Last week, I celebrated my 34th birthday. The night before the “big” day, after an argument with my husband about how "I never have time for ME anymore," I was washing dishes, packing lunches and reflecting on the past year of my life. The transcript in my head went something like this:
"I'm so tired of being the one who does (most of) the cooking and cleaning."
"If something happened to me, this household would fall apart."
"What am I even doing with my life? I thought I'd be doing something truly meaningful at 34. Not THIS."
But the truth is, if you'd asked me 10 years ago where I thought I'd be and what I thought I'd be doing at 34, I probably would have described a life that looks exactly like the one I have today: married to an incredible man, two beautiful kids, great friends, nice house, working part time at a job I love.
In the midst of the dishwashing and the ungratefulness, I realized that my 24-year-old self--who longed for nothing more than a husband and a family and the stability that rarely characterizes the early 20s--would have been appalled at the thoughts going through my (almost) 34-year-old mind.
The transcript in my head began to shift to something like this:
“I’m doing this all wrong. When did I become so focused on myself and my needs over everyone else’s—especially my husband’s?”
“How can I—a woman who many would say ‘has it all’—feel so dissatisfied with the abundance of things God has blessed me with?”
“Something has to change. No. Not something. Someone. Me. I have to change.”
Thirty-three was one of my most challenging years of life. In addition to the physical, relational, political and cultural happenings that rocked my world in 2017, I stepped back from a major work responsibility because I felt God calling me to invest more time into my boys and my husband. Now, the majority of my days are spent doing things that no one can see and that I sometimes don’t even enjoy. (I’m looking at you, butt wiping and laundry folding.) The daily rigors of motherhood are far from glamorous.
To quote the great Kathleen Kelly in “You’ve Got Mail:” “…I lead a small life—well, valuable, but small…”
During year 33, my small life got even smaller; and somewhere along the way, I stopped seeing the value in the smallness.
Which brings me to today and my discontentment and year 34.
So, I ask the questions once again:
“When did I become so focused on my own needs over everyone else’s?”
“How did I become so discontent, despite so many blessings?”
As I think about the answers to these questions, I realize there’s one more question I should be asking:
“What standard am I measuring my life against?”
I recently read a quote from J.R.R Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings. It went something like this: “Evil is a shape shifter. After you repel it, it’s just going to change shape and grow again and come at you in a different way.”
As I look back on 2017 and year 33, I see a common thread of “evil” in my life in the shape of (ironically) technology. Not the devices themselves but the content they put at my fingertips and the discontent they often put in my heart. Social media, news and blogs connect the world in incredible ways, but they also place an ever increasing pressure on us--especially women-- to BE and DO and PERFORM and HAVE a picture perfect life, family and career.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not deleting my social media apps and throwing away my iPhone. What I am advocating for—something I did very poorly in 2017—is being intentional in the way I (we) use and consume technology. (In case you’re wondering, I’m not yet sure what that looks like.) I do know that cutting myself off from technology won’t solve the problem. My problem—our problem—is deeper than social media and playing the comparison game. The real reason I’m discontent with my life is my own sinful nature and separation from God.
For perhaps the first time in my life, I see the beauty of Christmas coming in December. It’s a reminder that no matter how much we might have messed things up the past twelve months, the God of the universe still loves us deeply.
God sees us as we are—sinful and unable to bridge the chasm that exists between us and Him. Despite our sinfulness, despite the fact that He knew we would never be truly grateful for all He’s given us, He still chose to send His Son to rescue us.
So what do you do when you realize you’ve been doing it all wrong?
You fall on your knees and ask God to forgive you for where you went wrong. Maybe, like me, it was in the area of contentment or maybe evil takes a different shape in your life.
You thank Him for the gift of Jesus' birth and death and resurrection.
You make changes. Intentional changes. Consistent changes. Small changes that lead to big ones over time.
As I close out 2017 and look forward to a new year, I’m taking time to reflect on what Jesus did when He came to earth at Christmastime and what that means for how I should be living my life in 2018. Less of me. More of Him.
Merry Christmas, everyone.