In January 1991, I began a newspaper internship at the Greenville Piedmont (now defunct) in Greenville, South Carolina. It was my senior year in college, and I was graduating in May with a BA degree in print journalism.
One of the more unusual “adventures” (misadventures might be a better word) occurred the day the managing editor turned to me with an unusual assignment.
“I’d like you to drive over to the Greenville Hilton and see if you can track down Shirley MacLaine. She’s doing a show in town, and I heard she’s staying there.”
Now, many of us think of Shirley as a New Age guru, but actually she’s a pretty talented woman. (And no, this is no endorsement of her beliefs or anything else she represents.)
I just sort of stared at him. I was a twenty-year-old journalism nobody who wrote feature stories about city volunteers and local concerts; you probably couldn’t get any lower on the totem pole than that. Why would he give this assignment to the green intern?
“Don’t try to hunt down her room,” he said. “Just see if you can catch her while she’s coming or going. If you bump into her, just ask her some questions about her life, about her career. Maybe we’ll do an article or something.”
As word spread about my unusual assignment, I caught a lot of envious looks. Naturally every reporter in the news room wanted to interview Shirley MacLaine (which, in retrospect, was probably why I got the assignment—to keep the peace). Ironically, I knew very little about Shirley and didn’t care either way about interviewing her (no offense, Shirley).
I’m not quite as young and naive as I used to be. I grabbed my notepad and sped over to the Greenville Hilton. I stepped into the posh lobby and glanced around.
No Shirley. (Of course, I knew it wasn’t going to be that easy.)
I checked the back entrance. Nope. Still no sign of her.
Up and down quiet, empty hallways I roamed, looking for that famous redhead (and probably puzzling the cleaning staff). Nope, not a sign of Ms. MacLaine anywhere.
As you probably guessed it, my afternoon turned into a snipe hunt. I didn’t interview Shirley MacLaine. In fact, I never even saw her. (I later heard she, like Elvis, had already left the building.)
So why write about a search that went nowhere? To make a point.
Sometimes in my sleep I still find myself searching those long, empty corridors. Not so much for Shirley but for what she represented: something more than what I had.
Do you ever feel this way? That something better lies within reach just beyond the fog? Maybe if I keep looking and striving, you tell yourself, I’ll find it. And then I’ll be happy.
For many years I searched for Shirley MacLaine, for that elusive something that would make me content. In college, I wanted to graduate. When I was single, I wanted to get married. When I was married, I wanted to publish my first novel. See my point?
Goals are good to have, but sometimes our drive to achieve them can trap us in a never-ending pursuit. Sometimes they can cheat us out of the fulfillment God intends for today. For the here and now.
What God has taught me is that I need to stop searching for Shirley and accept that this is it. This is my life. I’m married with kids. I own a house. I have a dog. I pay my taxes. I’m over forty.
What else is there except to be content with where God has called me? If I believe in God’s sovereignty (and I do), then I have to accept that I’m in life exactly where God intends me to be (even with all my flaws).
While goals are important and good, I need to stop searching for the next big thing to make me happy, be content with where God has plunked me, and make the most of it. Philippians 4:11 says, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”
What about you? Do you find yourself restlessly and relentlessly searching—seeking more than what you have? Do you struggle with being content in the here and now?
- Randy Alcorn: Message in Christian Fiction
- Release Date Changed to January 2013