“So you take one of these trays of metal plates and tip them into the feeding channel. Start the machine and you’re ready to go!”
I was learning the ins and outs of my new position as secretary to the company president. One of my random duties was to print the addresses on the customer bills and send them to the accounting department. The woman I was replacing had just started this monthly task, and the huge Addressograph machine was chugging and clanging along.
“What was that?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Oh, it’s just one of the plates jamming the machine. It happens about three or four times a tray,” she calmly assured me.
I watched as she laboriously pulled the offending metal from the feeder and hit the reset button.
“Sometimes you have to get a plier if it’s really stuck.”
“So this happens every month?”
“Sure. That’s why it takes about three or four days to get through all of the trays. You have to put everything else on hold until you’re finished.”
The next day I was on my own, wrestling with the metal monster that took up almost half my office. This was ridiculous! I was determined to get to the bottom of this issue. I wasn’t going to complacently allow this hunk of steel to rule over my hours and days.
Fortunately the following week was the annual inspection from the manufacturer. I quizzed the representative about the workings of the feeding mechanism and the cause of the jams. He told me that if I could find the bent corners of the plates ahead of time, I wouldn’t have as many problems.
I looked over to the rows and rows of drawers and assured him I would be checking each and every one, top and bottom. By the end of the week I had replaced every offending plate. When the next month’s billing cycle rolled around, that four-day chore was whittled down to one efficient morning.
Sometimes we are enduring something because we assume that’s the way it’s been and always will be. A company, organization, classroom, church or family chugs along and jams up because we’ve become complacent. We put up with an inconvenience or nuisance until someone with fresh eyes or a fresh idea shakes things up a bit. Hopefully the person in leadership will listen to, evaluate, and implement a good suggestion that makes things run more smoothly or enjoyably.
The Lord rejects complacency. He calls out His people who think He won’t act because He either doesn’t care or doesn’t exist. He refers to them as the dregs at the bottom of a wine container, sediment that doesn’t like to be disturbed (Zephaniah 1:12).
The book of Revelation describes an entire church that is so complacent that the Lord wants to spit them out of His mouth! (3:14-17) They are totally unaware of their plight because they are content with their worldly status and don’t realize that, in God’s eyes, they are woefully lacking spiritually.
The apostle Peter encourages us to grow in our faith so we don’t become complacent and unproductive (2 Peter 1:8). Jesus doesn’t want us to just sit around basking in His love and grace. He expects us to be about His work.
But sometimes we aren’t complacent. We’re just dealing with things that can’t change. Our job, our colleagues, or our situation in life is what it is. Maybe we just don’t have the time or physical stamina to accomplish all we had planned. All of our wishes and hopes for something different aren’t going to materialize. Sometimes we are forced to recognize that we need to accept reality and be content.
The apostle Paul says he experienced times when he had plenty and when he had very little. Yet he learned the secret of being content (Philippians 4:12). His famous phrase “when I am weak, then I am strong” comes from his contentment in the face of “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities” (2 Corinthians 12:10). He knew that if he placed this weakness before the Lord Jesus, admitting he couldn’t handle it alone, his Savior was right there beside him, giving him His strength to cope, allowing His plan to work for good.
Yes Paul was content, but no one would ever accuse him of being complacent. Even in the confines of prison he boldly kept writing and praying and encouraging. Anyone who reads his letters feels the energy surging through his words.
When I have to be content with little, and when I face insults and attacks, I too feel weak. But when I go to the Lord Jesus with my weakness, I also feel His powerful loving arms upholding me, reminding me He is present through it all.
At the same time, this power gives me the eagerness to live boldly within the confines of my abilities, resources, and position in life. I have learned the secret of being content without being complacent. It’s the Lord working along side of me in my contented life.
As leaders we should recognize and accept what can’t be changed. At the same time we can’t become complacent and fail to challenge “what is” and move forward to “what can be.”
That kind of leadership involves assessing, listening, and praying. Most of all it means admitting weakness and asking for strength from the Lord Jesus. That’s the secret we never want to forget!
Leaving my guilt at the cross,
(First published at Lead Like Jesus September 2020)