I’m almost positive it isn’t just me. I’m not the only one who has scrolled through my Facebook feed and felt a sting. Your sting might be different than my sting, but I’m convinced that we’ve both felt it- at least once. (a day? Joking! Mostly)
For me the sting often comes from gym check-ins and running stats. Photos of the beautiful and fit crossing finish lines, sporting their new running shoes and active wear. I want that and I don’t have it and it hurts. If you know me well, then this makes perfect sense to you–this proclamation of mine hasn’t rocked your world in the slightest. But if you don’t, then just hold a minute and it will come together for you.
I think I’ll always love running. I’ll always treasure the memory of the days that I got up and threw my hair in a ponytail, strapped on the iPod and set out on my run for the day. I’ll always relish the mornings of being overtaken by the beauty of God’s creation and the power and strength of my own body. In my mind, running with Jesus will always be the perfect way to start any day. But that isn’t my reality right now. I don’t say that to make you feel sorry for me or so that you can give me tips on how to get back out there or eat better. (Seriously, don’t- pretty please with sugar on top) I look forward to the day that my season changes, that God intervenes and suddenly life looks different. But for today my body just can’t rock that, as much as I might long for it to and it hasn’t been able to rock that way for a while now.
This Christmas I was enjoying all the pictures and updates from my Facebook friends- kids opening their presents in their pj’s, Christmas Eve services, and celebrations of Jesus coming to earth as a man. This time when I hit the fitness photos and prepared to do what I’ve learned to do- make a choice to rejoice for those people instead of envying them. (It’s sort of like bringing a sacrifice of praise, it doesn’t feel natural at first but after a while it becomes a learned response. Rejoice for these people because they are rejoicing and we are family) But this time the Lord began to speak to me- about the way that we tend to view the snapshots into the lives of others and the snapshots of our own lives. The Lord began to ask me about that season in my life when I was as thin as I wanted to be and as active as I wanted to be. He asked me. “So was your life perfect then, when you had that?” Obviously the answer was no and so then he began to ask me what it was that I so longed for in that time, what was it that stood out in others pictures that I so desired. The list was pretty long. A husband. A baby girl. A house with a basketball goal for Hayden. A family. A ministry. Did I have those things now? As a matter of fact, I do. So is my life prefect now, then? No, no it’s not. And so this is what we do, he told me. We look at the pictures of others and instead of rejoicing for them and with them we only see what they have that we want. We wish that we had a husband that loved Jesus. We wish that we had a baby to hold and put in those “baby’s first Christmas” pajamas that we bought three years ago. We wish that we had that dream job, or could take those kind of trips or could go to that college, or, or or… fill in the blank. What is the source of your Facebook sting? Here’s what I was reminded of that day. Very rarely, if ever, in our lives will we have all the things that we desire all at once. But almost always, we will currently be dwelling in what was once a much desired promised land. We currently have the job or the relationship or the house or the child or the… fill in the blank that we once desperately longed and prayed for. What if we really truly began to rejoice with others when they stepped into their promised lands or continued to dwell in and fight for theirs after ours fell by the wayside without allowing in an ounce of envy or resentment or jealously or comparison. (I want to be clear here that I’m not talking about the acute grief that comes immediately after the loss of a spouse or divorce or other tremendous loss- I’m talking about in our day to day lives, once we’ve worked through the grief) We’ve all heard it before that comparison is the thief of joy or that death comes by comparison. Death of relationships, death of hope. Death, plain and simple. What if we stopped comparing our journeys to one another’s? What if we stopped being convinced that Jesus loves that other person more than us because they finally got that house or had that dream wedding or stopped allowing ourselves to think that they must be somehow better, worth more than us because they have that thing and we don’t. You and I both know as parents, that giving gifts is such a small part of showing love to our children. That, in fact, it is often in the discipline and saying no that our love and desire to protect that our love shows itself. We know how often our hearts ache to gift our child with something but we know that it simply is not time, they are not yet ready, cannot yet fully enjoy that gift.
I took a big step recently. I posted our family pictures. The ones with the real me, today. Not my engagement picture from a million years ago- the heavier than I want to me- today. It was strangely liberating for me. For the last few years I’ve avoided hanging any new pictures of myself in the house. As a result everywhere I looked I saw the old me, the skinnier version that I missed. The one that seemed better somehow, more worthy of love- you know because she was skinny and skinny people deserve a better life than fat people, right? (If you’ve never truly struggled with your weight you cannot imagine the shame that is forced upon you, or the evil glares at restaurants as if you don’t deserve to ever eat again- it’s unreal) How did I come to believe these ridiculous lies? I didn’t pick this. It’s not like I just decided one day, “Hey, I’m going to start being a terrible steward of my body, I don’t care what happens. I mean, I got me a man now, I might as well blow up” Just like you didn’t decide to stop working and being able to provide for your family, or to be single way beyond the age you ever thought that you’d be single, or have that empty nursery this long… or fill in the blank. Hey- good news- that voice that says you are worth less now is a big fat liar. Tell that voice to shut it. So now, around my house there are these pictures of me, the real me, now. And check it out- she’s still a pretty cool chic. It turns out she cares a lot about others and works hard and sacrifices and gives her all and loves Jesus with her whole heart and is worthy of being seen and loved- Just as she is. It doesn’t mean she’s planning on staying that way forever, but her roots run deep and she knows that even if she does- Jesus still loves her and others could to, and she’d be worthy of that love.
My word of encouragement for you today is this: Lay the baseball bat down- the one that you keep using on yourself- for not being enough of what you want to be. Extend grace to yourself in the same way that you would extend grace to others in your situation. Rejoice with others when they step into and dwell in the promise land that you so long for. Your journey looks different. That’s okay. Your promise land will come and it will be glorious. It will be worth the wait and when you finally get to post the pictures of it… you’ll want to know that folks are rejoicing with you, not focusing on all that you have and they lack.
Rejoice in your promise lands today, the one you’re already dwelling in and the ones you’ve yet to lay hold of. Rejoice. Rejoice for those around you. Rejoice. Today. Stop. And say thank you. Thank you for where I am today. Thank you for where I will be tomorrow and the next day and the next day and the next day…