a bigger parish by now (I’m really happy in my parish!). I hear this kind of thing all the time-“I’m 30 and thought I would be married by now,” or “I’m 65 and thought I’d be retired,” or “I’m 58 and never thought I’d be this sick at this age.”
One mantra that I’ve used consistently in my life for about ten years is this: The best I can with what I have on a given day. All a person can give is his or her best effort. And I can only do the best with what I have, not with what you have. And this applies to a given situation. For instance, if I have a weekday service and only 5 people attend, then I focus on giving the best to those five, rather than lamenting why are there not more? The best I can give, and that is something which we can feel content.
Let’s say that a person is sick, so going to work or school isn’t an option for the day. Perhaps the best that is going to happen on this day is laying on the couch. There are better and worse ways to do this-Cursing God all day while watching inappropriate things on TV is one way to spend the day. Resting, praying, reading, watching sports is another way. If all a person can accomplish on a given day is resting and recovering, find the best way to do that, and be content with that. Again, give your best and what more can God or anyone else expect from you? When we should NOT be content is when we know that we are not giving our best effort. Then there is a need for improvement. Again, make the best of what you have been given on a given day, learn this discipline, and then be content with making the good effort. I read somewhere that God doesn’t crown success as much as He crowns effort. We cannot always control success. We can control our efforts to achieve it though.
O Lord our God, thank You for the gift of today. Help me to make the most out of whatever comes my way today. Help me to be the best I can with what the day brings. And may I bring honor and glory to You in all that I do today. Help me to be content with what I have, and to make an effort that pleases You today. Amen.
Have a great day!