Recently, I hopped on the treadmill at the gym while my earbuds sang my well-crafted playlist. I was in the zone. As I looked down at my feet, however, I could simultaneously see the cellulite on my thighs shaking in coordination with each whirr of the treadmill. One glance over at my super-in-shape neighbor on the next treadmill only made me realize I wasn’t nearly as fast or as in shape as he was.
If only I made more money. If only I could travel more. If only my kids won an award like her kids did. If only I could be a better mom. Have an HGTV-esque home. Run faster. Be smarter. Look younger. Have more fun.
I’m starting to sound a little pathetic. From the outside, I seem to have it all. There is absolutely no reason for me to be jealous of someone else’s achievements or accomplishments, but the grass does seem greener on the other side.
If we stare at our Facebook or Instagram feeds long enough, we all seem to get a case of “if only” syndrome from time to time. TGIF anyone? Jealous of that vacay your neighbor is on? Eyeballing those diet pills or that wrinkle cream promising to make everything better in just a few short weeks? Yep, I’ve been in every one of those.
Comparison is the thief of joy- Theodore Roosevelt
As I watch my children grow up, I can see the “if only’s” creep in their little lives as well. Middle school is a dangerous playground that can demolish your self worth like a Jenga tower in an instant. One wrong outfit, major zit, or bad hair day can topple that tower like it’s a stack of hay. I can see the wheels turing in their heads asking if they will ever be good enough, have enough friends, or if these jeans make me look fat. And the cycle repeats.
I think my children are the most beautiful creatures this side of heaven. Whatever they need, they’ve got it. Sometimes, whatever they want, they’ve got it. Why can’t they see how awesome they are? How much more does God think about me? Why can’t I see how awesome and beautiful God thinks I am?
Jesus sums it up perfectly in Matthew 6.
If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.
Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion- do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers- most of which are never even seen- don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
If I focus on my friends or my Facebook feed, I lose my focus on seeing myself the way God sees me. If I have closed fists, because I’m angry or jealous about how I didn’t receive something that went to someone else instead, I loose the capacity to open my hands and receive gifts from a good father who wants nothing but the best for me.
There’s a lot of times I catch myself saying “if only.” But, just like my children trust me to provide for them and love them with everything I have, I want to start trusting God does the same for me. I’m going to get rid of my “if only” heart and exchange it for one of thankfulness and open those angry fists to receive his gifts.