This one is going to be more of a diary-esque, stream-of-consciousness post. The source of this stream is my discontentment, and it runs down a mountain called, “The Anxious Woman With A Maddening Case of FOMO.”
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the short years that I have here. It’s been a circus, and I’m performing an expert-level balancing act (I should say, “attempting to perform” – that would be more accurate). I work full time, I try to blog write once a week, maintain my relationships, optimize my health, maintain my house, navigate and carry out ministry work, and somewhere in there, I try to grow closer to God and keep my personal heart afloat, maybe even thriving, if I’m lucky.
And somehow, I want to do more.
This isn’t a brag, this is a reflection on my complete silliness. More? Really, Emily? You’re dropping the plastic plates you’re spinning and you’re asking for the fine china.
I’m 24, so perhaps this is my quarter life crisis, come one year early. I’ve had an odd thought run through my mind a couple times – “I wish I could live two lives at once.” And then that became three lives. I probably will wish for a fourth soon.
Sure, I have many years ahead of me, but it’s at a point where I will soon lock into my “thing” and any major change will involve a royal uprooting that perhaps will be very unwise and upset the balance of the lives around me. It would require an all-or-nothing pursuit of the new thing that, frankly, would be stupid.
Not only that, but the endeavors I’m juggling around in my head need to start now if they are to become anything worth settling into. Why? Because I do have the advantage of youth – energy, years ahead to hone and strive for excellence, resources, networking freedom… the main advantage being flexibility in these things. Twenty years from now, those things will be meticulously allocated to whatever “thing” I settle into.
The most terrifying part is I feel like I just turned 24, and 25 is a few mere months away. Maybe I should take a note from the CEOs I read about in a recent magazine and work until I have crafted not just my “craft,” but also the perfect dark circles under my eyes. (How are they so thin and beautiful? I sleep less than 7 hours and I’m a slouching, nauseous zombie.)
Here’s the truth of the matter. I can’t live four lives at once. (That said, if time travel ever becomes a thing, you best believe I will be looping over my day multiple times to accomplish everything – including a long, long nap.) Reincarnation isn’t an option, either. I get one life in this world, and if I’m sad about that, I’ve probably fallen too much in love with it and with myself.
Yikes, that seems harsh to condemn what could be painted as an innocent desire. I could say, “I want to accomplish more for the kingdom. I want to utilize all the gifts I’ve been given to their absolute fullest. I want to seize every witnessing opportunity. I want to work more so I have more to give.” And these sentiments are true, I do hold these desires, but it’s the “why” behind them that is condemnable.
I find myself to be double-minded. I want to serve two masters: God, and my world. How do I know for a fact that my desires aren’t pure? Because discontentment, frustration, and anxiety are not fruits of the Holy Spirit dwelling in me. I would imagine that, if my desires were in fact pure, the “negative” fruit would look more like the beatitudes Jesus described in the Sermon On the Mount (Matthew 5:3-11).
I’ve fallen into a perspective that my life here is my eternity. This is the end goal. This is all I have to work for. And, on top of that, the level of success I have is wholly dependent on me. I seem to live under the impression that, when I get to the end of my life, all my accomplishments will be displayed before the world and God Himself, and it better darn well be impressive. If it doesn’t warrant applause and tears and breathlessness, my life will have been for nothing.
(Good heavens, did I just write that? That is a very heavy, severe admission to make.)
A side note, and not to cast blame, but this is perhaps a negative result of messages like “Radical” by David Platt and Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris. Are we really living for Jesus if we aren’t doing risky, extraordinary things and making a sort of name for ourselves?
I think that’s the most severe part of this sin in my heart. I want glory. I want to have all these things to look back on and say, “I did it. I did it all. My life was fully used because I did not allow a single passion or desire to go to waste.”
I could keep rambling about the extent of the problems with this heart issue I’m writing about. I’m pretty good at that – extrapolating and analyzing my sin to death. So let me sum up all the things I’m doing here with this discontented lust for everything and then move on. I am being prideful, wanting glory for myself instead of God, loving this world over the next, resting in my own efforts, being ungrateful for what God has given me, and being self-centered in general.
So what is the cure? What truth will set me free?
Here is what I know: right now, I work full time. I have a home in southeast Wisconsin. I have 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week. I have duties to fulfill to my church, my family, and the people God has placed in my life to minister to. I cannot be a musician in Chicago. I cannot be a full time writer. I cannot travel wherever I want, or move to a different state. I cannot be a missionary in India or Thailand. I cannot be taking full time classes in nouthetic counseling. I can’t. I am limited. All of these desires are separate lives, lives that I have not been called to.
The life that I have been called to is loving my friends, loving the strangers in my city, loving my coworkers that I spend 40 hours a week with, and loving the life God has entrusted to me. The life I have been called to is one of honoring God by humbly and effectively doing what is set on my plate this week. The life that I have been called to is arduous, long-suffering, but rich and worthwhile ministry work.
Perhaps five or even ten years from now, I will be spending my 40 hour workweek writing, or making music, or maybe twenty or thirty years from now I will be waking up in a predominantly Hindu and Islamic country of 1.3 billion people. Perhaps this time next year, I will be taking classes in nouthetic counseling. I cannot say, nor can I know. But I can’t live this life that God has given me if I’m looking at the life that I could be living. I can find joy in the monotonous moments, the inglorious ones, the painful ones, and humble ones, because the One who is joy Himself has ordained them and fills them.
My contentedness depends on what I’m looking at; more specifically, who I’m looking at. I need to retreat and stop seeking what’s next, desiring what is other than what I have been given, and simply be seeking the One who gives. If He calls me to walk forward, I will do so with abandon, but until then, I will remember there is grace to cover everything I don’t accomplish, and all accomplishments are for Him anyway. I will remember that it is the Lord who fights the battle, I need only be still. Until then, I will sit at His feet.