It’s a cotton-candy pink sky as I write this, flying from Newark to Tampa for a little sunshine and relaxation before the new year. I have out my new laptop, which was a generous gift that my husband said we could save up for. He was hearing me complain about my old computer for almost a year at that point, so I’m convinced it’s a gift for him as well. I have a blank page open, ready to set some new goals for 2018, yet I can’t seem to actually write anything down.
There are tons of resolutions I would like to set that make sense for myself that seem “easy”—like a harder reading challenge, or a cooking challenge. I desperately would like for my resolutions to be easy this year, but my heart was telling me otherwise. This year, I need to focus on the green ugly monster that lives inside of me. The one that drives me to complain, to constantly compare, and to coddle what I already have: Jealousy.
I already regret writing down these words and sharing them with my readers, because it’s embarrassing to admit. I mean, are christians even allowed to get jealous? Jesus teaches us that the lowly are brought high, that we are called to give everything and want nothing. And yet…I want everything. I want a new laptop. I want a new purse. I want a one-bedroom apartment so I can go to bed whenever I want. I want, I want, I want.
I admit, I let the culture of New York City get the best of me sometimes. There’s a constant desire to live larger, dream bigger, and sit higher. People in this city will do anything to get there. I watch friends or colleagues live in larger apartments, throw dinner parties, and somehow still have enough money to spend on lunch every day. I watch those in my field succeed in starting new publications, writing books, or launching podcasts. I see other couples flourishing in their relationships in ways I want us to flourish, wishing that Oliver and I could “have a strong marriage just like them.” I watch these things daily, and as I come home to our tiny studio apartment, I cringe. Oliver is at night class, and I have to workout in my apartment and make dinner because we can’t afford a gym or takeout. I play that “woe is me” song in my head, until Oliver comes home and I can use him as my emotional punching bag. Go to sleep, wake up, repeat it all over again.
It sounds harsh, but friends, it’s real. I do this every day. But something in my heart shifted this advent season, making me realize what truly was underlying it all: My need for security.
If we just had a larger place, we wouldn’t fight as much.
If I just made a bit more money, we wouldn’t struggle with food.
If I reach these particular goals, I will feel successful.
If, if, if. The thing is, I’m not comfortable just being where I’m at. The idea of being still feels wonderful, but actually putting it into practice is difficult. Exodus 14:14 states, “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” Other versions actually use “silent” instead of “still,” which gives the passage a whole new meaning. The Lord will fight for my life, he will make all things beautiful. I need only to be still. But I fight it, I try harder, I don’t believe in that promise. I complain instead of sitting in silence.
God is the only security that I need. Everything else in my life will change, and this advent season, I came to realize that I am absolutely terrible with change. The only change I welcome is change that I enjoy. But when God hands me change that I don’t enjoy—like a smaller apartment, or leaving my rich community of friends in Chicago—I complain. But as I look back at my year and a half living in New York City, and being married to Oliver, I notice that the changes I endured were all for my good. So why did I try to fight it? Why did I try to fix it? Why did I complain?
I love how Shauna Niequist puts it in her book Bittersweet: “If you try to stop change, it will smash you to bits.” You can’t fight change. Change, as Shauna puts it, is one of God’s greatest gifts. And you can either handle it two ways: Let it smash you to bits, or let it take you to places unimaginable.
Sometimes change will take me to places that I don’t want, or better yet, what I think I don’t want. And in those moments, I compare myself to where others are at life. How successful they are, how wealthy they may be, and all the other sinful reasons to compare yourself to another. Change draws me to uncomfortable places where I sit and grieve for how good I used to have it, or how badly I still want something. I have a hard time just being where I’m at. Being still.
This year, my resolution is to accept the stillness. To live in the silence. To enjoy where I’m at. To stop dreaming of having more. To stop comparing myself to others. To stop living to other’s expectations. To stop wishing for my past. To stop complaining about what I don’t have.
I already have all that I need.