As I have learned more about displaced people and refugees, a common attribute of those who survive the terrible circumstances of their lives is that they make the most of even very small opportunities. This contrasts with my own life in which there are myriad of opportunities and I avail myself of very few of them.
One way to describe poverty is a lack of choices. Poor people cannot choose what to eat or even when they will eat. They don’t get the choice of what to wear. There is no ability to choose where to live, what job to do, what school to send their children to – in poverty all these choices are torn away.
In poverty people simply exist, struggling daily to survive. If an opportunity presents itself they latch on to it and make all they can out of it because this is their only hope for a better future.
In a land of opportunity
My situation is very different, I have so many opportunities that I have to consider thoughtfully which will be the best ones to pursue. Unfortunately, when we have an abundance of anything we can become complacent. I have done this, especially in the past, but even now I am guilty of allowing opportunities to drift by out of inertia – I cannot be bothered moving out of my comfort zone.
As we near the end of one year and start thinking about what 2012 might bring, I already know it will carry opportunities. There will be chances to to things that will make a positive difference. Will I recognize them and make good use of such opportunities or will complacency cause me to lazily waste such gifts?
A focus for 2012
Something I did this year was to choose a focus for the year. In 2011 it was essentials, paying attention to what is essential and trimming away some of what is not necessary. For 2012 I am going to turn my focus onto opportunities and make an effort to use them well.
Still, there is a need for wisdom because not all opportunities are good to pursue:
If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.
(Hebrews 11:15-16 ESV)
The end goal is what counts:
… whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
(Galatians 6:7-10 ESV)
So far this post has been like a celebration of all the choices available to me, and it is, but with opportunity can also come fear. There are some obvious fears such as being worried about failing, making wrong choices, change, what others might think and closing doors on other options. But the anxiety which got me thinking about this topic initially is what if God is inviting me to step into an opportunity so huge that the very roots of who I am would be challenged?
Some of the opportunities God has given me (#735 – #748):
735) Opportunity to give, even a little, to others.
736) Opportunity to learn music.
737) Opportunity to get fit.
738) Opportunity to grow my relationships with my children.
739) Opportunity to write.
740) Opportunity to grow my prayer life.
741) Opportunity to know the Bible better.
742) Opportunity to grow vegetables.
743) Opportunity to fix my house up a bit.
744) Opportunity to do my job better.
745) Opportunity to serve my church.
746) Opportunity to love my neighbour.
747) Opportunity to memorize parts of the Bible.
748) Opportunity to speak up for those who are suffering.
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Photo of Rickshaw driver: Simone van den Berg