Fulfillment. Would you say that you have it? I suspect that most of us evaluate our lives at least every now and then to determine if we are involved in meaningful pursuits and that our jobs, responsibilities, relationships and activities are providing some sense of satisfaction. Certainly these are good things to consider. We should be sure to use our God-given gifts in fulfilling our obligations at work, at home and in our communities. While a certain level of introspection and evaluation is good, we must be careful not to dwell too long on the idea of fulfillment lest it become self-absorption.
Many people in the world do not enjoy the luxury of contemplating personal contentment. Many struggle day-to-day just to put enough food on the table. We observed this a year ago on a mission trip to a children’s home in Sumpango, Guatemala. The various women who cooked, cleaned and/or took care of children at Misioneros Del Camino, while lacking many of our modern conveniences, presumably did not make much money. The atmosphere of love and community was remarkable. On the property there was a Neurological Center for children inside and outside the home. They had a long waiting list of kids needing help. We saw one mother who walked quite a distance, carrying her daughter, to bring her for services unavailable elsewhere and other parents did the same. They were grateful for the extraordinary work being done in the classrooms and in therapy.
Henri Nouwen was a priest, theologian, and world-renowned speaker who lacked a sense of satisfaction in certain positions he held. An author of over forty books and a former professor at the University of Notre Dame and the Divinity Schools of Yale and Harvard, Nouwen felt that in some jobs his life became too hurried and too little focused on prayer and contemplation. During his last years of life he devoted himself to living in a community called L’Arche Daybreak in Canada where people with developmental disabilities resided with assistants.
Nouwen became an assistant to Adam, who was unable to talk, walk or dress himself and took almost two hours every morning getting him ready for the day. “It is I, not Adam, who gets the main benefit from our friendship.” Describing the deep loved that developed for Adam he said he learned what it must be like for God to love us. Nouwen said that all of his life two voices competed inside him. One encouraged him to succeed and achieve, while the other called him simply to rest in the comfort that he was “the beloved” of God. Only in the last decade of his life did he truly listen to that second voice.
In developing intimacy with God and giving ourselves in service we will find true fulfillment. With the apostle Paul let us say, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13)