The school I attended for 7 years, Barnard Castle School, has over the years turned out some exceptional Rugby Union Players. Rob Andrew, Rory and Tony Underwood and Matthew Tait have all played for their national team, England, with great distinction. Tait’s brother Alex has been one of Newcastle Falcon’s most consistent players over several seasons. However it is in another sport that one of my contemporaries at school has distinguished himself. Stephen Brenkley is the cricket correspondent of The Independent, a role he has filled now for many years.
When I’m really busy and feeling somewhat overwhelmed by all that needs to be done I dream of being a cricket correspondent! It must be marvellous to actually get paid to watch this amazing, riveting and entertaining game. This contest between leather and willow, so delicately balanced, played between two teams of fine sporting gentlemen (or women) under the warmth of the summer sun. Of course being the cricket correspondent of a major national newspaper would necessitate much travel. There would be frequent trips to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, The West Indies and the sub-continent. And everywhere you go the sun is shining. This might get wearing after a while but I’d be prepared to take the chance!
Of course the reality would not match the dream, there would be constant deadlines to be met, days when it rained and no cricket was played but column inches still had to be filled. Constantly living out of hotel rooms must feel like a lonely existence. And, well, if you are watching cricket every working day then there is the possibility that it could become a little boring.
I love being a Minister, I’m not sure that after 19 years I’m much good at it, but I trust that by God’s grace I might be able to do something useful. Over those years I have also learned the significance of contentment. This crazy fast paced world in which we live is always promising us that little bit more that lies just beyond our grasp, the dream job, the exotic holiday, the grand design house, the slick car. Chasing those dreams prevents us appreciating just how much we already have and how contentment is rarely achieved by gaining such things but is found elsewhere, in our relationships with God, with family, with friends and neighbours.
One Bible verse that I always carry with me in my mind is Philippians 4:11, the words of St Paul, “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.”
Contentment is a great gift, but also something we have to work at, because we don’t know what life is going to throw at us. Real contentment takes us beyond the focus on things into a realisation that whatever happens, our past, present and future are held in God’s love and wherever our journey takes us, whether it’s to the heights or the depths, all is well. As Charles Wesley so memorably expressed it,
Now let me gain perfection’s height, Now let me into nothing fall,
Be less than nothing in thy sight, And feel that Christ is all in all.
Whatever we do in life ‘learning contentment’ will transform that experience. May you feel the contentment that comes from knowing the Prince of Peace.
Grace and Peace