It’s hard to read articles from start to finish. I know. I tried to make this short!
The kids occasionally get nostalgic about life during their ripe old ages of six and four, so they will pull out old home videos of the last six years and watch the past for hours and hours. We all love seeing the girls as chubby babies crawling across the playroom floor, or Jude tentatively picking at his one year old birthday cake. But what I find myself constantly doing as I watch these precious times, is comparing then to now. I look at the baseboards that the babies are crawling by and think ‘oh wow, they were so clean’ , or I look at my body and the clothes I was wearing and think ‘oh my gosh I was so thin, my clothes fit so well’. I look at the uncluttered home, the clean countertops, the smooth hands, the unwrinkled face, and I think ‘it’s all gone downhill, hasn’t it’. Currently my house is a HUGE mess, there are things and boxes and dishes on every surface. My girls are in the front yard making “castle mountains” out of mud and mulch, and occasionally tracking it inside to fill up buckets of water. They are covered in dirt. Jude is yelling a song in the ear-blasting way that he does and bringing toys outside to climb the mulch castles. Charlie is on the porch ripping up plants (and hopefully not eating them). I am sitting here in my pajamas with my muffin top (unfortunately not the edible kind) and my crazy hair thinking ‘when did I completely lose control…of everything’?
|A happy, anarchy-filled summer.|
What’s the saying? Comparison is the thief of joy? Sometimes comparing ourselves against our own selves is the harshest comparison there is, because we actually had attained what we wish we could be now. I will never look like a model so why would I compare myself to one? A cat can’t be a dog, but it can be a better cat. I can always be a better version of me. Because, I actually had a clean house. I weighed 130 pounds. I had control over the clutter in my home. By our society’s standards I was doing better than I am now. So sometimes, all I can see is failure.
I also see the old kitchen rug in the video that needed replacing. We should have just bought a new one, but we really didn’t have much money then. We would have never gone out and bought a brand new rug, not with babies to take care of. So I actually found comfort in the fact that Chad now has a much better job, and we can do things like go out to eat or buy a birthday cake instead of making one. ‘Doing good, doing much better’, I think to myself. Moving in the right direction, upward mobility, bigger and better and more cushion and more stability, right? Isn’t that the major goal of life? Why we get up and go to work every day? Some of us love our low-paying jobs and would do them regardless, but what we are told by everyone and every commercial and every store is “you can be better, richer, more beautiful, and more successful. We can help”. Lowe’s has a slogan that just gets under my skin: “Never Stop Improving”. Geez. What pressure! No resting for you!
You may look back at various times in your life and think:
I have a better job now, progress.
We have a bigger house now, progress.
We can go on vacations, progress.
I have a better job title, progress.
I have more friends, progress.
Now here’s the thing. In many ways it is progress. There is nothing wrong with professional and financial stability and success. But do we look at that check box and think, ‘great, we are doing great, I am doing great!’ and let our review stop there? Do we just look at the old unflattering picture and think ‘I’m in better shape, doing great!’ but not think about who we were at the time?
Are we examining any of the things that actually matter?
Our bodies, our jobs, our bank accounts, our families: all of it can change in a day. We certainly don’t like to think about it, but you could lose your job in which you find great pride and stability. Like, tomorrow. Your body could fail you. Your house could burn up. Evil exists, sickness exists, bad economies exist, tragedy exists. Wah-wah. Debbie Downer here, reporting for duty.
BUT. And it’s a big, all caps BUT: God’s kingdom is here, now, and we are part of it. Your house may bring you joy, but true joy is only found in Christ. Your thin and capable body may bring you pride and freedom, but true freedom is only found in Christ. Your job may bring you fulfillment, but true fulfillment is only found in Christ. Joy, contentment, and freedom that are based in earthly things are conditional. They only lasts as long as what they are founded in lasts. We hope that means for our whole lives, but we aren’t promised that. In Christ we have a taste of the eternal joy and complete fulfillment that He gives that we will have forever. That joy, that freedom, that fulfillment can weather absolutely any change in our earthly situation. I want to live and breathe in that!
So look back at the pictures and the videos. Compare.
Am I closer to God’s heart?
Am I a better listener?
Am I more kind?
Am I holding my beauty, my money, and my accomplishments more loosely, or am I still clinging to them for worth?
Am I slower to take offense?
Am I better at looking for opportunities to help, serve, and encourage?
Am I allowing my heart to break for those around me who are suffering?
True progress in the things of God brings a satisfaction that calms our hearts and helps us spread his love and joy with a deep humility. Christianity is not running the same earthly race to the same finish line, just with “less” sin. Instead, we are the tent alongside of the race, welcoming weary racers. We are the ones saying Come here, with us, and find rest. Let us show you the balm for your tired soul.
So our lives may look different. Let them. Our success may look different. Let it. I am not as thin as before but I am more kind. My house is far dirtier than before but I am far more patient. I am not as beautiful as before but my heart is closer to the beauty of my Father. I am more distracted than ever, but my eyes have been opened to the suffering around me. I realize how incapable I am, but I am working on letting Christ be more capable in me.
Romans 12:2- Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.