I've always been one that thrives on approval, who likes a bit of a pat on the back for what I've accomplished. This is one reason that I always did so well in school; the straight-As spelled out on report cards felt so real, permanent, definitive.
Adult life isn't like that, though. No one grades your performance, regardless of how "watched" or "compared" you might feel.
And that's still hard for me to let go of.
Social networking sites could be blamed for furthering this comparison of "success" - where is she working? What has she done so far today? How did he manage to get his doctorate before I've even finished my master's degree? Why are they able to buy a house, and we're still renting an almost-good apartment? How does she manage to get all the laundry done and the whole house cleaned in one morning while she's 8 months pregnant and chasing three kids? Why? Do I measure up?
Sometimes all these success stories - innocuous in themselves, of course, and things that perhaps should be celebrated - make me feel so small. I'm happy for them, yes, but what's wrong with me? Why am I not as far along in life, so to speak, as they are? Wasn't I always at the top of my class? Then, it's easy to sink into depression for a bit. I think about the should-have, could-have, might-have-been-able-to, and I keep on feeling like I've failed, somehow. Like if my baby boy doesn't have a perfectly decorated nursery, he's going to be at a disadvantage. If I can't make good-enough Christmas gifts, we're going to look stingy, and worse, poor (but we do have so little). Like if we don't own the place we live, it can't still be the best use of our money right now. Like I should have a full-time job (what's wrong with me?), a second car, and the money to spare to be able to give to charities in the area and around the world. Like it shouldn't feel like such a terrible sacrifice to tithe. Like I should be able to go to the grocery store without planning in advance exactly what and how much I'm going to buy, because if I buy more, we'll overdraw the account.
And on a different note, I really miss making music so often. I miss having a piano in my house so that I can play a bit each day, so that hubby and I can share that together. I miss playing on the worship team; our church rarely needs us to play. We want to serve!
The pastor spoke yesterday about John the Baptist, a man that God used to prepare the way for Jesus' earthly ministry. John was a wild-looking guy, who lived and preached in the desert, an unlikely character for announcing the world's Messiah. Pastor went on to say that God will often use the ones who have little, because God's power is shown more clearly through them.
So if I don't have it all together, if we're just scraping by, but we can continue to praise God for our health, food, shelter, and each other, and of course, our salvation, what else do we need? Maybe God will use us, though we have almost nothing, to make a beautiful difference to someone else. Maybe I will be a blessing. Maybe my empty hands will be filled with something better than I thought I wanted. Maybe my hurting heart will be healed and strengthened beyond what I ever dreamed.
My hope is built on Jesus, not on what I can do, what I have, where I am in life, and how many pennies I hold. All that matters is that we continue to trust his plan for our lives, living in a way that helps others to see his work in us.