On Mondays at lunch, we fast and pray for men to become godly leaders in relationship, for women to be softened for and through relationship, and for marriages for those who desire them.
I recently had some professional head shots taken by a professional photographer. We had a great (and silly) photo shoot, and the pictures came back with the usual spectrum of results – some good, some mediocre, some super awkward (because it’s me and I feel the need to make ridiculous faces when a camera is present).
When I got the final edited pictures from her, I immediately loaded the best one as my profile picture on Facebook. I really liked it because I thought it, as most good pictures do, captured something beyond the pixels. Perhaps something of the person I am on my best days – laughing, free, with inevitably insane hair.
I didn’t think much of it until my Facebook friends start liking the picture and complimenting me on it, and that too made me glad. Gradually the innocent joy gave way to some ugly things from some unseen corner of my soul. I realized more clearly how much I am constantly performing for others and how much I envy others. In this case, it was envy of those who have gotten married. Jealousy and envy and coveting got all rolled into one, which mentally sounded something like this:
They (the lucky girls) get the guy, get the gifts, get the attention, get the money, get the beauty treatments, get the photo shoots, and get The Sex. And what do I get? I get epic dating disasters, I get living in a basement and sharing a kitchen with two girls, I get having to stumble through careers, I get no beauty treatments, no guy friends, no photo shoots and definitely no The Sex.
I realized that these photos had become my own way of taking control and saying to this invisible audience: See, I can get a photo shoot as well as you! You don’t have to get married to get all this stuff! I deserve pretty things too! And my evil heart kept right on going. I began to secretly hope that each of those 180+ people would have to deeply wrestle with the inherent injustice of a universe which has not given me an amazing husband by age twenty-nine. (Oh, the pathos!) I was tempted to re-friend every boy who had decided I wasn’t worth dating to give them quantitative proof of my awesomeness. (Really mature, I know.)
Eventually I was prompted to realize how crazy I was being. Of course there is perhaps a kernel of truth in us single folks needing a place to celebrate markers of adulthood that aren’t marriage, but this was mostly about my comparison-driven, competitive, coveting heart. I was keeping an internal scorecard of other people’s lives versus my own, and when it looked like I was losing, I had to reach out and put some points on the board. I couldn’t trust God to be good in His timing and His provision – I had to help my public image along in the in-between.
This is not only utter nonsense but an incredibly deadly perspective to adopt for life. God looks at my heart, not at my Facebook profile picture. God calls me to rejoice with those who rejoice, and I can trust His current provision and faithfulness. On the flip side, if I struggle with coveting now, I’ll struggle with it in marriage and beyond. It’s a heart issue and not a circumstances issue (Psalm 73). And if I am only living for human approval, what am I doing pretending to be a Christian (Galatians 1:10)?
I am both of these people at once – I am the curly-headed laughing woman in the picture who longs, unashamed, for a God-honoring marriage relationship where I can love deeply and fully as a woman is wired to do. And yet I am also the envious, controlling competitor who gets a high from other people’s thumbs-up (literally, in this case) because I think it proves I matter.
Against the backdrop of all these heart-level realities, it is ever more striking that Jesus Christ voluntarily left heaven’s perfection to enter into and redeem this mess. He obeyed the Father and came without considering equality with God something to be grasped. He humbled Himself into our pettiness and our envy and our grasping, lived a sinless life, and bore our death sentence. And now he asks us to come and drink of living water (John 4:14).
In this holiday season which is ripe with opportunities to compare myself with others’ life circumstances or to refuse to rejoice with the good news of others, I want to live with a freely grateful heart. The fact that Jesus was human means He utterly understands our secret sorrows, and the fact that He is God means there is hope – even for train-wreck hearts like mine! May we each see Him this year as the unrivaled Savior King who is always and ever enough.
Praying and celebrating with you,