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St. Paul and My Brother Peter

First Person

By Sarah Marie Gresser

When plans change my little brother, Peter, smiles and says, “Oh, I don’t mind it.” It’s not a statement of capitulation. He is not giving in or settling. There is jolliness in his voice and on his face. Moving to Washington, D.C., soon after my graduation from Marquette University has given me the chance to reflect on my little brother’s attitude.

In the long term, I hope to research, write, and analyze foreign policy, military affairs, defense policy, or terrorism, either within the legislative branch or within a think tank or policy organization. I had expected to move out to the city and work an unpaid internship, along with a part-time job to pay bills (there are many overqualified baristas, nannies, and waitresses in this city). I am blessed to have found a position sooner than I expected.

As with many recent graduates, my first job after graduation seems somewhat unrelated to my goals, but it is a fantastic position with a wonderful boss and staff who are invested in the success and happiness of their colleagues. I will be busy, and challenged to grow in the position. As typically occurs when plans change, even for the better, I feel shocked and nervous, but also humbly thankful.

Before college, throughout college, and as I searched for a job, I struggled with contentment. I know that contentment is altogether different than what I feel about my new work. Indeed, within the last month, the Lord has allowed me to reflect upon the contrast between my current inner state and an inner state that declares with true contentment, “Oh, I don’t mind it.”

When I think of my brother’s statement, St. Paul’s words to the church in Philippi ring in my ears: “I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11-13). Contentment allows St. Paul to write these words from prison.

When I think of contentment or satisfaction, I imagine myself returning from a cupcake and coffee shop. I have consumed just the right amount of caffeine and sugar. For the moment, I am satisfied. The contentment that St. Paul speaks of is so enduring and so deep that cupcakes and coffee do not compare. What is the secret to such contentment or satisfaction? St. Paul says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” The secret to contentment is him, our Lord Jesus Christ.

True contentment is not bound by time or situation. It is an internal state of relationship with the creator of our souls. It is an awareness of the implications of St. Paul’s words in the second chapter of Philippians. Jesus Christ “humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross” (2:8). The creator of the universe loves us — including you and me — so much that he became the spotless sacrificial lamb, or, as the Book of Common Prayer puts it, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for every single sin we commit. A true sense of contentment comes when we allow this fact to permeate our daily thoughts and actions.

Remaining content in Christ may often be a struggle, especially in times of adjustment and stress. Praise the Lord for little reminders from little brothers.

Sarah Marie Gressera, a graduate of Marquette University, is the executive assistant to the associate vice president of student affairs at Georgetown University and the older sister to Maritza, Andrew, and Peter.

Image: St. Paul by Masaccio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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