Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Content or discontent?


BY: BISHOP JIMMY NUNN- The 2018 Winter Olympics are here. I am convinced that television ratings are higher for these games because of the personal stories the reporters tell about the commitment, struggles, and dedication of the athletes.
Most stories include an awakening, where an athlete realizes a love for a sport and resolves to excel in that sport.
Their zeal drives them to train and practice long hours each day. They forsake everything else for the cause.
Malcom Gladwell called such dedication the “10,000-Hour Rule,” which states that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice for an individual to achieve mastery in a chosen field.
Few people make the Olympic team; even fewer win a medal. Only the greatest win gold.
Have you ever wondered what motivates such dedication?
In an article titled “The Cubicle Epiphany,” Chip and Dan Heath tell the story of a young marketing communications executive. The office cubicle next to hers was reserved for visiting out-of-town executives. One day, a woman who occupied the cubicle especially impressed the young worker with her professionalism and enthusiasm.
At the end of the day, the young executive determined she was in the wrong profession. She admired the coworker but hated the job she did.
So she set out to find another way.
She went to a career counselor. There she had another epiphany. She wanted to do what the counselor was doing. That day she changed the direction of her professional life.
The Heaths’ article quotes psychologist Roy Baumeister, who has studied people with these awakening experiences. He says a lightning-bolt experience occurs during moments of what he calls “the crystallization of discontent.”
That is when all the negatives in a specific circumstance line up, and a person recognizes what really is going on.
The Heath brothers hypothesize there is also a “crystallization of content,” where everything falls together.
In Matthew 13:45-46, Jesus told a simple story: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one very precious pearl, he went and sold all that he owned and bought it.”  
This brief parable describes a moment when everything fell together for the merchant. It was his “crystallization of content” moment. He had found something more valuable than everything else he already owned.
Yet in that same realization, the merchant also experienced a “crystallization of discontent” moment. Everything he owned fell short of the value of that newly discovered pearl. So he sold everything that expressed his discontentment — and bought the thing that offered him contentment.
Like athletes who dedicate themselves to a goal, the woman with the cubicle epiphany, and the merchant who bought the pearl, we experience epiphanies of insight where we discover contentment. This kind of contentment is so intense that we begin the process of systematically eliminating the things in our lives that we now see offer us only discontentment.
We press on toward a goal.
In what ways might you be experiencing contentment and discontentment? What might you exchange to move toward the goals you seek?


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