Stephen Levine, author of, A Gradual Awakening states, “Enlightenment is synonymous with the ability simply to be present, to be in the moment with no attachments anywhere else, with our whole life right here right here, right now.” I think Levine’s definition is good. I think this is what the Apostle Paul meant when he said, “I was very glad in the Lord because now at last you have shown concern for me again. (Of course you were always concerned but had no way to show it.) I’m not say this because I need anything, for I have learned to be content in any circumstance. I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor. (Philippians 4: 10-12, CEV). Enlightenment for Paul was being content and enlightenment for Levine is learning to be content. It is to have no attachments. It is simply learning how to be present in the moment.
One of the issues that face many in Christendom especially in North America, is the issue of contentment. Let’s face it we are taught in American culture that contentment is a sign of weakness, and we are taught this early. We teach kids to be competitive in sports, school, and ultimately life. Don’t get me wrong, but constant pushing and harping at children to be number one in everything puts them under a great deal of pressure.
We then go off to college or get a job we are never content with our pay, even though it is usually more than enough. We buy a home and we’re not content with it because it’s not big or fancy enough. A new car doesn’t bring contentment because it’s not luxurious enough and on and on the list goes. The quest for contentment is one that many never conquer.
In order to have integrity as a preacher of the Gospel there are two things that I must always do. First, I can’t ask my parishioner’s to do something that I’m not willing to do. An example is this, I can’t ask parishioners to give financially to the church if I’m not willing to do the same. Secondly, I must be truthful with God, myself and the people who I pastor. I have always done this. I fail miserably sometimes, and sin on a daily deed either in thought, word, deed, or action, or the lack thereof. I am who I am.
Having said all of that I have to say that finding contentment has always been hard for me. Even though I am a preacher I get caught up in the same search for contentment. I believe my lack of being content is a failure to know who I truly am as a person. I have been engaged in a marvelous journey over the past 9 months working with a person to help me figure out who I am. I will be 45 years old here in a few short weeks and I can say I wish that I would have begun this journey 15 years ago. We cannot go back in time, but we can; I can move forward into the rest of my life with a renewed sense of purpose and calling.
Perhaps, contentment comes when we reach a certain age or perhaps contentment comes to us based on how we handle our situations in life. This seems to be how Paul learned contentment. He just simply was in the moment.
Levine, and Paul come from 2 totally different perspectives. Levine comes from a Buddhist tradition, and Paul from a Christian tradition. I am not advocating Buddhism, but I am saying there are some things that we can learn from other faith traditions that are helpful. Levine, would say that contentment or enlightenment comes through meditation. However, Paul would say that contentment comes through, “Enduring all things through the one who gives me strength, (Philippians 4:13, CEV). As Christians we know the one, and Jesus is his name. Let us all learn to be content, and you pray for me as I continue this journey to contentment through learning who I really am as a person…