"Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." - Philippians 4:11-13
I know what it is to live on an urban street strewn with broken glass, and I know what it's like to have a hiking trail out my back door. I have been awakened repeatedly by fire-engine sirens signaling a neighbor's latest overdose, and I have been lulled to sleep by the late-night hooting of the local barred owl. I have been met at my front door by a neighbor asking if I know how to tell if someone is dead, and I've encountered a black bear on my front porch.
As for circumstances, I know what it's like to skip a meal for lack of money, and I know the pleasure of setting a welcoming table. I've known the shelter of friends, the passionate embrace of a partner—and felt a lonely shame in spending another holiday alone. I know what it is to feel born to do the task at hand, and what it is to lose a job I love. I've slogged through depression and glided through other days on a carpet of joy. I have been healthy unto immortality, and I've gotten the phone call bearing news of a dreaded diagnosis. I have felt utterly abandoned by God, and I've been brought to my knees by an overwhelming sense of God's presence.
I don't think for a minute that I can do all things, but I am learning to trust the one who can. I have no idea what comes next or what this new year will bring, and I am trying to be okay with that. I am discovering that gratitude paves the way for contentment, which opens the door to peace. And that is not a bad place to be at all.
Holy One who never changes, Gracious One who walks with me: Teach me the secret of contentment. Strengthen me with your peace. Thank you for the gift of life—for the little, the plenty, and everything in between.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.