Timing is a strange fellow. It’s funny how a one-year endeavor can quickly turn into a half a decade residence. Not that I have been counting or anything, but over the past 5 years, 4 months and 1 day I have faced an ongoing battle over this idea of contentment. The location of the war zone was a tiny cubicle where a once idealist dreamer could be found filling in meaningless spreadsheets after tedious expense reports over and over again. The battle raged from 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday with a short 30-minute reprieve when the weekend warrior grabbed a turkey sandwich at Subway.
Maybe it is just me, but the purpose of life can become very confusing when you spend the majority of your waking hours living inside a square box doing busy work. How is one supposed to think outside the box when they are stuck in a cube all day? There is a prank I regret never pulling off. The trick involved moving the walls of my co-workers cube one-inch closer everyday. Over time, panic and paranoia would be sure to ensue as he tried to convince himself that his cube wasn’t slow shrinking and tightening its’ grip on him.
Discontentment consuming your thoughts is something I know all to well. Like most men, I’ve always taken great pride in my work and used my job title as a major marker in the foundation of my identity. Yet, when your answer to the question of “what do you do?” causes you to feel uneasy you become restless. Leave a man restless and you are just asking for trouble. He’ll look far and wide for anything to fill the emptiness caused by his discontentment.
The movie Groundhog Day is hilarious when it stars Bill Murray. The laughs instantly stop though if a guy’s life comes anywhere close to resembling the premise of the flick. Sadly most of my days had a wash, rinse, repeat feel to it where I could perform my tasks blindfold due to them being so mundane and repetitive. I’ve lost track of how many times I uttered the phrase “is this really all there is for me…. life wasn’t suppose to turn out this way” while sitting in my cube.
Those days of being a bright-eyed college grad with this crazy idea of changing the world for God has long since faded. When my first ministry position left me burned out, hurt and bitter, I retreated down to Wilmington like a confused puppy with their tail between their legs. My time on the southeast coast was suppose to a blip on the radar screen where I got my bearings back and figured out what God “wanted me to do with the rest of my life.” Since I was attempting to be a responsible adult and pay the bills, I decided to take an administrative desk job during this stretch. You probably have already put two and two together and realize that temporary quickly became permanent.
While I was trying to get some answers I ended up with just more questions. Spend anytime in the church and you hear that God has a plan for your life. I kept praying that he would consider a re-write or Plan B. Heck, I was willing to step in and be the ghostwriter for my own life. Unfortunately or so I thought, I found out God never writes your story with a red pen.
I had to come to grips with Jesus saying he came to give me a “more and better life than I could every dream of” (John 10:10) and the piles of TPS reports I was experiencing. There were days when I thought Jesus’ words were hollow and other times when I clinged to them in hopes that they were true.
Even though I was able to leave my work at the office, the baggage of my discontentment always seemed to follow me home. Luckily, I have a loving wife who knocked some sense into me. Tired of always having to console her downcast little puppy, she finally spoke up by saying “Tony, have you ever considered God might me more concerned about who you are rather than what you do?” Being a thoughtful husband, I rolled over and promptly went to sleep because that wasn’t the answer I was looking for.
Yet, a strange thing happened. Jenn’s words proved to be true. She is now looking over my shoulder as I type saying why did I ever doubt her in the first place. I’ll blame it on being a typical hardheaded male. It’s either that or caused by inhaling way too much White Out. The walls in my cube stopped closing in on me, but began to open up so I could see that there were others in cubicle land that God had placed in my life. Maybe I wasn’t there for the spreadsheets in the first place after all. Contentment is something you learn over time when you understand that your place of employment never defined you in the first place. You could be a doctor, garbage man, athlete, stay at home mom, or janitor. The title is irrelevant. When you allow your masculinity to be defined by God rather than in what you do from 9 to 5, it provides freedom. You no longer find yourself chasing after things to fill the emptiness because there is no emptiness to begin with. A content man is a satisfied man.